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A Camden Crawler's Guide to Festival Management: Marketing

Posted: 8/03/2012 11:27

A great line-up is all very well, but ultimately your festival is only as good as the crowd it attracts: if you have fantastic bands but only four people to watch them, you don't have a festival. You have a house show.

That's where all that extra work which exists around and between booking the bands comes in, and most especially where PR has its strength. The festival manager who thinks their job is to know all about music and disdain all the other stuff will not run a good event: you have to be as interested in, and enthusiastic about, promoting your bands as you are about scheduling them.

At the Crawl, we've done PR in every possible way. My own background is in marketing - I founded a street marketing company before we relaunched the festival, and I worked at labels like Sub Pop promoting and launching artists. So one of the obvious things to do at first was to do it all in-house. This is fine, but the bigger you get - in terms of crowd numbers, the popularity of the bands you put on, or the exposure you have or want to have - the more you're going to need extra capacity.

There aren't enough hours in the day to do everything you need to do well on your own, so surrounding yourself with good people - and getting them to do what they're good at - is a must. Another model we've tried, then, is the 'atomised' approach: get different experts to do their thing in a connected, but ultimately separate, way. This method, too, has its pitfalls - most obviously, your people do great work but the impact of a lot of little punches isn't as great as one big smack might have been.

This year, then, we've found a PR agency, Zeitgeist, and asked them to do everything for us. Sometimes, this feels like giving away your baby. But you need to know when to let things go, especially with a second major festival in Dublin being added to the roster this year. Certainly, having a single team concentrating on PR alone makes things more straightforward and, in that jargon beloved of consultants, 'joined-up'.

One element of marketing we try to do as much as we can ourselves is social media. Twitter, Facebook and blogging are - and I don't need to tell readers of the Huffington Post this - increasingly important marketing tools. They're most useful, though, when your followers can talk to you direct, and when the way you communicate on those channels reflects who you are. Engaging with fans and asking their opinions can be hugely rewarding - at its best, social media marketing is more social than it is marketing.

That might well be the key of marketing festivals, in fact: flexibility and fun. It's hard work, too - a tonne of graphs, impact reports and scheduling - but whatever approach you take it needs to retain a lot of the passion and vigour that made you want to hold a festival in the first place. And I don't say that as a sales pitch. Obviously.

 

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