By Tom Bannister
This week, Dutch deejay and record producer Tiesto, in partnership with AB-InBev’s Budweiser brand and the Tomorrowland Festival, launched an exclusive EDM track called “Infected,” along with a music video, which will lead into Tiesto’s Tomorrowland performance this weekend. The festival will be the first time Tiesto performs the song live, and it will be featured on the Budweiser sponsored live stream of the festival, as well as in the 30-second spots debuting around the world — a truly cross media campaign. Tomorrowland comes at the midway point of the summer music festival calendar, which started with Coachella and ends with Budweiser’s Made In America Festival, Sept. 3–4 in Philadelphia, which is created by Jay-Z.
Music festivals have become increasingly popular with brands, which are introducing increasingly sophisticated branded content strategies, from on-the-ground installations that connect to social media to live streaming. Every year, 14.7 million 18–34 year olds attend at least one festival and, according to an AEG Live survey, 1,048 adults (75% of whom were millennials) found that 93% of 18-to-34-year-olds like brands that sponsor live music events, with eight in 10 citing branded festivals and concerts as the best way to engage with them. Seventy percent of the respondents told AEG that social media actually improves the live event experience.
Other music festivals, debuting over the rest of the summer and those that have already debuted, highlight a number of interesting trends that we are seeing play out in the greater media and marketing industries. Live broadcasting is increasingly becoming a key component of major festival sponsors’ strategies. This year, Lollapalooza will be live streamed on RedBull TV. Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, the nation’s largest dance festival, is switching from a Z-Up sponsored live-stream on Yahoo (last year), to Facebook Live, in a partnership with Smirnoff. New York’s Electric Zoo festival looks set to be live streamed again by T-Mobile. Last year, it live-streamed to Twitch, which has broadcast other festivals this year, such as Ultra.
Virtual reality extensions are beginning to pop up, too. Coachella famously gave out Google Cardboards to all attendees this year. Jack Daniel’s just launched a new 360 video on YouTube 360, giving a 360-degree tour around its distillery, and a special Samsung VR version will be launched at Lollapalooza, where Samsung has created a new VR installation experience. At Lollapalooza, Samsung VR will present a “completely reimagined festival experience through virtual reality.” Attendees will be able to create memorable and shareable moments with the Gear 360 or explore a variety of adventures with VR 4D rides and VR Arcade.
You also have the new generation of digital media companies on the ground at music festivals, and looking to put together partnerships with brands. At Pitchfork, Vice and Ray Bans teamed up on a custom T-shirt activation, allowing guests to bypass the line by participating in a a live recording booth singing along to Aloe Blacc’s “I Need a Dollar.” Over in the U.K., BuzzFeed, Snapchat and BarclayCard have launched the “Great British Music Showdown,” a U.K.-wide search to discover the nation’s “musical DNA,” designed to highlight its long-term partnership with Hyde Park’s British Summer Time Music Festival. At the Governor’s Ball, Instagram and Hershey’s teamed up for an “interactive 3-D art experience” ideal for social posting.
Along with key sponsorships at Sasquatch, the summer’s end will see more of Budweiser and their Made In USA Festival, once again curated by Jay-Z, which is entering its fourth year. Organizers tried to create an L.A. version (along with the original Philly version) in 2014, but reverted back to Philadelphia-only in 2015, with a record 140,000 tickets sold and over 64,000 fans attending each day. But Budweiser isn’t alone in sponsoring its own festival. Van’s has been the title sponsor of the Warped Tour since 1995. The largest traveling festival in USA, Warped will welcome its 10 millionth attendee some time during the summer.