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Audiences want more than just music at festivals | IQ Magazine

There’s been a massive shift not only in audience demands, but also in the media landscape, and what’s happening in the live music industry.

For a PR company, audience is everything: understanding who they are, what they like to do, and what they enjoy doing when not at festivals. What are they passionate about? What do they really think about your event?

2023 was an interesting year for festivals, as there was a lot of change. The market is very saturated – there are over 800 festivals in the UK alone, and it’s growing, and becoming busier year on year.

Costs across the board are up. Insurance has ballooned, artist fees are higher than ever, while general supplier budgets have spiralled. It’s a difficult time for promoters, who have to navigate these rising expenses by increasing ticket prices, but not so much that they alienate the consumer.

People are socialising, but they’re not going to as many events as before. That’s a definite shift in behaviour.

So how do bookers and programmers stand out in this crowded market?

“There is still a lack of diversity across festival programming”

There is a 33% increase in payment plans for festival tickets. Customers are feeling the pinch, and we need to support them. Payment plans are a good solution.

There is still a lack of diversity across festival programming, despite consumer research indicating that people want more, not just ethnicity, but also from a gender point of view.

A significant proportion of our audiences are hot on sustainability, too. Promoters know that live events create an impact, but working with sustainability-minded suppliers, or finding ways to offset or reduce that impact is key. And being open and transparent is important; audiences have a strong desire to see that.

Music is still at the heart of what customers want. But we’re learning that audiences are seeking out more than just the lineup. They want to see what you’re doing with onsite lectures, workshops, and debates; wellness and wellbeing opportunities; and sustainability practices.

Gen Xers and millennials are seeking different experiences that can enrich their lives – they’re looking for things that are unique and different. By bringing this into your programming, people are prepared to spend more to create experiential memories.

For Gen Z, creative content is on the rise. Attention spans are getting shorter, and the content they’re consuming is shorter. The younger generation is reverting to non-traditional mediums like TikTok or Instagram to stay informed. We need to grasp how to work with these growing channels to be able to engage and show us where our audiences are.

And then there’s an influencer dominance. 70% of people buy because of influencer recommendations. Finding out who your audiences follow and leaning into that with your campaigns can reap dividends.

“Never cookie-cutter when it comes to your campaign strategy”

Invite media, influencers, and content creators to your festival to experience first-hand what you’re doing. It’s a fantastic shop window that can drive great content as well.

Explore affiliate programmes around working with influencers and content creators. Giving them a kickback on tickets is a great way of being able to elevate and utilise some of their follower numbers. Always favour quality over quantity when it comes to partnerships. It can be very tempting to work with multiple media and brand partners – focus on those who share your audience and values.

Print, TV, and radio news assets shouldn’t be ignored – they are an important part of all campaigns, allowing you to authentically tell the story of your experience through earned media. But be aware that these might now be for an older demographic. Media staffing has been massively reduced. So think about how you can support media houses by making sure that you can provide them with fully formed feature angles, give access to your events, and partner them with spend where appropriate and possible.

Overall, never cookie-cutter when it comes to your campaign strategy. Figure out what you need to achieve, what your objectives are, and who your audience is. Where are they reading their news? Where are they listening to music? Where are they showing up? Once you have that information, you can build a campaign around it that will help elevate your event and drive those all-important ticket sales.

Ella McWilliam is co-founder and CEO of creative communications agency Full Fat


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