Posted in: Short Weeklys Tips, Tricks, & Best Practices for Festival Organizers on January 10, 2014 by Natasha Hillier

Old posters piled up in the corner, cans of RedBull on your vacant desk, and a sense of accomplishment hanging in the air… The day after production weekend has come and it’s now time for a well deserved break away from laptops, phone calls, ticket sales, and anything that even resembles a crowd, am I right?  Not if you’re on the payroll of Reykjavik’s Iceland Airwaves festival, says Grimur Atlason, Festival Manager of the now world famous weekend-long event, renowned for discovering bands like Sigur Rós and Of Monsters and Men.

“It’s all about keeping the hype up and the excitement going,” says Atlason. “People don’t come to Iceland Airwaves for our headliners, they come for the whole package. Because of that, we start selling tickets for next year literally the day after our event is over.”

Iceland Airwaves takes place the first weekend of November every year, so returning fans have learned to plan their holidays well in advance of the event, and due to the efforts of Iceland Airwaves’ marketing team, they’ve also learned to buy their tickets early.  A a result, the festival is selling out year after year, months before the event even takes place.  That’s a big “Verkefnið Tókst!” if you ask me. Whether you are Iceland Airwaves, Coachella, SXSW, or a local small-town festival, there are a few fantastic “best practices” revealed in this short interview with Atlason that any festival could start working on in 2014:

“People don’t come to our festival for its headliners, they come for the whole package.”

If you can make this statement ring true for your event,  you’re well on your way to establishing an all-year-round hype.  This is where fan loyalty will really start pick up the pace, early ticket sales will then follow, and an overall “brand presence” will ultimately be established.  According to UK’s Festival Insight’s 2009 Annual Report (no North American data because Festival Insights in a UK based organization), “headliners” only ranked 3rd in what were the most important factors influencing  festival-goers buying decisions.   Ranking first and second was “whether like-minded people & friends will be there,” and “overall festival organization.”  Therefore, headliners are certainly important influencers, but by no means the “key” ingredient to a festival’s success (obviously we accept the numbers could vary when you take into consideration any economic shifts over the past 5 years and the many cultural differences in the UK vs. North American market, but nonetheless we believe this statement will still hold fast in the global festival market).  This is fantastic news for any festival that might struggle securing big names for their event due to a number of hold-ups that are totally out of your hands (heavy artist fees, scheduling conflicts, etc.).  The kind of people you attract to your event and the level of organizations you can establish, on the other hand, are totally in your control.

“Our festival takes place the first weekend of November every year.”  

By holding an event the same time of year, every year, festivals give fans a chance to prepare for some time off, plan between friends, arrange travel & accommodations, and everything else that goes into attending a festival that should never be overlooked. Many festivals do operate in this consistent manner, but fail to market the fact. Consistency is a sign of “overall organization” and a powerful asset that is widely neglected in the marketing world. By opening your box office as early as possible, you can easily reassure buyers that the plan is still the same as always, and they can have the ticket stub to prove it.  All you need is a date, a location, and a promise of a good time and you’re ready to sell tickets.  Things like venues, headliners, exclusive concerts,  and everything else can then be used later as powerful marketing collateral, which will help maintain hype and sales throughout the year.

These are just two of the many great practices festivals around the globe are using to drum up excitement, community, interaction, and sales during the dreaded “downtime.” Share your festival’s insights in our comments section below, or tweet us at @MarcatoFestival using the hashtag #DowntimeTips.

Happy 2014 everyone!

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