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SXSW: On the Edge of Event Technology


We’re just back from the SXSW Music Festival, and wanted to share some of the big themes that we heard throughout the week. Most promising perhaps – brands, technologists and promoters at SXSW concur it’s a great time to be in the music industry. These experts point to an expanding music ecosystem as creating an unsurpassed opportunity to connect, engage and interact with fans – for those who leverage the tools and technology available.

Here’s a rundown of the themes that rose to the top:

Analyze Data for Insights
While there is consensus that data is invaluable for effective marketing, how it’s used is as varied as the genres of music. Panelists at SXSW described their data-driven marketing strategies as a combination of art and science. Collecting data is the baseline; analyzing and finding actionable insights from that data is the Holy Grail.

Danielle Salzedo, VP of Music Strategy for MTV and VH1, says – when thinking about how best to use data, promoters and artists need to know what questions they are trying to answer. Will you use the information to show how your brand is growing; to identify your demographic; to determine your top acts, to show trends in ticket sales; to drive awareness? When you learn more about who your audience is and how they behave and consume content, you can better activate those communities.

Tools like SignalShare analytics track audience web and app usage, showing the top 10 web sites visited, and top 10 apps used, as well as tying the event’s timeline to usage patterns, so venues can see which on-stage artists/songs/activities led to peak social posts. The goal, according to Shazam’s Peter Szabo, is to turn curiosity and discovery into engagement and commerce opportunities.

Joe Belliotti, Director of Global Entertainment Marketing at the Coca-Cola Company, had sage advice on securing brand sponsors for events – suggesting promoters utilize data to tell a story. Belliotti compares the pitch process to that of TV reality show, Shark Tank. “You can throw out data and stats, but you will get more attention telling a compelling story and why a partnership with Coke or whomever is important to you.”
Find New Ways to Capture Data
To move your fan-base from casual to “Super-fan”, you need to be in regular contact with them with relevant, targeted communications. To do this, you need to capture their information! Leading-edge promoters are creating opt-in, digital engagement opportunities where attendees provide a personal email address, mobile number or Twitter handle in exchange for access to Wi-Fi, a charging station, an Instagram photo booth or a giveaway.

Once you have these data points, you can extend your relationship with the fan beyond the event itself by emailing, tweeting or texting event photo links, advance ticket opportunities, surveys about artists they’d like to see or reward offers. Betty Tran, EVP of Marketing & Media at Insomniac Events, says having one-to-one conversations with fans is key to turning a one-time fan into a “Superfan”, invested in your artist and brand, and in the next opportunity to connect.
Create & Repurpose Content
Promoters need to make marketing a content experience – before, during and after an event. From the time the initial line-up comes out to the event itself, promoters should be feeding fans a healthy diet of event-related information via email and social campaigns.

During the event, promoters are looking to web-based tools to take content fans are creating on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and syndicate it in an intelligent way. They are also looking to live webcasts to broaden their audience.

After the event, promoters and artists can leverage archived content, including specific tracks. Promoters can use video from the show to create a documentary that tells a compelling narrative. These content strategies create deeper connections with fans, and also provide new avenues for monetization.
Use LBS to Personalize and Improve the Fan Experience
With Location-Based Services (LBS) comes a more personalized concert or festival experience: technologies like iBeacon enable fans to find their friends, see which band is up next on the nearby stage or find the closest bathroom.

Location-based technologies also enable festival organizers to serve up relevant promotions, ads and messages based on where attendees are, and to ramp up efficiency and safety efforts. As a fan get close to the Budweiser tent, an iBeacon can trigger an event in their mobile app to serve up a beer promotion. When lines are exceeding 30 minutes, festival organizers are alerted, and can improve festival flow in real-time.

And beacons are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s coming in LBS. New “Social Wi-Fi” or “Wi-Fi Aware” technology that is much more precise is one-to-two years’ out, according to Jim Lansford, wireless standards architect at Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR). Wi-Fi Aware pinpoints users, giving concert-goers the ability to broadcast their exact location to friends, and giving venues the opportunity to create highly personalized experiences.
Reliable Wi-Fi is a Must-Have
Bottom line: if you don’t have a solid Wi-Fi network, your cashless, RFID and ticketing won’t perform, and your fans won’t be able to access all of the cool, location-based features of your native app – let alone their social networks. Good Wi-Fi makes an event an experience: fans can charge up their wristband through the event’s native app without waiting in line; they can broadcast “selfies” and big festival moments to their social network, without delay. In short, reliable WiFi enhances the event experience and enables your fans to be content producers.

Cost can be an issue for fan-facing Wi-Fi. Some venues are looking to off-set that cost through sponsorships. Lots of marketers want access to your festival’s demographic. Wi-Fi vendors like SignalShare can bring right-fit advertisers to the table to sponsor the Wi-Fi network and defray the cost of deployment.

Cash is out – Digital Payments Are In

Not only is cashless convenient and fast for fans, digital payment systems are proven to increase spend per head at festivals and live events by between 15-30%. RFID wristbands allow fans to easily purchase items and reload their bracelets, while allowing venues to reduce fraud and get real-time reports of sales and income across an event. What’s not to like?

We heard over-and-over at SXSW that festivals want to create an immersive experience, one that involves serendipitous interactions that draw the audience into the event, while at the same time inspiring them to share the experience with the outside world. Promoters are protective of their audience – wanting to serve them well – and to monetize only when it’s a natural fit.

Today’s technologies – data analytics, LBS, RFID, Wi-Fi – are a means to that end. Used well – they can help festivals provide a more personal, convenient and rewarding concert experience – while improving the bottom line. And that’s music to promoters’ ears.

-Jennifer Deitsch, SignalShare

SignalShare an end-to-end mobile audience engagement solution, founded by people with a passion for live sporting and entertainment events.


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