Follow the fan journey: Why live music partnerships start long before the event
Live music experiences are places where brands can literally surprise and delight fans, so long as they are in tune with their euphoria and make the most of the marketing opportunity by starting early, while fans are in the discovery and planning phases.
Live music events are an outlet for a redefined form of hedonism, where fans are not looking to indulge in excess, but instead use their free time to excess. Fans attend to share meaningful, long-lasting memories that can’t be replicated anywhere else.
The festival season may still feel a while away to marketers, but it has already started in the minds of fans. According to new proprietary research from Live Nation UK’s sponsorships division, for 69% of fans the live music journey begins not at the ‘experience’ phase – the event itself – but much earlier in ‘discovery’ and ‘planning’ phases, and it continues beyond the event into the ‘relive’ phase for several weeks after the show.
For marketers planning their 2023 activity – or those who haven’t even considered the opportunity around live music – knowing what these fans are doing and thinking at each stage is instrumental in developing a successful campaign.
The findings came from a study of over 1,600 British music fans, involving both qualitative and quantitative research including face-to-face interviews, social listening and ‘homework’ activities. A key element of the methodology was that researchers captured responses across each phase of the fan journey – while fans were either about to book a ticket, planning for an event, at an event or recalling it afterwards – allowing for an in-the-moment perspective on their attitudes, actions and motivations.
A key insight is that the most effective brand partnerships at live music events take full advantage of the fan’s discovery and planning phases, not just the experience itself – and the opportunities to do so are numerous.
Make an impact in the ‘discovery’ phase
The discovery phase typically starts between one and six months before the gates open (but as much as 12 months for bigger festivals). During this period 60% of fans say they dedicate ‘a great deal of time’ to researching the event they want to attend. Therefore, announcing a tour or festival lineup is a critical moment in the cycle for generating awareness among fans who might not have considered buying tickets yet. This moment presents headline partners opportunities to maximise their impact or for brands to reward customers by providing fans exclusive access via a presale ticketing programme.
As headline sponsor of Wireless Festival, rapid grocery delivery company Gopuff played a key role in announcing this year’s artist lineup announcement. Live Nation and Wireless worked with Gopuff to seamlessly incorporate the brand into the announcement film, ensuring Gopuff was front and centre as the highly anticipated lineup ‘leaked’ to fans.
Another example of a brand involved in the discovery phase is festival presale partner Three. As the official connectivity partner at some of the UK’s most popular festivals, Three gives its customers presale access to tickets via Three+, its new rewards app, building loyalty among its users by offering exclusive access to coveted tickets.
Understand the event cycles
Planning is the longest phase of the fan journey, beginning when the fan buys their ticket, and includes various milestones where brands across categories can add value. Again, planning can start early but tends to ramp up three months out from the event, with fans typically addressing aspects such as their finances and accommodation first, then sorting out their fashion, food and beauty needs around six weeks before.
The best way for brands to communicate during the discovery and planning phases will vary according to the type of event and experience a fan is seeking. For example, 90% of concert attendance is driven by the music itself, while 70% of attendees at day festivals go to explore unforgettable experiences across the course of daily programming. At camping festivals, fans are most likely to seek experiences that they wouldn’t find in their daily lives whether through travel or new cultural adventures.
Understanding these nuances can help determine whether a brand’s activations and communications should focus on the lineups, spectacular showpieces or cultural experiences related to food, drink or travel, for example. As 51% of fans attend all three types of events, these offerings may not be mutually exclusive, but understanding the event cycles and the phase a particular fan is in can be crucial to making the right impression at the right time.
Get the right fit for fans
Similarly, the findings show each individual event attracts different kinds of fans with different motivations – which influences which brands and activations will be the right fit. If being part of a large student crowd is important, a fan would prioritise a festival such as Reading or Leeds, while Camp Bestival attracts those seeking an intimate family-friendly environment. A fan attending the Isle of Wight Festival is likelier to do so for the rich musical heritage, while a passion for hip hop drives music lovers to Wireless. Parklife, the largest metropolitan festival in the UK, is a must for Manchester-based fans, while fans in Glasgow wouldn’t dream of missing TRNSMT, the biggest event on the Scottish music calendar.
No matter what type of demographic or region a brand is looking to engage with, there’s a live music experience that can help them reach those key audiences. Co-op and Bacardi have shown ways to do it right, playing to their core strengths for the benefit of festivalgoers at various phases of their journey. Co-op leans into its reputation for convenience by setting up pop-up supermarkets at festivals (part of the experience phase), including a click-and-collect service (part of the planning phase) allowing fans to pick up food, drinks and necessities from 200 product lines.
Meanwhile, Bacardi plays a significant role in the experience phase, hosting Casa Bacardi, a wildly popular, immersive destination on-site at festivals, designed to enhance and improve the premium drinks experience for fans, complete with inviting dance floors, quality DJs and custom cocktails.
The size of the opportunity
Sharing unexpected moments and providing new experiences is a great way to engage with fans. However, it can also be comforting to offer them a sense of familiarity from seeing a recognisable brand’s landmark across a busy festival weekend. And the impact of a brand’s activation is also more measurable than ever, as marketers can get fans’ feedback with tools such as the Live Nation’s Sound Board, an online community panel of approximately 5,000 live music enthusiasts.
The size of the opportunity for reaching music fans at live events is at a historic high – even compared with pre-Covid levels – and it’s set to continue growing. Live Nation’s 2022 Q3 financial results reported the highest quarterly attendance ever with forward booking for sponsors up 30% year on year, indicating brands are planning further ahead than ever before in a bid to enrich music events and be part of fans’ desire to have the experience of a lifetime.
Whichever sort of partnership a brand chooses, the research findings highlight that the euphoria of live music begins long before a fan reaches a festival or venue, and the greatest benefit is gained by being part of the whole fan journey, enhancing their experience from the discovery phase onwards.
For more info contact David Pepper, SVP of Live Nation marketing partnerships, at firstname.lastname@example.org.