The boom in music festival culture over the last five years has pushed more and more young people to shun traditional vacationing on a secluded beach with a paperback in favor of spending a long weekend partying.
The level of competition amongst festivals is very high, and destination festivals have emerged as being a popular hybrid between the festival experience and international travel. Places like Croatia, Portugal, Mexico and Costa Rica have become magnets for the global festival goer, allowing them to both hear incredible music and immerse themselves in the local culture.
“Every festival has a huge lineup these days, and when you’re competing with somewhere like Ibiza, which hosts every big DJ in the world every weekend, you have to work your unique value propositions.” – Ross Gardiner, Black Circle Media
Marketing a destination festival effectively comes with a unique set of challenges, and a considerably higher price point. Getting people to part with $200 for a local festival can be difficult enough, but when you throw in a flight and a hotel for four nights, you need to use every tool in your arsenal to convince potential fans that this is the experience that they should build their summer around.
Secret Solstice’s founder Fred Olaffson knows very well the challenges of luring people to a party from overseas. The Reykjavik festival is frequently cited as one of the most interesting events on the calendar, chiefly because of the majestic landscape of the tiny volcanic island, and that the sun never sets. Since the festival’s conception in 2014, Olaffson has treated the Norse nation’s awe-inspiring landscape as his chief marketing asset, and estimates that overseas visitors make up as much as 40 percent of the festival’s patrons.
“People from all around the world want to go to Iceland,” Olaffson told Intelltix. “It’s definitely become a hotspot. It’s got some of the most incredible scenery and nature of anywhere in the world. When they come to Secret Solstice they’re not just coming for the music, so we’ve tried to incorporate the traditional travel tour stuff into our event.”
With raves deep inside glaciers, disco pool vibes in outdoor geothermal baths, intimate acoustic gigs inside active volcanoes and lava tunnels, Secret Solstice is unique in how creative its organizers are in marketing it.
The festival also counts the Icelandic Tourist Board and budget airline Wow Air among its partners, giving the festival the requisite support in wooing an international audience to an expensive country with cheap flights and package tourism.
Max Frieser of LA-based publicists Infamous PR resonates the importance of forging connections with local tourism boards, citing it as a key support network for the international festivals that he represents. Frieser is arguably the best festival publicity in North America, and counts SXM Festival (St. Martin), Envision (Costa Rica), and Your Paradise (Fiji) amongst a roster that also includes Lightning in a Bottle, Symbiosis and Desert Hearts.
“The PR team should work with the tourism board and festival staff to curate every aspect of this journey as a destination festival is judged far beyond just the music and production,” Frieser explains. “We try to get help from the tourism board with crafting itineraries that are both enjoyable and informative, showcasing the host destination for all its worth.”
With Oasis Festival in Marrakech, creative agency Black Circle Media and digital marketing firm We Know Festivals treated Oasis like a location with a festival, selling a whole holiday rather than just a binge in the sunshine.
“Every festival has a huge lineup these days, and when you’re competing with somewhere like Ibiza, which hosts every big DJ in the world every weekend, you have to work your unique value propositions,” explains BCM’s Ross Gardiner. “And for Oasis it was the local culture, and a considerably more mature, chilled experience that you’d find on the White Isle.”
Black Circle and We Know Festivals developed rich editorial content about Morocco, highlighting the food, local customs and building out a travel guide section on the website. This content was then targeted at warm leads generated by lineup announcements or the aftermovie.
“If you’re trying to convince someone to spend upwards of $1,000 to come to a festival overseas,” Gardiner explains, “you have to be thinking about the whole experience.”