Summer Music Festivals: Dealing with Unrealistic Expectations

If you scroll through the comments of any music festival’s Facebook posts you will see that 100% customer satisfaction is impossible. As a marketer or event planner, you will not be able to please everyone. Music festivals are a perfect example of the dilemma of aiming to please your repeat customers while seeking to acquire a new target audience. The US edition of Lollapalooza released their 2013 lineup and I have to admit it is a bit lackluster. As a 2011 and 2012 Lolla festival goer, I was one of the many disappointed fans. Although the lineup fell short of my hopes, I still plan to attend the festival. Why? I love live music, the great outdoors, and want to find some new bands to play on repeat.

To Lollapalooza’s defense I haven’t seen one festival lineup that has blown my mind or can even be classified as stellar. Unfortunately Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Coachella, and other famous festivals that have been recently criticized for their lineups have to battle very high and sometimes unrealistic consumer expectations. Fans that missed the 2012 editions of the aforementioned festivals want the same headliners, not taking into account that many of these bands are back in the studio working on new material or are overseas touring. Brand marketers for events have to approach customer satisfaction from a different perspective. There are a million ways an event can go wrong and those ways change depending on the person and their experience. Products only have a few ways they can fail and thus managing consumer expectations for them is much easier.

Event marketers first have to accept that you will never be able to please everyone. At every event, no matter how amazing, there will always be a critic that was too hot, didn’t appreciate the lines, or didn’t have the best view. Brands have to monitor the negative comments and selectively choose which ones to reply to. Fortunately for music festivals they have loyal brand ambassadors that troll Facebook posts and defend the festival creators’ choices. These brand ambassadors help festival creators not get their hands dirty. Every brand has similar loyals, but none are as loyal and as passionate as music festival fans.

Music festivals are created for super music fans that will wait hours in the blazing sun to see their favorite headline perform, but also stop by the smallest stage to hear an unsigned act that one day may grace the main stage. I am one of those super fans that knows music festivals are as much about the music as they are about the overall experience. Festivals such as Lollapalooza can’t explain to their diehard fans that they have to put out a diverse lineup to attract new fans and a wide audience. Festivals just aren’t made for teeny boppers, but for the young and young at heart. That is why I love festivals; there something for everyone musically and recreationally.

Here are my picks for the best US summer music festivals this year. They are in chronological order.

1. Hangout Music Festival
May 17-19
Gulf Shores, Alabama
My Favorite 2013 Acts: Kings of Leon, Stevie Wonder, The Roots, Lissie, and Porter Robinson

2. Bonnaroo 
June 13-16
Manchester, Tennessee
My Favorite 2013 Acts: Mumford & Sons, R. Kelly, A$ap Rocky, Animal Collective, Paper Diamond, Of Monsters and Men and Walk the Moon

3. Electric Forest
June 27-30
Rothbury, Michigan
My Favorite 2013 Acts: Beats Antique, Pretty Lights, Danny Brown, and Passion Pit

4. Spring Awakening
June 14-16
Chicago, Illinois
My Favorite 2013 Acts: Bassnectar, Calvin Harris, 12th Planet, and Nero

5. Lollapalooza
August 2-4
Chicago, Illinois
My Favorite 2013 Acts: The Killers, Kendrick Lamar, Ellie Goulding, Lana Del Rey, Emeli Sande, Lianne La Havas, Baauer, the Neighbourhood, and Cherub

If you have time off from work and the cash, check out one or two of the above. I’ll be at Bonnaroo again this year and hopefully Lollapalooza if I can secure my single day tickets when they go on sale Wednesday. And please go to a small stage and discover some new music. No, your favorite band may not be playing, but it is possible you could find a new favorite band you really like. Although summer will be over by the time the European festival, Tomorrow World (Tomorrow Land) debuts in the US, I still recommend you check it out.

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