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How to Build a Brilliant Festival Experience through Ticketing

It’s nearing the end of festival season and so you might be thinking about how you can design your pricing and ticketing structures for next year. Festivals are a huge part of entertainment across the world, and make up some of our biggest and most renowned arts and culture events – think of HighTide Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe, Glastonbury, the Proms. There’s no denying that events like these not only create once-in-a-lifetime memories, they also have the power to bring together people from across the globe to celebrate art, culture, music and occasionally, some warm cider.

Their increasing popularity means there’s a lot on offer out there and there’s pressure to get it right or lose out on ticket sales and reputation. Whether your festival takes place in a field or not, the key to a good festival (and what makes it different to just a night at a theatre/cinema/gig) is the experience. Think back to any time that you’ve been to a good festival and whether you were raving in front of a flame-throwing spider at 2am, or making a mad dash across a busy city to get to the next live-art installation. Why would you let a complicated or confusing pricing structure get in the way of that?

Given that experience is the main tenet of your festival, it’s important to preserve that, and in order to keep things simple you could ticket for your festival in the same way that you do for your standard events. But, since an event like a festival is so special it makes sense to have a ticketing structure and experience to match. So, in this blog post we’re going to outline a couple of the ways in which you could operate the pricing and ticketing using Spektrix to ensure that not only your customers have a wicked time, but that you can also focus on increasing your revenue.

The Glasto

What is it?

Firstly, we’ll look at the classic style of ticketing for a festival – let’s call this ‘The Glasto’. For an event like Glastonbury or V Festival you’ll usually buy a weekend ticket that gets you “access all areas” to any and all of the events you want to visit. These are particularly good for outdoor festivals as they rely on you having a lot of space and (mostly) standing only venues. You set an overall capacity for the festival itself and sell up to that point safe in the knowledge that most of the time, nearly everyone will be able to see what they want - save for the odd Craig Charles DJ set in a portaloo too small to host a couple of thousand people.

Whilst this model is great for bigger events, what about if you find yourself having to negotiate much smaller, reserved events? Well, you can use Spektrix to create a similar model of ticketing that means customers can make a one-off purchase to get access to the festival, and then can select which events they want to see based on availability.

How does it work?

Let’s break it down to the bare basics. This pricing model requires an upfront purchase that would then give customers the option to book themselves into events they want to see.

The best way to make this work in Spektrix would be to use memberships, attributes and offers – in short a customer could purchase a membership that was treated as a Festival Pass which would then discount all of their tickets to the festival to 0% of their original value. You can limit this so that customers can’t buy large numbers of tickets up without actually using them, and to make sure that you can continue to make money.

In order to make the process of buying the membership easier, you could filter the memberships to a particular page on your website - perhaps even a festival microsite where you can list all of the information about your festival as well as the what’s on page(s) for each season of events.

In order to increase accessibility and allow multiple price breaks, you could also tier the prices of your Festival Passes to allow buy-ins at different levels (like buying a day pass as opposed to a weekend with camping). For example £50 means you can see 4 events, £100 means you can see 10 events, £150 means you can see 18 events etc.

What are the advantages?

  • This format is something that customers are used to seeing in relation to festivals.
  • You can put your memberships on sale in advance of your programme and line-up and still generate income early.
  • You can use scaling pricing structures (as shown above) to offer better value for a higher spend, thus increasing your revenue.
  • It works across all sales channels, giving customers the autonomy to manage their booking themselves.
  • You can easily gauge how busy events will be in advance which, amongst other things, means you can make the appropriate stock and staff available at the bar!

What should you take into consideration?

  • It requires the customer to decide how many events they might want to see in advance and to put forward what could be a large upfront fee, which might be a barrier to entry.
  • It requires some manual setup and could possibly incur a cost in web design if you don’t have a web agency on retainer, and decide to do work on your website in relation to this

There are always challenges with a new approach, but don’t let this put you off. By collaborating with your system provider and web agency, you should be able to overcome these.

The Loyalist

What is it?

Secondly, let’s look at a scaling model of ticketing which rewards loyalty and re-attendance. We’ll call this “The Loyalist”. A good example of this is Pulse Festival 2016 in Ipswich where they encouraged festival bookers to become “Frequent Flyers” by booking themselves and perhaps a plus-one more than 5 tickets in the same transaction. If they did this then all subsequent tickets they purchased were reduced to £5, regardless of whether they purchased them in the same transaction or not.

This can be done without also adding the need for all 5 tickets to be purchased in the same transaction too, so you can use the same pricing model to reward re-attendance over a period of time. It’s completely up to you how you’d prefer to run this offer, but overall this is great for making sure that you reward customers for being loyal and also for making the most of the events that you have on offer. What’s more, it’s incredibly simple for the customer so they can instead worry about getting around and enjoying themselves.

How does it work?

If you’re looking to set up something like this in Spektrix, you can do it with our trusty friends auto-tags, attributes and – you’ve guessed it – an offer. You can create a tickbox event instance attribute called “Included in Festival Offer” which you can tick for every event in your festival (you can even use the bulk instance updater to make light work of this) and then create an auto-tag that applies when customers purchase more than five tickets to any event with the Included in Festival Offer instance attribute.

Once this is set up you can then use a Multibuy offer to apply a per-ticket discount of your choosing to anyone who has the autotag. We’d recommend you keep the offer as simple as possible, like Pulse have done, so all tickets drop to a uniform amount. If you’re feeling fruity, you could take a percentage off the top. You might also want to apply a per-customer, per-event limit of 2 so that each customer can only get two discounted tickets to each event so as not to abuse the offer. Make sure you list all the appropriate information clearly on your website.

What are the advantages?

  • The buy-in to get the discount for this method is much lower and can scale so there’s a lower barrier to entry, making your festival more accessible.
  • The discount works both online and at the box office, so no need to call in or visit.
  • It encourages customers to maximise their spend to reach the discounted ticket threshold.
  • There’s minimal setup required from the box office.

What should you take into consideration?

  • It’s not a well-known method of ticketing for festivals and whilst it is possible to make it very simple for customers, there’s still scope to get confused.
  • There might be a drop-off rate in customers maximising their spend, so you’ll need to take a good look at what your current re-attendance rate is and base your threshold off that to maximise customer spend.
  • There’s potential to abuse the discount of the £5 so you might need to consider manual spot checks on larger purchases.

3 things not to do

Just like Trinny and Susannah, we’re also going to give you a few pointers on what not to do (fashion advice not included). Remembering to keep the customer journey simple and focus on experience, here are a few common pitfalls that we’d put into our Room 101.

1. Convoluted day routes

They’re a bit like a day ticket for a festival but require you to follow a prescribed route of shows selected by the programmer or the box office. Generally, they’re a bad idea because they require a lot of work from you, they’re hard to keep track of, and when working with mixed capacity events if a smaller capacity event within the route sells out in advance, the whole route is kaput.

2. Mixed pricing structures

We’re going to tell you to K I S S – “Keep it simple, stupid”. Don’t mix pricing structures together or offer too many options to your customers. They’ll not only be overwhelmed by choice and be stuck with the “Netflix Effect” but you’ll also struggle to keep track of different discounts or pricing structures, meaning your box office staff might not be as confident when dealing with customers. Choose a simple pricing structure and have confidence in it, then assess, refine, repeat using all the handy data you get from Spektrix.

3. Confusing festival and general programme publicity

Whilst your festival is very much part of your venue’s programming, it’s important to keep all of the information pertaining to it separate from your standard programming. This not only reinforces the idea that it is an event in its own right (allowing you to give the festival a brand and personality of its own) but it also makes it much simpler from a customer perspective to be able to find all of the information they need in one place.

Consider a microsite or webpage dedicated to your festival. An example is HighTide, who bring a lovely coastal feel to their HighTide Festival personality and brand, differing from their more urban and edgy general production brand, as well as splitting out events across two festivals.Another example is RADAR from Bush Theatre, which serves as a distillation of their day-to-day brand, offering up the freshest new writing. In each example, the events are clearly separated.

TL;DR

You can use whichever festival pricing structure you think will serve you best, but always remember to consider customer experience, and think about how best to make your festival a fun, exciting place to be. As a starting point think about the current pinch points that customers often run into when booking – keep your eyes and ears open for the same questions and queries, and think about how you can iron those creases out.

To go a step further, try and think about a few common personalities and people that attend your theatre, from regular bookers who live locally to out-of-town young people who soak up the odd live art show, and try to narrow down what they might want and work that into your programming and event planning. Take some time out of your day to go through your own booking experience and think about how someone with limited understanding of the internet, or no reasonable way to visit your venue soon would be able to get what they need in advance.

There’s no 100% right way to create your pricing strategy for festivals but there’s no denying that a great experience provided – from picking up the brochure all the way through to packing up your tent – is what will get customers talking about your festival and dying to come back.

As always, get in touch with the Spektrix Support Team if you have any questions about how we can help you keep it simple.