How Brands Can Get the Most Out of Live Music Events and Festivals

Advice from those in the know at Governors Ball, All Things Go and AEG Presents

The Covid pandemic crushed the live music business. Temporarily, that is. Today, the sector is back and booming, meeting pent-up demand from fans craving entertainment and in-person connection with their favorite artists. Just this week, Madonna drew a massive audience—1.6 million—to Brazil's Copacabana beach for the final date on her tour.

All this means opportunities for brands and marketers. So, how should they craft partnerships with producers and festivals going forward? We posed the question to industry experts.

Alex Joffe, Head of Partnerships, Governors Ball; Senior Sponsorship Director, C3 Presents

What we advise, in addition to producing a polished, first-class activation on site at festivals like Governors Ball, is to look beyond the event weekend and create custom content to promote during the lead-in that drives true hype and anticipation. These can include: a pre-party that gets the engines going the week of the festival and a media plan that drives visibility and impressions using collateral like VIP tickets and exclusive merchandise. This can take the form of a traditional sweepstakes supported by a video series produced for TikTok, for example, where our audiences spend so much of their time.

At Gov Ball, and many of the festivals in our family, we release an entire announcement titled Beyond The Music, which showcases the various brand-led experiences to check out in between all of the amazing artist performances. The activations are an enormous point of attraction for our fans—to provide an inside glimpse of what’s to come, we showcase the brands' beautiful visual renderings, and a description of the experiences in store, on our website and emails, with further support on our highly engaged social media channels. Every bit of hype counts as we inch closer and closer to the festival weekend, which ultimately, in turn, drives early traffic through the gates—a win for all.

A standout activation from Gov Ball 2023 was the U.S. debut of Unforeseen, a large-scale experiential concept designed by the global Red Bull team. Last year's festival was the first time the brand produced it here in the States—a slightly hidden destination on site, which, from the outside, appeared as a typical New York subway station. As fans journeyed within, they met surprise and delight at every turn, from pop-up performances and breakdancing sessions to custom merchandise. Also on hand: Brooklyn-famed House of Yes-style character interactions and non-stop photo opportunities, all set against an interior mirrored to the streets of New York City. There were mini-bodegas, barber shops, food cafes, street art and a Red Bull bar operating in an actual subway car. All told, the activation attracted over 16,000 fans. Music drew fans to the festival, and Red Bull enhanced the weekend by providing an epic party that stayed unerringly on brand.

Carlie Webbert, Manager, Partnerships & Experiential, All Things Go

I think it's important for organizations that want to partner with music events to focus on what community they want to reach. A lot of festivals are "one-size fits all," meaning they have a bunch of big-name artists from a variety of different genres. We, as music organizers, should focus on who we are speaking to, and I think that’s also how brands should look at partnerships. There should always be a clear, shared North Star for both parties—that's how you have an engaged fan or consumer. They will feel seen, listen and participate.

At All Things Go, we have listened to our fans and created a space that is intentional, which has led to a more accessible way to tell a story. Our attendees interact with every inch of the festival because it feels like their home—their whole world on display.

Last year, Cotopaxi sold more bags in two days at All Things Go than during two weeks of activating at SXSW. It just shows how important intentionality is with music partnerships.

We're grateful and proud that the effort we've put into community building has led us to sell out the festival three years in a row. For years, we've been dedicated to curating an inclusive festival, representative of majority female/nonbinary artists. It's been surreal to see the high levels of excitement generated by prioritizing inclusivity. Our 2024 lineup is inclusive of 81 percent female/nonbinary representation.

Andrew Klein, Managing Director, AEG Global Partnerships, AEG Presents

Brands should look at live events and festivals more as partnerships than sponsorships. Both sides should collaborate to craft programs that are win-win.

At Coachella, we've had a 20 year relationship with Heineken. Heineken's objectives are to reach the next-generation customer, drive promotions and retail and offer the Coachella fans incredible experiences. Collectively, we've created the Heineken House at Coachella, where bands and fans are offered incredible musical experiences.

Heineken has created high-profile displays and advertising around the world utilizing the Coachella IP. As the partnership has matured, we've both been able to leverage each other's assets to grow our respective brands.

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