Headlining Your Marketing Plan


The music festival market in the United States has grown significantly over the past several years. In 2012, music festivals enjoyed record expansion. The festival industry has seen great success for a longer period of time in Europe, but the US has caught up recently. In 2011, live music and festivals were an 8.7 billion dollar business, and that number is anticipated to grow to 12.2 billion in 2016. More people in the US are attending festivals, but there are also more festivals to choose from.

Festivals are a big commitment to the consumer, both in terms of cost and time spent at the event. A festival pass is a much bigger investment than a digital album or a standard concert ticket, and some festivals start mid week and last through Sunday. With these problems, it is important to make sure that ads are targeting the correct audience, at the right time, and that results are being tracked to analyze conversion data on the ads.


To make sure ads are performing at a cost effective ROI, it is important to set up conversion tracking across all platforms where ads are running. This can be done by placing a conversion pixel on the Thank You page of the ticketing website. Google, Bing and Facebook all allow conversion tracking from their ads, and allow for tracking down to the ad and keyword level. By monitoring keyword performance at the conversion level, it becomes clear which keywords are driving sales and which keywords may be less efficient and not worth spending budget on.

A festival ticket is generally not an impulse purchase. It is a purchase that can often involve planning, deliberation and discussion among friends. Because of this, getting the consumer to go the final mile to purchase tickets they are considering is crucial. The best way to accomplish this is to set up retargeting across properties. The most important property is the festival website. By setting up retargeting here, you will be able to follow all people who have visited the site but not yet purchased a ticket. By adding an additional retargeting pixel on the Thank You page, you can use this as a negative pixel, to be sure that you stop spending budget on people after they have purchased the ticket.

On the day that tickets go on sale, many festivals will get out of the gate with a big start, selling to core fans who want to make sure they don’t miss out. Although it may seem that people interested on the first day will purchase without the use of advertising, it is important to make the process as easy as possible for consumers to get to the point of purchase. Launching on the day tickets go on sale is important to make sure people do go the final mile. By running search ads that include sitelinks, the consumer can go straight from a Google search to the exact type of ticket they are looking for, whether that is a one day pass or a VIP pass for the weekend.

Keeping the messaging of the advertising fresh, enticing and well-targeted helps to make sure conversion rates do not drop over time, even after the initial rush of ticket buyers. One way to help keep conversion rates up is to include the price of tickets in ads. Although this will likely decrease CTR, it will help eliminate the ‘tire-clickers’ – (those who click on the ad simply seeking more information, with little to no likelihood of purchasing tickets) and further qualify the visitor. Ads targeting performing artists should specifically call out the artist being targeted, to make the ads most relevant to the audience. Creative should also be kept fresh based around ticketing deals, pricing changes, new acts added and letting people know that tickets are close to selling out.

In Action

For the Free Press Summer Fest in Houston Texas, Gupta Media’s search campaign launched in sync with tickets going on sale. During the first week of ticket sales, search ads drove over 1,500 visitors at a cost per conversion under $3.00. Being able to turn people searching into consumers during this step as easily as possible is an important part of the sales process. Overall during this campaign, Google search ads resulted in an ROI of 6,381.48%. Just like most other forms of online ads, hitting your core audience is a key strategy that will help to drive sales.

Governor’s Ball Music Festival was building off a successful 2012 show and wanted to make sure they could ride the momentum to drive ticket sales for the 2013 festival. Retargeting was set up independently at every step of the purchase process; from first entering the website, through to the final page before hitting submit. By setting retargeting up in this fashion, Gupta Media was able to adjust bids based on how far along the purchase process the user was, being more aggressive the further along they were. In addition, retargeting was set up to reach anyone who watched the recap video of 2012, and people who purchased tickets in 2012 were retargeted through smartURL. Looking at direct conversions and view through conversions, the cost per conversion on retargeting came in under five dollars.

Facebook ads for festivals have generally been great for raising awareness and starting the purchase cycle, but the cost per conversion typically has not been as strong as through Google. On Facebook, it is important to keep the message tailored to the right audience. With Boston Calling planning a festival in early September, it was important to reach the 150,000 students in Boston who would be returning to the city. By running sponsored stories tailored to each school, Boston Calling was able to position itself as the must attend festival for the start of the school year. These ads achieved a Cost Per Conversion around $13.


When marketing a festival, it is important to be prepared early. Do not take the early purchasers for granted; take them to the finish line, to get them to convert. All ads should be set up with conversion tracking to allow for monitoring and optimizing to ensure the ROI is where it needs to be. With this all set up, it’s easy to set goals, monitor and make sure the campaign is performing as it needs to.

Joe Schlesinger
Written By:
Account Director
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