How This Boutique Festival Increased Early Bird Sales by Over 300%

Last year, Billboard reported that 32 million people attend at least one music festival per year, and that 51 percent of Americans attended a live music event in 2015. That’s almost 164 million ticket sales in the United States alone. It’s gargantuan business, and major players like Ticketmaster, Ticketfly, and LiveNation face competition in plucky startups entering the space vying for business and promising cost-effective solutions to getting around the market saturation.

“We increased festival tickets sales by almost 300% over last year’s early bird sale,” says festival organizers Brian Crain.

One particularly interesting example of fresh approaches to ticketing this year was Boogaloo Art Car and Music Festival, which took place in April in California. The event came into its third official year with bigger production costs and capacity, in turn looking to double its ticket sales to 3,000. With only a few small stages supported by a ragtag collection of art cars from Burning Man, the festival organizers Brian Crain and Ian Stone recognized that within their niche lay an opportunity. The festival has a built-in community wrought from a decade’s engagement with Burning Man culture. They realized that their community-oriented demographic could be harnessed in an organic way. Much like the P2P ticket sales strategy utilized by the likes of market leader StreetTeam, Boogaloo reached out to the “influencers” within their core community to become “partners” in the festival. In Boogaloo’s case, the influencers were the organizers of Burning Man camps such as Camp Charlie, Noise Revolt, and the Pearl Necklace. Each camp boasts dozens of active and passionate members, and for each ticket that the camp sold they would earn $20, executed via a personalized code for each camp, to be put to use towards their production at Boogaloo itself.  To kickstart interest, Boogaloo organizers dropped ticket prices to $99 for friends and family early birds. It was a risky play, but one with major reward. The initiative turned out to be a huge success, and increased early ticket sales for the festival beyond even their most optimistic expectations. “We increased festival tickets sales by almost 300% over last year’s early bird sale,” says Crain. “And at the same time gave over $10,000 to support art cars, camps, performance groups and other community groups.”

Boogaloo’s situation is largely unique.

The structure of the festival allows for the involvement of myriad art cars and camps from all over the United States. Many Burning Man camps and art cars making the trip to the event set up and throw unofficial parties in the campsite. But even if you have a much more tightly run event, Boogaloo’s novel exercise in ticketing is worth noting for their simple reward mechanism that fed back into the event.  By identifying influencers in their network and making them partners, they created a feedback loop that benefit the festival experience, sales, and community.

Start thinking about your festival not as 20,000 individuals, but 5,000 groups of four.

Word-of-mouth is the still the most cherished form of marketing. A whopping 82 percent of Americans seek advice from their peers when making a purchase, and 67 percent consider themselves more likely to purchase a product when a friend refers it on social media. Start thinking about your festival not as 20,000 individuals, but 5,000 groups of four. People buy festival tickets because their friends are going, so if you can identify those influential voices in those groups—in Boogaloo’s case it was the camp organizers—you should incentivize them to bring their friends and to become an advocate for your event. Not only will you sell more tickets with considerably higher ROI than traditional digital marketing, but you’ll build a tight knit culture of families, camps and tribes at your event.

“The camps we partnered with for Boogaloo are a true testament to what community is. They were excited to work with us and get this message to their fan base,” says Boogaloo founder Ian Stone. “My advice to anyone trying implement a ticket sale like this would be to honor and include the camps, tribes, groups and collectives that make up the fabric of your community. Together, greater things [are] always possible.”

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