3 Key Learnings from Festival Season – An Event Producer’s POV

For many music lovers there’s a ritual that starts every summer: dust off your colorful clothing, clean out your cooler, pack up the car and head to the first music festival of the season. As if by magic — and seemingly overnight — festivals appear in the most unlikely places: an urban park is transformed into a glittering fortress of music; a remote desert is suddenly home to a futuristic metropolis; an industrial pier becomes a techno bunker packed with a dancing crowd. 

While music festivals may feel miraculous, they aren’t made by magic and they don’t spring up overnight. Teams of dedicated professionals working year-round bring the world’s largest parties to life. And for the music lovers at Trademark Events (that is to say, our entire team ????), attending music festivals is an opportunity to study what makes an event stand out from the crowd. 

This summer, the Trademark team spread out across the country to dance, listen, and do our homework. Here are our key learnings from this year’s festival season.

#1: Nail Your Social Rollout

Your social media rollout should consider the entire timeline of the event: Initial outreach, building hype, critical information during the event, and ongoing engagement after the event. Two festivals in San Francisco crushed their social rollout this year: Portola Music Festival and Outside Lands.

“Portola this year was a great case study in getting people informed and excited at the same time. The whole aesthetic of their comms made you feel like you were a part of something, a part of a community,” says Jeff Starr, one of our seasoned producers at Trademark. 

As corporate event planners, we use social media to engage with attendees long after the event wraps. Leveraging engagement techniques such as pushing a simple hashtag for your event can build brand momentum (particularly when you have great photo ops!) 

Your social rollout should be fun, direct, and comprehensive. Remember, attendees only come to your event for one weekend. A good social campaign can keep them engaged for the rest of the year.

#2: More Than the Main Stage

Oftentimes a main stage headliner is what draws fans to a festival. But the activations and interactions that happen outside the main stage are what keep them coming back, year after year.

“High Sierra Music Festival is almost more about the people than the music,” reflects Stephanie Tejada. “There are people I have met there that only see once a year, so it’s a great reunion and something we look forward to every year.”

There’s a lot that event organizers can do to facilitate meaningful interactions outside of their mainstream programming. Coachella is known for its massive headliner acts (like Kendrick Lamar and Beyonce). Yet even at one of the most glamorous festivals in the world, there are smaller spaces that focus on micro-interactions.

“This year Coachella hosted Despacio, a traveling sound system and stage created by James Murphy, John Klett and 2ManyDJs. It’s set up so that you never even see the DJ,” says Riley Walls. “It’s all about the people you’re on the dance floor with. You might not even know who’s playing, you just know you’re having a great time with the crowd.”

#3: Signage

As event producers, we have a lot of responsibility. Yes, we’re responsible for giving attendees what they want — which is a good time. But we’re also responsible for keeping them safe, keeping them informed, and keeping them involved. After all, how can you have a good time if you don’t know where the closest bathroom is?

“The more you can minimize confusion, the more people can just focus on the experience itself”, explains Jeff Starr. Across the board, Trademark’s producers noticed that the best festivals of the summer were exceptional at using layout, signage, maps and apps to distill a complex program into something simple for attendees.

Outside Lands is a massive festival in Golden Gate park that attracts 75,000 people. “Outside Lands can be really overwhelming. It’s a big footprint and there’s a lot going on,” reflects Michelle Medici. “But all the information I needed was right there on the app. I knew where I wanted to be and how to get there, so I could just enjoy the music.”

In order to provide attendees with critical information, you have to get their attention. Michelle noticed that Outside Lands cleverly used some of their directionals as photo opportunities as well. 

Disseminating information thoughtfully across different mediums can integrate the entirety of your production process, from site selection to your social rollout. Event producers need to be constantly aware of the attendee’s experience in every detail.

In Closing

After spending the summer checking out festivals across the country, our Trademark team was left with a distinct impression: the best events consider the entire attendee journey, from first contact on social media through the event itself and to building a community long after everyone goes home.

We apply these principles to all of Trademark’s corporate events. While you may not be booking Beyonce at your next conference (though seriously, call us if you want to…), we strive to make programming just as impactful and thoughtful as the festivals that we know and love. We know that our events start making their mark long before attendees book their flights. Head to “How We Work” to read more about how we’ve crafted exceptional attendee journeys for clients like Adobe, Slack, LucasFilms, and more.

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