IMFCON: Top Music Festival Professionals & Promoters Discuss Leveraging Audience Data

Through the windows of the Hyatt on LadyBird Lake, local Austinites were seen practicing yoga on stand-up paddle boards, walking across the iconic South Congress Bridge, feeding swans, and jogging (so much jogging). Above them, at this year’s IMFCON, were the people behind some of the greatest music festivals in the world — all there to figure out how to keep festival goers coming, coming back, and evangelizing on their behalf.

Since 2009, IMFCON, has been the conference & symposium event for music professionals and entertainment executives to network, learn from one another, get the latest information on trends in sponsorships, tech, marketing tools and strategies, and conceptualizing the future of music festivals.

Umbel was a proud sponsor of the event, and we enjoyed exchanging ideas with many cutting edge musical festival professionals. I personally heard from several producers and ticketing companies that there was a shift happening in the way they go about bringing people to their events. It has become imperative for festivals to adopt new technologies that attendees are using or they will ‘miss their market.’

For example, take the Vans Warped Tour, drawing 500,000+ fans each year with an average age of 17-18. EDM festivals are booming. Coachella and EDC in Vegas draw over 100,000 each year. So, while Vans WT knows the average age of attendees is 18, how do they reach the right 18 year olds?

Finding the Right Audience Starts with Leveraging the Right Data

Consider the effectiveness of phone book advertisements just 15 years ago. As internet marketing has opened up access to a new, tech-savvy audience, the effectiveness of phone book advertising has dwindled. Now, when I find that phone book haphazardly tossed on my porch every year, I scratch my head. My generation doesn’t do anything with those books but toss them in to the recycling bin (please recycle those).

The new generation of festival goers is diverse. They’re on the cutting edge of technology, and are coming in primarily through mobile right now. They’re willing to work double shifts to save money if it means they get to attend _Fill-in-the-Blank_ Festival with friends. Some skateboard, some are into fashion, some do yoga on stand-up paddleboards. Some of them like Knife Party while others are more into Taylor Swift. My point is, it’s important not to lump them all in the same bucket. They can tell when they are being “marketed to,” better than most.

The festival producers have to work hard to stay relevant to this crowd. They seek top talent and rising stars, relevant sponsorships that their attendees want to associate themselves with, and the most effective means to advertise ticket packages to the right audience with the right budget. Organizers attend IMFCON to learn how to do all of that and do it better than they did last year, because the future of their brand depends on it.

Uri Bogler, VP of Marketing for Front Gate Tickets (powering Coachella, Lollapalooza, X-games, etc.), shared some of his wisdom with attendees during his panel, “How to Sell out your Festival with Big Data.”  Here are some quotes from his panel:

“We look at retention — treating different people at your event ‘differently.’ It’s being able to know how to personalize content when you’re in the direct marketing cycle. Knowing if they’re in to hip hop or if they’re in to rock is important when you consider what message you are sending based on the signals they are sending you. Did they come for Skrillex at your event or Jack Johnson? Or do you even know this?”

Producers SHOULD know this. Because now you CAN know this.

“There is a lot of emphasis right now on the ticketing company to provide some of the scale that the individual promoter cannot achieve. We are bringing in partners [Umbel] in to our eco-system that can help us and help our clients. What sort of data are they getting/using. What are they going to share with you? Are you able to manipulate the data yourself or is it just in dashboard form? It’s increasingly important for the promoters to get some of that added value from the ticketing company,” Uri continued.

James Moody, co-owner and co-founder of Transmission Events (producer of Fun Fun Fun Fest) also spoke wisely about leveraging audience data at his panel, “Using Social Media To Boost Sponsorships.” He talked about how to mine data from all of your followers to create more and better deliverables for your sponsors – and generate more revenue.

Finally, Todd Terrazas, Founder of Brainitch Solutions, offered insight about best practices to evaluate if a venue will work well with your event technologies in his session, “All Roads Lead to WiFi: Evaluating iBeacon, RFID and Cashless Payment Technologies.”

It was exciting to see clients like Transmission Events, Brainitch Solutions and Front Gate Tickets share how they are leveraging Umbel’s technology to collect and put their customer data to work with such tremendous success. As they spoke at IMFCON, their audiences seemed to nod in agreement that it’s time to use technology to get smarter with regard to engaging existing fans and gaining new ones. We love working with such smart thought leaders as clients!

To sum it up, “Audience is everything.” — it’s on my Umbel issued t-shirt. It’s so true.