From mainstay festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo to brand new niche festivals like the Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit, music fans have come to embrace festival experiences. Amid the increasing competition and with the same pool of artists to choose from, how do promoters continue to keep their festivals fresh?
That was one of the biggest questions Ticketfly Founder & CEO Andrew Dreskin had for the panel of festival game-changers at the 10th annual Billboard Touring Conference.
When asked how the panel managed to prevent predictable booking choices, Firefly Festival director Greg Bostrom said while there will always be overlap, he continuously keeps the Firefly Festival-goers in mind. Dave Frey, a Partner at C3 Presents, put it more bluntly, “We’re just booking a show we want to see. That’s about it.”
As with any outdoor event, weather plays a big role on the success of festivals. So in true festival fashion, Dreskin gave each member of the panel a large, black garbage bag to protect themselves from Dreskin’s two assistants, who walked across the stage spraying the panel with water. “We want to make you feel like the true festival goer,” Dreskin explained. “Not the festival promoter who sits backstage in the air conditioning.”
To the amusement of the Touring Conference audience, less than 30 seconds after the water incident, Dreskin said that just like when it begins to rain, everyone heads to the beer tents. He brought everyone a bottle of Coors Light. The catch? They came with the festival price. Each panelist had to give Dreskin’s assistants $10 for their beers. Everyone paid for their expensive beverage. The fact it was 11am did not deter anyone from enjoying it.
Dreskin proved his amusing antics were not over when he proposed to the panel a game he called “Douchiest Agent — or Drink.” The rules were simple. Call out the worst agent they have had to deal with by name or they had to take a shot. Six full shot glasses were brought out a to the panelists and six were emptied by the game’s end — though Jones jokingly called out WME’s Marc Geiger.
The festival experience was brought up again when the question, “How big is too big?” was asked by an audience member. Legendary festival promoter Ashley Capps, president of AC Entertainment, responded with a tale of Bonnaroo’s early years: “When your festival grows to the point where you can’t deliver the experience that the fans wants to have or the experience you want the fans to have, then you’ve grown too big. We had that experience with Bonnaroo in 2004. We went from 70,000 people the first year to 80,000 the second year and 90,000 the third. And we determined at that point that 90,000 people was 10,000 too many.”
With the high number of tickets available, consumers know the likelihood of the festival selling out immediately is not high, so they wait — something no promoter likes. To combat the issue, festivals have implemented discounts. The earlier the ticket is bought, the cheaper it is. As Dave Frey, a partner at Lockn’ Festival explained, “We want to reward our first responders as well as we can.” Adam Lynn, managing partner at Prime Social Group, jokingly put it, “Tax the people that are going to wait.”