When was the last time you went to a festival? What inspired you to attend? Was it the artist playing, the venue, or did you make your way to that event with no knowledge of either artist or venue? If that was the case how were you even informed of the event, what caught your eye? When I first attended the Jazz Portland Festival I knew nothing of the venue or performers, it was the events promotions that got me involved. Being that art in the community is a shared cultural event how do we involve/inform as much of the community and as many diverse cultures as possible? Promotions can be a determining factor in whether a person attends an event or even knows about it.
I am writing this article because of my love for music festivals and my desire to facilitate others in enjoying the same experiences I have found. This article goes out to all the wonderful people who help put on these events year after year. Many of the venues are without a doubt a success, however I can see room for improvement in some of the lesser-known music festivals in town. I remember in years past there have been many different types of musical gatherings at the waterfront park, which you cannot ignore if you are downtown; these types of events are in the pubic eye in a very physical way. Not all festivals are so fortunate, and might need to take extra steps to stand out.
The blues festival downtown, I would consider to be fortunate in both their location and time of year; the 4th of July. This kind of event has the revenue to place newspapers ads, radio ads and even be on the news. What about the event that has little to no budget for promotions and advertising? How can those event coordinators make sure that they reach not only the general target audience but also the “everybody factor”?
The Portland Jazz festival is a free festival that falls under the category of little to no advertising and promotions budget. I know when I ended up attending and volunteering that I kept wondering “How was I lucky enough to find this place?” The name did not really jog my memory but what attracted me was the genre Jazz. I found out about the festival on a Craig’s List ad, and had not heard about it in any other manner.
After attending the Jazz festival this year in Portland at Cathedral Park I knew I was coming back for next year. However I left feeling like it was a little secret on the far end of town. Maybe I’m just oblivious and it was all over KMHD Portland’s Jazz radio and KBOO; both sponsors for the event. I wouldn’t know because I don’t listen to the radio enough. Basically what I am trying to explain is that yes I know there had to be some sort of promotions and advertising for the Jazz Festival, but why did I never see it? I felt like I had to look for it, and feel that a couple of simple steps could boost turn out for next year, not that this year was sparse by any means.
Line of sight is what I usually expect when it comes to hearing about music happening in town and is one of the top suggested ways to inform the general public of your event. I like this type of forum because it is open to whoever is willing to look at it, not necessarily an audience of a newspaper or radio station but a person in proximity with a poster. My angle of attack for this would be to put promotional posters in coffee shops around town, I think this would work well because they usually only put up a fuss if it is a for money event which Jazz Festival is not! Coffee shops usually play some jazz at some point so I believe it would be relevant. However I understand that this would require some sort of budget or materials, which might be the only draw back.
Another great event promoter is to make a viral video for the Internet and social media. Yes! This is a great idea but it takes a lot of volunteer initiative and an annual relationship so that you could take video from last year and use it to promote the next year. I know the Jazz festival has recorded their events in video before because I found a DVD at my dad’s house. I do not think discovering a DVD happens these days as often as discovering a video clip online. So for this sources advice I would implement it as such; make a short video within 3 minutes in a montage type format. I would give the video all the necessary event info plus quick cuts of dancing, beer, wine, children, and of course Jazz! I feel montages carry the most energy in a display of force, packing as much visual and auditory information as possible into a short timeframe. The project could even be done with student help.
The last suggested low rent advertising method I have is a sponsor promotion package. I know some of the sponsors at the Jazz festival were obviously promoting through the radio and written word. There might have been room for more sponsor help if each sponsor was given a package that included a written list of ways the sponsor can help support the event. Ask them to publish the event on their social media outlets, include a short message that the sponsor can distribute to their workforce. Lastly is an option that coincides with the video suggestion, ask the sponsors to participate in a viral contest. Include all of your sponsors in a video or photo contest; the entry with the most views is the winner.
So when your event has a low overhead, remember these cost effective methods of advertising and promotions.