BY: ROSS GARDINER, Intellitix Contributor
Festival industry conferences have grown into a driving force of innovation within the event space over the past decade. From IMS to EDMBiz and heavyweight enterprise XLIVE, the festival industry is quickly modernizing in aspects ranging from data analytics, branding, technology, publishing, law—the list goes on. Now, major corporate sponsors and fledgling enterprises alike come together on a global circuit of events that stretches from Las Vegas and Ibiza to Shanghai and Rio de Janeiro.
Of them all, XLIVE, formerly known as the International Music Festival Conference, has grown into the premiere live event industry conference since its inaugural event in New York back in 2004. Waco Hoover founded XLIVE to solve a glaring problem within the festival industry of the early 2000s: Where can the people behind-the-scenes get together, exchange ideas and make connections and stay ahead of the curve in this dynamic industry?
XLIVE launched at an opportune time for the live and experiential event market. The lines had started to blur between verticals: music festivals offered great food and drink, film festivals were booking live music acts, food festivals were booking performers. Once disparate factions of the broader live industry were being forced to converge to compete, and it was necessary that a meeting place for these stakeholders was established. The ensuing years saw XLIVE grow considerably in stature, and move between Vegas, Austin and San Diego, before resettling in Las Vegas.
We’re having some sessions this year where we talk about the neuroscience of experience – Waco Hoover
As well as being a marketplace for festival-adjacent businesses to showcase their products and solutions, XLIVE has grown to become a key knowledge hub that drives conversation and innovation within the industry. “When you have a collision between all of these different kinds of events, their stakeholders, producers and organizers, it allows you to really get outside of your bubble or sphere of influence,” says Hoover, a former Marine from Florida. “We’ve found it to be really powerful for our audience to learn from outside of their own verticals. That has become a core advantage to attending XLIVE.”
In 2016, the dominant topic of conversation at XLIVE was data. Spurred by brands looking for deeper insight into audiences, festivals have scrambled to quantify the mass of fan data that’s been accumulating over the years, and that has given rise to companies like Aloompa, Umbel and Feathr, all of which specialize in data management for events and are a strong presence at XLIVE. “I think we’re going to see that trend go even further in 2017,” says Hoover. “The gathering and application of data is influencing sales, finance, marketing, operations, safety, engagement, community outreach. Every aspect of live event production can be guided by data and you’ll see that being discussed in-depth this year.”
No one wants to see events fail, because it has negative impacts on the industry, sponsors, consumer confidence. – Waco Hoover
In the wake of the high profile cancellations of Fyre Festival and Pemberton, Hoover hopes that XLIVE can encourage some of the festival industry’s biggest and most successful players to move into leadership roles in order to communicate best practices to smaller emerging events: “No one wants to see events fail, because it has negative impacts on the industry, sponsors, consumer confidence. There are a lot of trends coming and going and manifesting themselves in interesting ways, but one consistent that we’ve noticed is the push to improve experience. The landscape for festivals has become so competitive that producers are being pushed to work overtime to create the best fan experience.”
But it’s not just big data on the agenda for XLIVE this year. There are sessions on every event-related subject imaginable. “We’re having some sessions this year where we talk about the neuroscience of experience,” says Hoover. “We’ll be looking at it both sociologically and psychologically, and getting into how the brain responds to experiences. I think that’ll be a really interesting element of the event this year.”
After almost two decades at the top of the festival industry, it’s a good opportunity for Waco Hoover to look back on the impact of XLIVE. “It brings me a lot of joy to know that people are coming back, year after year, learning new things, making connections and adding tools to their business in order to help them grow, or improve profitability, or streamline operations.
Follow XLIVE on Facebook for updates on upcoming events.