Drive Up Attendance During Festival Season with SMS Messaging – Part 1

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People love live music. Ticket sales worldwide are expected to reach $20.5 Billion (~£14.2B). The UK alone has around 900 festivals each year. There just aren’t enough headliners to go around. What else can you do to draw people to your event (whether you have a headliner or not)? The answer: Make your event an experience rather than just a destination.

In an article on Music Business Journal, Harvey Goldsmith, a prominent British concert promoter, conveyed that “The market is now oversaturated at a time when artists are not developed by their labels as they used to be.”

Along the same lines, Dan Kunkel, CEO of BeachGlow (a festival in New Jersey), commented in an interview with EventBrite, “For some time now, live music performance has been an important part of the business. As such, many markets are saturated with live performance options — creating steeper competition.”

He goes on to say, “What differentiates a basic event from an experience-based event? Getting down to what the customers want — genuine interaction — whether it be from staff, volunteers, interactive displays, activities, or friends.”

Festivals are going beyond just the music to interact with attendees in many different ways, from adding other creative outlets like artist classes to social media blitzes. Another powerful, personal, and engaging way to connect with attendees is via SMS messaging. Let’s take a look at how it might work.

Start before they even show up

Hopefully you have a list of last year’s attendees – perhaps their emails or addresses. You can use both email and post to reach out to them asking them to sign up for your SMS marketing. You could call it your VIP program, Fan Fun program, In-the-Know program – or whatever works with your festival and demographics. By engaging with last year’s list this way, you can build your new SMS list when they opt in, and increase the probability that they will return for this year’s event.

If you already have an official (meaning everyone’s opted in) SMS marketing list, you’re ahead of the game and can get started right away. But if you can cross-reference it with your full list and reach out to those who didn’t sign up last year you could still grow your list using the above method.

Another way to grow your list is to include an advert for signing up when you send out the tickets or wristbands – even the fancy RFID bands many festivals have begun using. A simple printed form with instructions on signing up and the benefits they’ll receive will encourage attendees to opt in.

Once they’ve opted in, what sorts of messages can you send them?

Build excitement for the event – Share short sneak peeks of the festival, vendors, and other attractions. Will attendees get special deals from a vendor on activation? Did you install new sound or lighting to improve the show? Are there other new facilities they’ll want to know about? Send anything related to the event you know will pump up excitement. For longer content like festival blog posts or news announcements, send links to mobile friendly webpages.

Backstage teases – In the days leading up to the festival, snap some images, video, or sounds of your acts getting ready. You’re probably sharing these over social media, but save some good ones for your exclusive SMS marketing list. You can send a quick message saying your headliner act is on stage rehearsing and instruct them to click on the link to see or hear it on your website. These types of messages will get them so excited they’ll be screaming “I can’t wait!”

Available tickets – If for some reason you still have tickets available, send out a message to your list letting them know. It’s likely they’ll have friends or family that may want to come along too. Sometimes people just wait until the last minute and they’ll be so happy to know they can still buy additional tickets.

You’ll probably be able to think of dozens of other types of content you can send via SMS to keep your attendees engaged even before they arrive. But you should keep in mind you’ll need to be smart about when and how often you send messages. Come back for part 2 of this series to learn how to do that, plus see some options of how to use SMS during and after the festival.

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