Can Brand Integrations Revive A Dying Music Festival Industry?

Can Brand Integrations Revive A Dying Music Festival Industry?

With ticket prices rising and the cost of living at an all-time high, it is little wonder that luxuries like music festivals are taking a hit. The recent cancellation of Splendour in the Grass was the latest in a long line of culled festivals off the back of low ticket sales and increasing costs.

Gone are the days when radio stations and festivals curate playlists for consumers. Today, listeners can access any track they want, at any time, on any platform. This ability to curate your own listening has left listeners spoilt for choice, knowing what they want and determined to consume music on their own terms.

The Soundcheck: Insights report into Australia’s music festival sector recently revealed that only 56 per cent of music festivals reported a profit in the 2022-23 financial year, with more than one-third of festivals reporting a deficit and eight per cent breaking even.

So is there a saving grace for this once vibrant industry? Lowering ticket prices seems like a given, but is this enough to attract crowds, and will organisers be able to keep up with the growing cost of putting together an event such as Splendour?

According to the team at global sports and entertainment agency MKTG, the solution lies beyond the festival itself, but with the brands that come on board to support the events. But, as with any sponsorship deal, more is required to support an event than just associating a name with it. You can slap an alcohol brand on a main stage, but that isn’t enough to get a crowd full of festivalgoers to buy that brand.

“It’s also important to think about genuine and authentic product integration. Bunnings and gumboots out at the country festival, for example, or Maybelline doing makeup for young Taylor Swift fans — it’s about how you add value that has meaningful integration into the event that helps lower costs and add value for attendees,” said Jarrad Provis, general manager of strategy and marketing services at MKTG. “You have to have a meaning and a reason to be there”.

Brands have to look beyond a festival as a platform to reach people; instead, they should look at it as a platform to leverage IP and association.

“We’ve studied over 100 brands globally, leveraging IP, and we can see that the average uplift in the association is 16 per cent. For a brand looking to partner in the music or festival space, it’s about the brand taking that IP, making an authentic connection, and leveraging that through their creative and comms strategy to connect with the audience,” added Provis.

The AMEX Back The Night event perfectly exemplifies this kind of value-add integration. Post-COVID, the event was a deconstructed gig experience, partnering with local businesses to create unexpected stages for great Australian musicians. The concept put music fans in control of who they saw, curating their own musical journey with all ticket holders converging on the headline gig to see Aussie rock sensations Gang of Youths in their first performance on home soil for over three years.

“That was a great example of understanding the festival fan and what they want,” said Martin Ansell, strategy and insights director at MKTG. The reason that was so powerful was that, through the process of trying to engage with small businesses, they hosted the performances in venues that were target clients for AMEX, driving revenue back into those venues post-COVID.”

Evidence suggests that fans still want unique experiences; festivals just have to prove that the value exchange is there. It’s all about finding out what will make fans go to a festival and determining how brands can add to that experience. The shifts we are seeing lately in the ‘festivalisation’ of sport are a perfect example of this.

“People are going to the Australian Open, for example, to see a music artist and are staying for the tennis, or vice versa,” said Provis. “People still want that environment, they want that connection to community, they want to extend the value of the ticket price beyond the isolated event in itself. So there is still an absolute role for music to play in and around those environments, but the context is changing”.

Overall, it appears as if brands hold the key to fixing the crisis facing the live music industry. It’s all about how they consider the investment and how they go about the partnership.

“Music festivals have been impacted in a really big way over the last couple of years, so brands are likely thinking, ‘Are these events going to go ahead? Am I going to get ROI?'” Ansell said.

“What you actually need is a brand to ask what a festival needs, what the barriers are, and how we can help you achieve that.”

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