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The data-driven music festival: lessons learned

Mike Doman
Technology Journalist

Mike Doman is a technology, lifestyle, industrial and education writer

Mike Doman
Technology Journalist

Mike Doman is a technology, lifestyle, industrial and education writer

While the concept of a music festival hasn’t changed in decades, technology is making them more data-driven, more efficient and more accountable.

Standing in a crowd of thousands, your favourite band steps up to play. The crowd goes wild and you throw your hands in the air. Around your right wrist is an armband that’s your ticket, your credit card and, for organisers, the key to making sure the next festival you go to is designed to meet your needs.

The premise of the music festival hasn’t changed in Australia since 1972, when Sunbury Pop Festival set the stage (pardon the pun) for now household names like Stereosonic and WOMADelaide: put a bunch of musicians on a few stages and sell tickets.

But the execution of these festivals has changed dramatically: technology, including radio-frequency identification (RFID) and digital project management software, is changing the way your festival experience is designed.

people gathered round the stage at a music festival

Data is key

Livescape Group is an events company made up of 36 staff that runs festivals across South East Asia including It’s The Ship and the newly announced Sleepless Society.

For group CEO of the Livescape Group, Iqbal Ameer, data is integral to the success of the modern festival in a number of areas, with Australian organisations leading the way.

“We actually learned about the RFID technology from Australia from the Mushroom Group,” he says.

“The most beneficial part about using these technologies is the ability to collect data. As a promoter, data is key and essential to know who we are marketing to and what their spending habits are.”

RFID enables promoters or businesses running events to monitor consumer behaviour throughout the festival – where they buy beer, what stage they spend the most time at or what sponsorship activations they participate in. This data then informs future lineups, reporting to sponsors and the physical layout of the event.

Successful sponsorships

“In this day and age, it is not how many eyeballs a brand gets but what’s important is how many people actually interact with their activation,” says Iqbal.

It’s a sentiment being felt by small business owners and marketers across Australia – being able to quantify success (or failure) has always been a challenge, but implementing technology solutions means it doesn’t need to be.

“We always collect data from every event that we organise,” he adds.

“So we are constantly getting new information as our events are diverse and we hit different demographics every time. With the data that we have, we use them to determine whether or not a particular event will appeal to the masses or if it’ll sell well.

“We also use the data to market our events to targeted groups of people to make sure we have the right kind of people and the right crowd at our events [for both the musicians and sponsors].”

Reducing risk

For punters at the festival, RFID technology means a safer environment with less chance of losing things like credit cards and cash.

“We’ve also been using GoGORILLA’s RFID wrist tags at our festivals so our festival ground is almost completely cashless,” says Iqbal.

“It is also safer and more convenient for our fans because this technology means they do not have to worry about losing money or not having enough money to purchase food, drinks and merchandise at our festival.”

There are a number of benefits for organisers, too, says Stephen Noble, general manager of Singapore-based RFID solutions provider GoGORILLA.

“Going cashless for the event increased the sales for the organisers tremendously as party-goers did not have to reach out for their wallets every time they purchased drinks, food or merchandise. They did not have to wait for change. Just a "tap" and transaction was complete.”

Increasing efficiency

But running a festival with a team of 36 people requires more than just RFID tags, says Iqbal. The Livescape Group uses a number of different apps and platforms to help it organise a multi-million dollar festival.

“One of the management platforms that we use is Trello, which allows the team to project manage smaller tasks at hand and shows the actual progress of a task down to who’s accountable.

“We also use Xero, which is a New Zealand-based accounting program. It helps us keep track of all our payroll status and claims. In the events industry, entertainment is a big aspect of what we do and Xero allows us to track those expenses through one simple app.

“We also use Beatswitch which is a festival management software which helps you organise details such as flights and artist itinerary.”

Business tips from Group CEO, IQBAL AMEER

  • “Don’t get over-excited. And don’t try to do everything at once.”
  • “Have trust in your team. Because 99 per cent of the time they will have a better insight [into their job] than you do.
  • “Never chase fame or money. Especially in our industry, it can seem appealing but be content in running your own business.”
  • “Find efficiencies where you can. We couldn’t run a festival with the team we have without having technology that helps us do our jobs.”
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