Top Learnings from Major Music Festivals


August 12, 2019BY TRADEMARK

The challenge to engage attendees in new ways that no one has seen before is immense. Customers want one-of-a-kind experiences that foster relationships. From tickets to event venues, event planners are constantly searching for the next innovative idea. We are no different.

At Trademark, one of the ways we cultivate innovative ideas for our clients’ events is by attending some of the top conferences and music festivals each year. It’s where we get ideas for the best way to create engaging, memorable experiences for event attendees.

Trademark’s senior event producer, Jeff Starr, shared with us how his attendance at major conferences and festivals aids his creativity when planning events.

“We typically visit five to six large scale events such as music festivals and inspirational conferences,” he said. “We find that we can glean a lot of information from well-organized festivals. This includes things as basic as the initial correspondence via email blasts, social media posts or sale promotions.”

It extends deeper than that. Here are some insights from his experiences.

Event venue admittance

As mentioned before, Starr gets ideas before the event by well-written communication prior to the event. Upon arrival, he takes notice of how event attendees are admitted.

“Onsite, we look at how tickets are run, and how event goers get through registration,” he said. “A large festival may have to get 100,000 people through the doors in one day, a Herculean effort. For example, you go to a Goldenvoice festival and they have a three tier system where you first have to show your wristband, then check your bag. Finally, attendees have their ID checked.”

This efficient process ensures security at major festivals like Coachella and Stagecoach while ensuring guests get into the event in a timely manner.

“We do registration at our events as well, on a smaller level,” he commented. “But you can see when something is done well there that we can reappropriate it for ourselves.”

Day of communication

From the start of event promotion and throughout the event, communication is ongoing. Regardless of the size of an event, there is an agenda to be followed. At large scale events, guests rely on an app to know when bands play and when they can attend other scheduled activities.

“We have agendas for our conferences, they have lineups for their festivals,” Starr said. “Maybe there’s something interesting about the way they look at their schedule of events.”

The same is also applicable to maps. “Do they print their maps? Or are they available on an app as well?” he said. “Sometimes we can review the app prior to the festival and then see how it functioned onsite.”

It is then he’s able to assess the usability of the app for an event. He also evaluates if there is a function that would work well for a client.

Event venue signage and setup

When Starr walks into an event venue, he takes note of the directional and branding signage. “How are the signs hung?” he said. “Are they using vinyl signage as a truss? Are they overhead? Are they in front of the viewer? What sort of information are they putting out?”

He also takes note of the merchandise tents. “I can’t tell you how many times we have looked at the merch tent examples from festivals and then tailored those ideas to fit the needs of our clients for picnics, annual company parties, or conferences.”

The ultimate goal for Starr and the Trademark team is to draw inspiration from merchandise tents that are aesthetically pleasing and shoppable. “We want experiences that attendees want to be a part of,” Starr said, “So that often means emulating how things are merchandised or what the flow and engagement is like.“

Interactive elements at events

Event attendees expect to be entertained upon arrival. This is true for all event sizes, from large music festivals to company picnics. Entertainment can come from a variety of options such as art, music, and other interactive elements.

Starr and his team take a look at what kind of art is present, how it is displayed, and ask themselves if they would do anything differently. They also look at any live artists who will perform.

“Sometimes we’ll go and be able to see live bands,” he said. “Some of these bands are up and coming. If a client’s budget allows for live entertainment, we’ll pitch these groups to play at the event we’re planning.”

Such was the case not too long ago. “We saw a band called MisterWives and were able to pitch them,” he recalled. “Of the final bands we were looking at, we considered Big Boi, AlunaGeorge, and MisterWives.”

Most important: Starr sees each band in person. This allows him to be able to speak to the music and give sound rationale as to why he thinks they would be a good fit for the event.

“When you go to a festival, you see 30 to 40 bands at a time,” he said. “If you go to four festivals a year, you see upwards of sometimes 100 bands live if you stay for three days. Attending these festivals allows me to stay current with all types of music.

Last but not least, they look at what types of interactive activities are available for guests. For example, they examine how event organizers are taking guest photos. “We observe whether or not guests are standing in front of a backdrop,” he said. “Is someone taking their photo? Or are they taking selfies? Is there a selfie booth?”

Trending event themes

We asked Starr what upcoming trends he’s seeing. His answer?

Number one: Attendee co-interaction. The reality is event planners want attendees to not only interact with the event but to build relationships with each other. “Companies want attendees to not only learn from the content they are giving them, but to learn from each other,” he explained.

And number two: accessible healthy food. “We’re seeing this on an equal parallel to attendee interaction but healthy food needs to be readily accessible to guests. People are much more interested in our impact on the earth and how our food choices affect that..”

Keeping a beat on events

Given Starr’s experience at many events and festivals over the years, it is clear that the event needs to be centered around the guest. From the first point of contact to the point of sale, to the event venue, the music played, friendships cultivated and the food served, attendees must come first.

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