Music Festivals:

A Social Glue?

The music industry, being one of the most passionate nowadays, surely is also one of those going through the most change. Having to evolve at a faster pace than any other, it has to catch up not only with new technology and platforms, but also with the habits of a more complex audience than ever (sound familiar, marketing colleague?).

And one of its aspects that have been particularly in the marketers´ sights is the music festival. No doubt, these events have become a wealthy oasis for many players in the music industry but also for brands (I strongly recommend you read this article from Billboard: “Coachella’s Young Audience a Marketer’s Paradise”).

As this Billboard article narrows down some important aspects of the evolution of the Coachella festival, let me try to share with you a similar approach of the Vive Latino Music Festival from Mexico that this year celebrated its 15th anniversary.

Organized almost every year since 1998 by the biggest event promoter in Mexico, OCESA, its first edition featured two stages over two days with 20,000 fans in the audience. This year, the festival has expanded to a four-day experience with 150 music acts from 22 countries and more than 240,000 people attending.

“Show me the money!” you may command. So, in a VERY simple attempt to outline the key components of its increasing success, I´ll highlight the following themes that Vive Latino has encountered this year as part of its evolution:

  • GLOBALIZATION – The transition from a local to an international lineup.

The festival started as a celebration to showcase Mexican artists, but also the most important Latin American music projects. Then, it started moving toward a broader lineup as a reality of today´s market: globalization has taken over, since the audience demands more options. As a reflection of this reality, the festival has expanded to include headliner acts such as Nine Inch Nails, Magic Numbers, Arcade Fire, Blur, and many more. Here´s the dissection of the 2013 lineup, courtesy of Lifeboxset music blog.

  • PLURICULTURALISM – A more diverse musical offer.

In its first phase, Vive Latino was all about rock and alternative music. But there was a latent demand underneath having a festival so restricted to these genres. Then, it came the time to include reggae, urban, metal, rockabilly and many more acts that were breaking through and that brought new audiences to the festival. Maybe this seemed like a risky move: to gather such diverse audiences at the same event. Truth is, boundaries between music followers have blurred as the audience has a developed a diversity component so strong, that even one person can enjoy Calle 13, but also sing out loud with Placebo, or the Mexican legends Tigres del Norte (yup, the three of them headlined this year´s edition).

  • 360º EXPERIENCE – Or the “I want it all” experience combo.

First of all, music festivals are no longer only about music. People need more than just music to decide to buy a ticket: they want to live the WHOLE experience. And for Vive Latino, this year that experience included books, movies, merch, and some other stuff. For a full list, click here.

My favorite was “Rock y libros” (Rock and Books) by Gandhi, one of the largest book retailers in the country. They gathered some of the most distinguished authors to read their work, musicalized by prominent artists in an experience that really blew people´s minds, but also allowed youngsters to get a closer look at books in a fun way.

This is where creativity has flourished in the commercial apparatus that music festivals bring to the landscape; brands are not just limited to financing the event, but have extended to bring unique experiences to attendees, commercializing new spaces and involving other disciplines. Just to mention a couple for this year at the Vive Latino:

  • CERVEZA INDIO: One of the most important sponsors, they present the event (and secured naming rights to the two main stages), and also host a huge online platform with the most extensive content. They also offer hot spots at the event to cool down and connect via Wi-Fi.
  • COCA-COLA: Their most important contribution is the live-streamed webcast of all the stages, along with interviews of the main acts and special insights hosted by some of the most recognized music journalists in Mexico. A truly impressive platform with immaculate performances.
  • DORITOS: Known lately for their music investment in festivals such as SXSW with the Bold Stage, they made possible the “Gozadero Dancing Club,” a unique tent with hybrid live acts from all over the world.

Some disapprove this branding practice at the festival. Truth is, for Vive Latino (and maybe for all music festivals out there) the challenge has grown into enabling an experience that can fulfill a multi-generational audience with pluricultural taste and a more demanding attitude.

Some say music is a social glue. I´ll rephrase the statement to something I believe is more accurate for this case: music is just the first step in a social experience. What that experience ends up being is now in the hands of the entertainment industry experts working alongside brand marketing/creative agencies.

By @anagalleta