How to Structure Your Festival Rollout Campaign

About a year or so ago, a handful of major dance music festivals were experimenting with teasing their lineups out act by act. On the first day, the fans were amped by a headliner announcement, and speculation was rife about who’d be announced next. The festival would get a mention or two in a smaller publication, but one act at a festival—unless it’s Daft Punk, Beyonce or a David Bowie hologram—isn’t making the big news. The next day most people forgot to check back, no publications reported the announcement, and just like that, their chance at a big splash was a placid drip.

Getting your roll out right is so crucial to your festival securing the exposure that it truly needs. And there’s an endless list of things to keep track of including your assets, competitors, and social media strategy, to name a few. “Preparation is absolutely crucial in developing a successful roll out. You have to be clear on all the basic stuff aside like poster art, or lineup videos, but there’s so much to consider before you drop the bomb on your customers,” explains Leon Hill, founder of festival marketing company We Know Festivals.

We’ve asked some specialists in orchestrating festival roll outs to give you some insights into what an effective campaign looks like, and some mistakes you should avoid at all costs.

Get Your Lineup Phases Right

Don’t be like the aforementioned festivals that dramatically overshot their audience and the media’s interest in their event. Know that you get one or two—and in some rare cases, three—shots to get the lineup out there.

Coachella and EDC have the luxury of dominating the airwaves with their monolith, drop-the-mic announcements, but chances are you aren’t going to make that kind of splash yet.

“By spreading out the announcement over several phases, you’ll have more focal points to keep the campaign interesting, and potentially have a more engaging long-term marketing strategy,” explains Fred Olafsson, founder of Iceland’s Secret Solstice, a two-phase festival.

“In an ideal world, combining your lineup announcement with another selling point to drive sales – like an increase in ticket price – will also help to stimulate pre-announcement sales, as opposed to just seeing a big spike on announcement day and beyond,” says Olafsson. 

Know What Your Selling Points Are First

If your festival is all about the lineup and the production then you need to think about splitting up the information in a way that keeps the sales coming in steadily, and showcases the vital selling points of the event.

Think about why people will come to your festival. Is it the stunning location? If so, then make sure you have photos and video content showcasing that location. If you’ve got mind-blowing production, the cross-platform content needs to reflect that and hammer it home.

“With so many festivals on the global calendar, you need to make sure your event is standing out from the crowd, and your lineup is only one selling point your customers will use to decide whether or not to fork out some cash and head to your event,” explains Hill.

Having clearly defined unique selling points will not only make your festival more attractive but easier to market over the campaign’s calendar.

Have Plenty of Content in the Bank

Social media is the portal to your audience – a portal clogged with dank memes, baby photos, Donald Trump, and your competitors – so you need to be loud and proud, and posting something every day.  

Whether it’s last year’s photographs, lineup videos, flyers, or smaller teasers to highlight different aspects of the festival, you should be very conscious of next year’s roll out when you’re orchestrating the on-site content this year.

Ultimately, content is going to differentiate your festival from the competitors. Everyone has a lineup these days, and if you’re in dance music chances are there are many festivals around that have a very similar lineup (Really? Armin Van Buuren? Again?!).

Have more than enough assets to keep the fire burning for your whole campaign.

Be Conscious of Your Competitors

Creative content agency, Black Circle Media, recently worked with a small hippie festival who was gearing up to drop the lineup and kick the campaign off with a big push. But the day before the announcement was scheduled, Lightning in a Bottle—arguably the biggest non-Burning Man “transformational” festival in the US—dropped their lineup and dominated the conversation for a couple of days.

While LiB hadn’t announced that their lineup was coming on a particular date, Black Circle Media decided to rescheduled and narrowly avoided getting drowned by a larger competitor. Be very conscious of who’s around you and competing for your audience, because overlap will do you harm, even if your event is bigger than your rivals.

Get Good Festival PR

Don’t just hire your random PR friend or some dude that got a mix by some dubstep act placed on Dancing Astronaut’s SoundCloud page three years ago. Festival PR is a different beast than artist PR, and you should be working with people that know how to play the game and distribute your information accordingly.

LA-based firm Infamous PR’s Max Frieser specializes in boutique festival publicity, having managed campaigns for the likes of CRSSD Festival, Oregon Eclipse, Desert Hearts and Your Paradise in Fiji. He knows the rules of this game as well as anyone and can vouch for the value of bringing in an experienced company to deal with the increasingly unscrupulous media.

“The best thing you can do, as an organizer, is find a publicist who not only has a real hold on how to make maximum impact with the lineup, but who you can actually trust with distributing privileged information,” he explains. “That trust is key because it extends from PR and into the laps of those media who receive the embargoed news.”

“But you have to play the game if you want to smash the gates open and get that ticket sale surge you’ve been looking for,” he continues. “So strap in, get your system in place, and trust your publicist to manage the flow of information well.”

You get one shot at a roll out and it can make or break your festival. Stumble, fumble and bumble and you won’t hit your ticket targets and could put the entire event in jeopardy. But, adhere to the advice above and you’ll run a smooth campaign that won’t get drowned out by the competition.