Your Year-Long Guide to Marketing a Successful Music Festival
Marketing for a music festival is a huge ongoing task. Having been to a few and done marketing once or twice for a festival or other events like this, I am writing this guide as an educational piece for anyone crazy enough to get involved with a music festival.
I got started in festival marketing by helping my friends with posters and graphic design for Hoxeyville Music Festival. I have worked with them on three festivals, taking on more responsibility each year I helped. I love music - my dad has been a drummer in bands his whole life, my brother and I grew up listening to him and then playing in band in school. I still play music (guitar, ukulele and can sing a tune when no ones watching) and love attending concerts, festivals and little tiny local shows and open mics.
I went from a simple poster design in 2011 to now running their Facebook fan page, designing merchandise, maps, programs, advertising and more. I also co-chair the marketing for Cadillac’s Craft Beer Festival for the second year in a row. Between these two events & my catering and food service knowledge - I try to provide help in organizing the events and getting people the information they so desperately need. In a beautifully designed and artful way ;).
Things you’ll need to begin
Good, professional art and branding for your posters, website, merch and marketing materials.
Awesome location with camping and water near by.
Marketing plan and overall vision for massive amount of pieces that will be required to properly get the word out to your precious patrons and fans. This will include social media calendars & blogging calendars.
Professional photography and video from years past
Community involvement and support
Great local vendors and beer.
A massive group of friends and family you can enslave to set-up and tear-down the festival.
A meat smoker, so you can eat smoked meat all weekend. Also good for bribing those friends and family members into helping you.
1 year out
Plan a festival marketing meeting to:
Download the festival’s past marketing fails and wins.
Commission poster artist for next year, so they can start concept.
Create social plan for next four months of good memories, continuing any philanthropy, and other related festival news so you can keep momentum going through the off season.
This is an important time to have and release:
Next year’s dates
Next year’s location
8 months out
Start talking to bands or their managers. Great bands will be booked many months ahead of time, so its good to get the conversation going as soon as you can. A good goal for 8 months out would be: a headliner band committed with 25% of supporting acts committed.
Locking in talent, both volunteer and musical is an early must do! Also, you’ve given your friends and family a couple of months to recoup, but nows a good time to start reminding them about next year. Weed out the ones you wanted to throat punch because they gave away a box of volunteer shirts to a group of cute girls. Line up those friends responsible enough to run your merch tent, etc.
Keep interest going on blogs and social. If everyone had a good time, they love being reminded of it. Post photos with countdowns, dance parties and general good times to keep your festival at the top of their list. Posting images that are shareable, branded with the festival logo and easy for people to engage with is very important. When people engage, other people see the activity. Building exposure and reminding people of events coming in the summer is important at this stage. Other good ways to keep interest high on social: show us your throwback merch, ask what other shows/bands people are seeing over the weekend, celebrate musician’s birthdays (local and international), plug local events, cool things that people involved with the festival are doing, etc.
Blog about bands (this years and last years) & festival happenings. Send this out on your social media to drive traffic to your site and sell tickets. Send with a Press Release to music marketers and other music blogs that fit your genre.
Artwork and theme should be ready, and released with the website and early bird ticket sale date. It needs to be applied to: website, ticket site, social media and events, map/program, tickets, shirts, poster, ads, merch, other social media. Branding all the imagery for social media with your logo is very important, especially if its getting shared by your fans.
6 months out
Release headliners and initial line-up via your website, blogs and social media. People will be excited and share this post so make sure you brand it and make it a shareable size that is easily read on mobile and computers. 1200 px X 1200 px is a nice, square shareable size for Instagram and Facebook.
Set up your online ticketing, and brand the page as you did for social media and your site with the new artwork.
Make a limited amount of early bird tickets available. When those run out, presale.
Request volunteers and vendors on social media, and send them to your site to sign up.
Vending, recycling, security, sponsorships should all be coordinated at this time as well. But this is an ongoing effort that will continue through the year.
4 months out
Release more bands.
Make sure ALL bands have been sent a branded image with the line up that they can share on their site and social media.
Begin slow burn of ramped up social and blogging engagement. Keep people interested, but find a balance between posting enough and not enough.
Graphic collateral for marketing should be out. Some ads will be better served closer to the festival date (local and regional magazines).
Social media should have initial line up, event created with people invited, banner ads on Jam Base and other music/show calendar sites.
Newsletters to email subscribers when more bands are released.
2 months out
Posters circulating in major college towns, handbills, street teams at music and beer festivals.
Ads in other festival programs throughout the summer.
Merch designed. Plug on blogs.
Social causes pinpointed (can drive for posters, etc.).
Vendors fulfilled with some menu/merch options.
90% of lineup confirmed.
1 month out
Daily posting of offerings from music, vendors, food, tips, camping, safety, social causes, gear, friends, past festivals, activities, etc.
Ads in local papers.
Posters circulating locally.
Bands all booked.
Last ticket giveaway
Day/s of events
Posting all events on social:
Video of bands and activities
Photos of people, camping, bands, funny things, vendors, happiness, dancing
Do you have experience with music festivals? What have I forgotten? What would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.