March 17, 2013 – How a music festival connects to their audience is paramount to having a successful event. In recent years, several festivals – including the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival – have turned to aggressive viral campaigns to keep people talking about a festival before and after the music plays.
The culture of music festivals is an expansive one, known for community unity – but also for silent competition amongst the growing music-listening options for consumers.
Leading up the 2013 lineup announcement for the Bonnaroo festival, which takes place from June 13-16 in Manchester, Tennessee, the organizers have launched a Twitter campaign known as “roo13wishlist.” This platform helped the Bonnaoo team keep the audience involved by fielding artist suggestions directly from members. It’s been a success thus far, said Howie Caspe, general manager of original programming at Bonnaroo, but “we have yet to even scratch the surface of what is possible.”
For the upcoming 2013 festival, Caspe and the rest of the Bonnaroo team used a massive internet campaign. They are attempting to set themselves apart from the other destination festivals in the “big three” – Coachella Valley, near Palm Springs, California, from April 12-21; and Lollapalooza, in Chicago, from August 2-4 – by distinguishing their lineup announcement strategy.
The questions surrounding the lineup are debated and talked about for months leading up to the big announcement. Most festivals choose the classic route of releasing a lineup poster late at night, just in time for fans to devour each and every act. Each year, tens of thousands of fans, writers and industry folk eagerly await the lineup announcement. What big star will earn the coveted headline spot? What formerly disbanded group will reunite for a once in a lifetime concert?
Bonnaroo chose this alternate route for their 2013 lineup announcement. First, Caspe started off developing content for Nickelodeon and was integral in the creation of the Noggin, Teen Nick platforms. According to Caspe, the announcement “was a great platform…this is a moment where everybody is paying attention, how can we turn this into a great event and involve our audience in doing it.”
Bonnaroo’s announcement “was probably the most coordinated anyone had ever done in terms of all the moving pieces,” said Caspe.
The Bonnaroo team decided to leverage “an old-school telethon vibe.” This telethon, hosted by musician and comedian Weird Al Yankovic, mirrored a classic telethon with user call-ins, interactive games and prizes. Caspe notes that the Bonnaroo team wanted to bring the analog experience back to the digital world. By connecting with fans via Twitter, Tumblr, Google +, Facebook and YouTube, the Bonnaroo team was able to produce a announcement experience while connecting thousands of fans. Caspe said the the greatest integration was through the Google + platform.
Caspe wouldn’t reveal specifics, but was thrilled with the volume of traffic paying attention during the Bonnaroo-a-thon. Now, Caspe plan to continue the dialect of embracing the built-in Bonnaroo audience and engaging newly-interested fans.
“We want to continue to stick the core and keep them engaged, but also expand the audience wider. We want to look towards that next generation as much as possible. I think [our job] is to continue to look at unique ways to do that.”
Going forward, Caspe plans for Bonnaroo to embrace wireless and broadband usage on mobile devices at the festival itself. Though he is excited about the new possibilities, Caspe cautions that he would hate to see a climate where fans are glued to their phones rather than directly experience an engaging community festival experience.