It’s no secret that today’s music festival scene is really more of an entire industry in and of itself. It’s crowded. Some (me) would argue it’s too crowded. There are too many generic music festivals that don’t offer a unique experience for festival goers. When you leave a festival, you should be able to look back months, years later, even, and remember that particular festival not just for the music, but for the atmosphere, the people who surround you, the art, the camping set up and all of the amenities the festival has to offer.
I won’t mention any names here but I’m sure you’re thinking of your own experiences right now.
The density of the music festival market means not only do you have to differentiate your festival during the actual event, but also during the off season, particularly with your social media presence and especially during ticket pre-sales and lineup announcements.
With 2012 as its inaugural year, the expectations for the festival put on by newcomer to the music biz, Red Frog Events weren’t low, or high, they were nonexistent. No one knew what to expect. But look at this damn lineup:
The variety of music with some serious headliners, combined with its proximity to major metropolitan areas (Philadelphia, DC, and Baltimore are all under 2 hours. NYC is under 3. Richmond is about 3.5 and even Boston is only a cool 6.5 hours) made Firefly’s first year a wild success with approximately 30,000 in attendance to see music on 4 stages.
So how do you top that?
You double your lineup. Double your capacity, and invite legends like Tom Petty and the Red Hot Chili Peppers to headline. That’s how.
What about the year after? Add another 20,000 to a grand total of 80,000 attendees, add a fourth day, and why not add 3 more stages?
That should do it.
Not only did Firefly rapidly become one of the biggest and well reviewed festivals with a reputation for curating a monster lineup, but these guys knew their entire target market was all over social media platforms. They took to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram like no other major music event before them, offering ticket giveaways, scavenger hunts, and lineup teases, making the festivals online presence one big nationwide digital interaction.
There was no escaping Firefly’s social media frenzy in 2013 when Firefly hid tickets in several states, and in order to reveal the location, people had to post to social media using their designated hashtag. The more hashtags, the more the map zoomed into the location.
Firefly was one of the first festivals to offer payment plans as the cheapest ticket options for many festivals rose to several hundred dollars a ticket, and in spite of major glitches in their initial ticket releases, they made things right with their fans, constantly addresses all issues on all social media platforms, and kept their fans engaged, and for the most part, very happy.
Oh, and they continued to put on massive, mostly problem free, events. They were doing everything right.
Then 2015 came. On January 12th, they announced a lineup would be coming soon. Then they held a “First Look” free show in here Philadelphia on January 25th where they announced a few artists, and told fans a full lineup would be available the following week. On January 30th they announced that they wouldn’t be able to announce the lineup, but as an attempt to make up for it, they would give away 10 free tickets every day until the lineup came out.
Firefly then began hosting various “fun” ways to win tickets asking for fan participation using different hashtags. Many fans obliged in an attempt to win tickets, and almost just as many expressed their displeasure at a lack of lineup.
February 6th: They posted this open letter of sorts.
Things we’ve learned this week:
1. We are incredibly lucky to have such dedicated and passionate fans. The enthusiasm, excitement, and quirkiness…you had us laughing, crying, and getting beyond ready for Firefly 2015.
2. You’re concerned about the Firefly 2015 lineup. We would love to give you your final lineup right now, but we are still waiting on some last-minute approvals before we can release the lineup. We actually haven’t had problems with your lineup. It’s just taking more time than expected. Unfortunately, we don’t have full control over these approvals. If you want just a small peek into one element of confirming a lineup, here’s an interesting read on some of the things that go on behind the scenes: http://ow.ly/IDNGC
3. You’d love to know a release date. We respect your time, and because of that, we aren’t going to promise a day for a lineup announcement if we cannot be 100% sure that we can follow through this time. If you would like to know a different way to get Firefly information other than checking our social media accounts and website constantly, please sign up for our mailing list here:http://ow.ly/IDO0Q.
You can also download the Firefly App to receive real time announcements. That way, you can know immediately when the lineup is released. http://ow.ly/IDOrH.
We love you all more than ever, and we’re going to continue to give tickets away to our #FireflyFam for each day we all wait – and we say “we all,” because we are as anxious as you are.
Your Firefly Team
They could sense (and read) the anger from fans. It wasn’t until late February 16th/early February 17th that a potential lineup was leaked, prompting the team to hold off on a giveaway and release the lineup on the 17th. (Except the first headliner’s name – according to the leak, Sir Paul freaking McCartney – was blurred out.)
Here’s what it looks like from my end: Sir Paul freaking McCartney is arguably one of the worlds biggest stars in music and locking in his performance probably requires not just a ton of money, but tons of paperwork, and wheeling and dealing and contractual agreements through many management companies, PR firms, record labels, and various music venues.
For example: Many major artists and venues have policies that require certain exclusivity rights, and restrict announcements of nearby artist appearances until previously scheduled appearances are made.
That is to say, Artist A may have a show scheduled in New York City on September 15th, as well as a show in Albany, NY on December 15th. The NYC venue, and/or even sometimes artist management may prevent an official announcement of the Albany show until after the artist has completed his NYC performance.(This is often why you see artists announce tours with dates but locations “TBA”) Doing so allows for an air of exclusivity.
A potential concert goer in Poughkeepsie (just google it) may buy tickets for the NYC show thinking it’s the closest (and potentially only) option to see his favorite artist so he buys tickets and goes. Had he known about the show in Albany, however, he may have chosen to just go to only the Albany show because it’s a little bit closer. Now, though, after seeing he show in New York City, the concert goer sees the Albany show announcement and says, “That was such a great show in NYC, the show in Albany is even closer and is sure to be just as good if not better, I’ll get tickets to that now, too.”
Get it? Got it? Good.
Now, I’ve seen this happen with artists who can’t even sell out single night, 5,000 capacity shows. Imagine the contractual agreements that have to take place when booking someone like Sir Paul freaking McCartney.
So you can’t announce Sir Paul freaking McCartney yet. That’s fine, I get it. There are limitations. But you can’t promise a lineup, then not give it.
Firefly should’ve known better. They could have offered further lineup leaks, partial lineups, or just not promised one at all.
The festival isn’t until mid-late June. Mysteryland (Memorial Day Weekend) hasn’t announced a lineup yet and that festival is taking place a month prior. But no one is freaking out (or shouldn’t, at least.) They never promised a lineup date and its fans know from their experience last year that they shouldn’t expect one until later.
Now Firefly has a mess to deal with. They have a relatively disappointing and unoriginal lineup, and have angry fans who have very possibly blown their limited festival money elsewhere.
Oh, and Firefly tickets still aren’t on sale. And we don’t know when they will be. So organizers can’t even capitalize on whatever excitement they may have generated from the lineup leak/announcement.
2015 will not be the year of Firefly, but organizers will certainly be a learning experience. I’m not saying you shouldn’t go. If the lineup is your thing, go. I’ve had wonderful experiences the past few years and truly believe it’s one of the best run festivals out there. But they screwed the pooch on this one and this year, I, and likely many previous Firefly attendees, will be checking out some other events.