What I learned about content from music festivals

By Serge Huber posted 08-05-2013 02:45



Summer is the time of outdoor music festivals, which used to mostly be about gatherings that are organized around musicians and drinks, disconnecting from the harsh realities of day to day life. But modern festivals have evolved with new technologies, and nowadays they also generate lots of buzz using multimedia content and blogs, as well as on social medias such as Facebook, Twitter and now even Vine. As a festival lasts only a few days at most, all of this content is produced, published and promoted in a very short amount of time, and can quickly generate an information overload that may actually cause problems for content consumers. As I return from one of Europe’s leading festivals held in Switzerland, I cannot help but think about what I have learned from the experience in terms of content producing, managing and publishing.

The Paleo music festival is held in Switzerland every year since 1976, lasts six days and welcomes over 230’000 music lovers in its fields. It is located close to a small town that doubles its overnight population for a few days, and the organizers have been quite good at embracing new technologies quickly. One of the web technologies it pioneered in 2004 was print-at-home tickets. Also big name musical events are now one of the types of online sites that generate the biggest transient e-commerce loads when ticket reservations events open, and often lead to much frustration if the system cannot deal with the huge amount of buyers that are simultaneously trying to reach the site to buy a ticket. A music festival might have a large budget, but most of it is dedicated to the artists, and often the web site and ticket reservation systems are not necessarily initially considered as critical investments. Over the years, as the demand for online ticketing has grown, this has become more and more critical, and it was interesting to watch as the system evolved over time, growing from a system that would crash under the purchasing load, to a system that now has virtual queues, with time estimates to when the ticket will be available for purchase, and that sells over 200’000 tickets in less than 20 minutes. I know a lot of e-commerce systems that could learn from this kind of experience, because they cannot deal with such loads properly.

During the festival, small teams of content producers create blog entries, podcasts and videos that are usually fun, informative and very well produced. Some shows are streamed live and through a collaboration with local TV all this is professionally produced in Full HD. Content producers are on site 24 hours a day, and cover everything from backstage events to artist press conferences to just plain crazy and fun content that motivate visitors to discover more or keep coming back to the web site. And most of this content is produced by volunteers working really hard because they are young and want to promote something they believe in. Wouldn’t you dream of having such dedication in your company ? The organizers of this festival do such a good job that the person in charge of it even got elected as the mayor of the nearby city.

Of course everything is not perfect, far from it. For example, the presentation of the content this year was designed to be displayed in a “Pinterest”-like fashion, with a grid of uneven boxes that scroll endlessly on the screen. While this looks cool, it makes it quite difficult to find something, especially if you know what you are looking for. They have built-in some filters into the system to help find content, but even these do not really help filter down to quickly find what you’re looking for, and what is even crazier than that there is no full text search field ! I end up using Google if I want to find something on the site, which I think is really a shame because the content itself is actually good once you find it. Another issue, that is quite common also in the corporate world, is the sheer amount of content produced over a very short amount of time. In six days, thousands of pictures, about a hundred videos and many blog posts are created and published on the site, making it is difficult to promote and consume since there is so little time to do so. If they are smart they might use this after the festival to keep promoting it for next year but it will loose lots of its appeal since people have mostly moved on to other activities and are no longer involved in the event. This is again something I find to be quite similar to my experience of corporate web sites, should they be internal (intranet) or public (extranet, website). It is now a real skill to properly curate content to make sure that it will be properly exposed in a timely fashion in order to promote both the content itself and whatever else you are trying to promote to the right people at the right time. Also, what happens to this content over time, does it just get deleted or will it be useful in some form or another in the next years ? I believe that in this case everything is archived, but this might not have always been the case and the loss of data might be something that might be a problem if they want to produce retrospective content later on. Again, as you can see, the full usual lifecycle of content management is represented here.

Despite the issues, I still am amazed by the amount of work that got produced in such a short amount of time and by a relatively inexperienced team of volunteers. Although I took a local festival as an example, I am sure other big names such as SXSW or Glastonbury are quite similar, and are at the forefront of event management on the web. We can definitely learn something from such examples, as event websites, despite their short-liveness, can contain all the challenges and opportunities of regular “classic” websites, and improve over time as they learn from the previous experiences. And some of the content is just really impressive, take for example this aerial shot of the festival taken using a quadcopter drone.


#eventwebsites #media #Marketing #social #video