What’s in a share? How social media fuels the festival culture
It’s no secret that festival culture’s rapid ascension into the main stream was due, in part, to the perpetuation and rapid adoption of social media into the everyday lives of an entire generation of American youth. At present there are currently over 800 music festivals operating in the US alone, spanning a variety of genres and demographics yet all sharing one similar element — viral word of mouth generated by social media.
According to a study done by ShareThis (that familiar logo you use whenever you share anything on the internet), the two most shared festivals in the US this past year were Electric Daisy Carnival and Coachella, two West Coast-based events targeted at a youthful demographic. Their combined content was shared 700,000 times – the number of actual eye balls that saw it — impossible to report.
Since 2005 adult social media usage has increased over 800%. [Forbes] This explosive growth opened a door for festival culture’s rapid adoption into the mainstream discussion. As more 18+ individuals joined social media networks, mainly Twitter and Facebook, they became bombarded by the content their friends were sharing of music festivals – creating an organic wave of growth for not only the festivals but the entire electronic music industry. Think about how you first found out about electronic music. It was most likely through a friend’s social media stream. multiply that by 700,000 in the case of Electric Daisy Carnival and Coachella and you’ve got a huge amount of brand attention generated for absolutely no cost to the organizers.
It’s word of mouth advertising on social steroids.
Facebook and Twitter still remain the primary sharing methods amongst festival-aged attendees, many of whom are sharing their content directly from their smart phones. The statistics here are clearly indicative of a shift in platform adoption between the 18-25 demographic and their older, yet still considered ‘millennial’ counterparts. While 26-35 year olds are the core users of Facebook, the 18-25 year old demographic are more likely to use Snapchat and its Story feature to give friends a glimpse, albeit temporary, into their world. This year’s Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas, as well as Electric Zoo festival in New York City, leveraged Snapchat to create a constant and fan-generated story line throughout the weekend. The content’s reach dwarfed that of EDC’s live stream for a fraction of the cost – a telling sign that social media should be a festival’s key marketing focus.
What users are actually sharing depends on the festival as well. Coachella’s shares were centered around celebrities and fashion, while EDC’s was heavily-weight towards the music, making up 81% of the sharing activity. It turns out most people only go to Coachella to catch a glimpse of Lindsey Lohan or, in the case of Lollapallooza, Malia Obama.
This sharing culture is also feeding ground for brands, big business, and big money – all sold to the highest bidder.
Heineken, Coachella’s primary beer sponsor and Miller Lite, Bonnaroo’s sponsor, both saw dramatic boosts in brand awareness through their partnerships in the events space. While H&M, Lacoste, and Guess Jeans saw dramatic results when they each sponsored exclusive VIP parties during Coachella this past April.
The implications here are staggering for both brands and consumers. For one, music festivals are quickly leveraging their incredible reach and highly desirable target market to land big brand sponsorships. This influx in brand money serves as a way for the festivals to increase production budgets, book bigger acts, and provide concertgoers with a far superior experience than what they could deliver on ticket sales alone. On the flip side, it turns your social feeds and your festival experiences into branded pieces of content — you pay to attend a festival — only to have your attention sold to the highest bidder.
The real question still remains; is big brand attention good for the culture? Only time will tell, but in a world that was born out of illegal warehouse raves and anti-establishment ideals, the whole thing just feels a little bit sold out.
[Editor’s Note: This research was done before TomorrowWorld’ 2014 event. Data is currently unavailable for ID&T’s Chattahoochee Hills installment of their global festival.]