Live Nation’s Concert Week was one of the success stories of live music in 2022. With more than 2.2 million tickets sold, the event reached more fans than in 2018 or 2019 and paved the way for a nationwide celebration of live music. But Live Nation isn’t the only promoter figuring out how to turn new fan expectations into enthusiasm. Many local and independent operators are also showing they know how to create the festival-like buzz fans are craving.
The question is how to create a similar level of excitement without the nationwide brand recognition of Live Nation. Cooperation among venue operators, creative local business tie-ins, and a focus on fan engagement can be the special sauce that drives an event. As Live Nation continues to showcase the enormous appetite for live music in 2023, independent operators can generate similar enthusiasm by understanding today’s fans and thinking outside of the box.
Here are some of the ways independent promoters are already tapping the same trends as Live Nation.
Taking advantage of Live Nation’s Concert Week
With thousands of different concerts all over the country, Live Nation’s Concert Week (May 10-16) drums up a considerable amount of attention due to its sheer scale. But at its heart, Concert Week is mostly a network of locally based shows that bring in audiences with $25 flat ticket prices.
The extra dose of fan engagement can also provide a boost for local independent venues. Ways for a local promoter to tap the buzz of Concert Week include:
Tie-ins at local restaurants, bars, and coffee shops
The foot-traffic areas around a Concert Week show can offer a significant advantage for a concert promoter. Any venue capable of hosting some live music can offer a companion experience to the main show. Local restaurants and bars eager to tap the economic upside of Concert Week can be an excellent location for an event. Because excitement for live music tends to be contagious for a big concert or festival, a low-key show at a favorite watering hole can be a perfect complement.
But promoters can also think beyond bars and restaurants and work with other local businesses as well. Coffee shops, farmers’ markets, hotels, and prominent local shops can also provide an intimate fan experience. Promoters looking to operate around Concert Week might only need a little creativity to put together a memorable experience for both fans and artists.
Collaborating with other venues and artists
Concert Week really shows the value of collaboration in live music. Venues all over the country are able to participate in the same event as part of a unique shared experience. That type of collaboration can also be critical at the local level. Venue operators can view each other as collaborators instead of competitors while there is a spike of music fans in the area due to Concert Week. Music professionals with a strong network of contacts will be in an excellent position to find opportunities in the wake of a Concert Week event.
Focusing on fan engagement
Live Nation stresses fan engagement for a reason, as it’s a reliable way to connect with today’s biggest music fans. But many of their shows require expensive VIP upgrades to have any real proximity to an artist. Local operators can take advantage of this dynamic. A $25 Concert Week ticket likely won’t get you anywhere near a favorite band, but a smaller show at a local hotspot is a different story.
Independent operators might also put together a fan project featuring a Concert Week performer. Artists typically love making connections with their biggest fans, which is why unique fan projects can lead to memorable off-stage experiences. Getting a prominent artist to come by a local music hotspot when they’re in town for Concert Week can be a tremendous opportunity for the venue.
Local artists also have an incentive to get in on the action. A talented up-and-coming musician in the same genre as a bigger act can reach some of the most passionate fans in their space. With increased foot traffic from Concert Week, local promoters have plenty of ways to get creative while connecting fans to artists.
How many local music festivals are generating just as much enthusiasm as Live Nation
The flat $25 ticket price of Concert Week leads to headlines, but it’s not a new concept for promoters thinking beyond single concert events. Many local music festivals have been using similar starting points to generate excitement and give fans a sense of scale. Beyond expensive staples like Coachella and Burning Man, here are some of the other popular festivals that use unique market dynamics to their advantage.
Free Week in Austin
The Red River Cultural District (RRCD) in Austin, Texas continues to put on some of the most interesting local music events in the country. The premier event RRCD puts on every year is Free Week. After skipping 2021 because of the pandemic, Free Week was back in January 2022 with more than 100 local musicians playing at venues all over the District (and beyond). The free tickets bring in the crowds – similar to the $25 Concert Week tickets – and local venues and other businesses support the festival with correlating promotions.
The free festival is also a creative way for local operators to get through one of the most difficult times of the year for music venues. Started in 2003 at iconic local joint Emo’s, the winter festival was specifically designed to improve business during the slowest part of the calendar. The event has become a staple of Austin’s famous live music scene, growing to more than two dozen venues that showcase local and regional talent for four days every January.
What started as a local-only phenomenon has grown into an event that brings together music lovers from all over. Music fans get up-close access to some of their favorite bands along with the opportunity to discover rising talent. Other businesses in the area also latch onto the festival’s momentum, with bars, restaurants, and stores sponsoring the event and giving attendees a place to go in between shows.
Free Week is so popular that it spawned a summer companion series. Hot Summer Nights gives local venues and other businesses another opportunity to reach thousands of music fans coming to the Red River Cultural District. The events are also about more than just generating revenue in the short term. Participating venues have an ideal opportunity to show off their space and create lifelong fans.
Musicians Corner in Nashville
An alternative ticketing model is also the strength of Musicians Corner in Nashville. Taking place at the sprawling vistas of Centennial Park, Musicians Corner is a running series of free concerts that takes place each weekend from Memorial Day to the end of June. The music lineup every year is killer, but the festival also brings some of the best food and beverage options in the city together in one place.
The strength of the free concert series is the wide range of different acts on display. Live Nation’s Concert Series overwhelms fans with artists from every imaginable genre, from EDM and country to hip-hop and pop. Musicians Corner has a similar widespread appeal, bringing together acts aimed at every generation and musical taste. The goal is to use low upfront costs (in this case, none at all) to bring in audience members who might not normally attend a live show.
Musicians Corner also goes beyond just offering free music. Fans can bid on artist memorabilia and one-on-one experiences supported by Artist Circle, a collection of famous musicians who have worked with Musicians Corner. Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift, Mick Jagger, and Dolly Parton are only a few of the stars who have supported the festival. Signed guitars, meet-and-greets, and VIP experiences with both new and established talent are up for auction as a part of the series.
But other local venues don’t need signed Jagger memorabilia to tap the enthusiasm the concert series brings to the area. Centennial Park is only a mile from Music Row, the famous network of venues that form the backbone of Nashville’s entertainment scene. Musicians Corner helps to kick off the summer music season in one of the most celebrated areas for live music in the world. And it all starts with alternative ticketing and the promise of musical discovery.
Nelsonville Music Festival
The Nelsonville Music Festival is proof you don’t need a world-famous site to generate buzz for live music. The Snow Fork Event Center is the site for this late-July gem, bringing together dozens of talented local musicians for a three-day outdoor music celebration. It’s also a great way to get up close and personal with newer artists while enjoying the neighboring campgrounds in between sets.
It also starts with free entry for those 12 and under and reasonable weekend packages that make it a good fit for families and music lovers of any age. Organizers team with craft beer makers and a variety of local artisans to complete the atmosphere, tapping the strength of the neighboring businesses in the process. The festival aims to create long-term music fans in a family-friendly and affordable environment, with local talent and local businesses creating an incredible three days of live music.
Following Live Nation’s lead as music blazes its comeback
Multi-venue collaboration, economical ticket prices, and creative ways to drive fan engagement are proven methods for generating buzz in live music. Live Nation’s sprawling Concert Week enjoys eye-popping scale, but it’s really just an interconnected series of local concert events. Live music venues operating near Concert Week sites have a built-in advantage for drumming up enthusiasm for their own fans and local artists.
This is why enterprising live music professionals can use Concert Week as a springboard for their own businesses. Whether you’re looking to bring in fans before or after a major show, some clever marketing and creative business arrangements can make a difference.
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