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The secrets behind festival sell outs

Organisers of festivals including Roskilde, Bluesfest and Wacken give IQ the sell-out festival formula, and explain how they are competing in a saturated market

By Anna Grace on 09 May 2019

Paléo Festival de Nyon

Since Coachella opened its festival gates in mid-April, the 2019 festival season is now well and truly upon us.

As ticket sales remain a point of contention and concern for many events, IQ speaks to ten festivals that appear to have no problem shifting tickets and selling out year-on-year, to find out the secrets to their success and how they continue to distinguish themselves in an increasingly crowded festival arena.



Byron Bay Bluesfest
Australia’s most-awarded live music festival, Byron Bay Bluesfest turned 30 this year – and the landmark edition was one of the most successful to date. Before the event, festival director and owner Peter Noble noted that all ticket sale records had been broken.

In order to ensure consistently healthy ticket sales, Bluesfest uses a mixed marketing strategy, including traditional methods, use of online channels, and face-to-face marketing campaigns.

“Our marketing strategies focus on the festival experience and also the great lineups that we have here,” Noble tells IQ. “We have focused on customer retention over the past number of years and around 40% of ticketholders are repeat purchasers, which we are very proud of.”

Recognised as an “industry leader” within the management of live music festivals, Noble states that Bluesfest is unworried by the licensing laws imposed by the New South Wales Government on music festivals.

“We are well regarded as a safe family event with three generations of patrons joining us annually,” Noble tells IQ. “We will continue to review our extensive procedures and practices in close liaison with emergency services, various government bodies and through a detailed risk management approach.”


Wacken Open Air
Wacken Open Air also celebrates its 30th edition this year and enthusiasm for the anniversary event is high. Tickets for Wacken 2019 sold out in four days, and in the words of co-founder Thomas Jensen: “Quite obviously, we are doing something right.”

In order to improve, the Wacken co-founders have always placed great value on what festival attendees have to say, actively responding to suggestions.

“We invite the fans to give us their feedback via means such as our social media channels or in person at a Q&A session with both me and my fellow co-founder Holger Hübner,” explains Jensen.

“There is always room for improvement – no matter how well things are working out,” stresses the Wacken boss.

Jensen talks about this year’s lineup, saying the festival aims to “maintain the right balance of sticking to our roots and offering innovations,” placing new acts alongside integral, longstanding Wacken Open Air performers. “This is why Parkway Drive can be found next to Slayer as one of our headliners in 2019.”

The festival has received some slack for having “a very German touch,” says the Wacken co-founder. However, guests come from all over to attend what is now the world’s biggest heavy metal gathering, and, “since the metal family is probably the most open-minded community on Earth, everybody is welcomed with open arms.”


Paléo Festival de Nyon
From its origins in the town assembly rooms of the French-Swiss town of Nyon, Paléo Festival has grown to become an important European music event. Each year, more than 280 concerts and shows take place for 230,000 visitors across the 84-hectare festival site.

For more than 20 years, the festival has successfully and consistently sold out.

“One of the keys to Paléo’s success is that it distinguishes itself from other events by not only providing musical entertainment but by giving place to a whole experience,” says festival director Dany Hassenstein.

“Between music, street theatre and performances inspired by the circus or architectural installations, Paléo is an extraordinary global village for the audience,” he says…


Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 83, or subscribe to the magazine here