This year, festival conference FestForums celebrated its sixth anniversary. Growing leaps and bounds over the years, this unique one of a kind conference has developed a reputation for uniting leaders from not only the festival world but outside industries as well. From November 20-22 hundreds of promoters, producers, and various industry professionals came together at the Hilton Santa Barbara for three days of panels, industry mixers, award shows, and more.
Hosting panels across three days in two separate tracks, topics included subjects such as sponsorship, business development, cutting-edge technologies, talent buying, ticketing trends, merchandising, operations, sustainability, and festival camping. The most noteworthy panel of FestForums 2019 was probably the remarkable "4 Festivals that Changed the World" panel which featured Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang, commercial director of Glastonbury, Robert Richards, one of Burning Man’s original founders, Michael Mikel and Sundance’s Director, John Cooper. The panel covered the origins of these powerhouse festivals along with the challenges they have faced along the way in becoming the renowned and well-respected brands they are today.
Another panel I truly enjoyed was licensing your festival brand, which discussed strategic partnerships and how having an open dialogue of communication is the best way for your brand to survive when expanding to additional markets. This year’s FestForums emphasized the ever-increasing importance of using data to analyze and measure success for festivals. Again as can be expected, creating strategic partnerships seems to lie at the center of most festivals' success.
I personally got a chance to catch up with Meghan Lynch from Events.com, one of FestForums’ 2019 premier sponsorship partners after the panel “Organizers and Sponsors: Connecting the Dots for a Bullseye.” The panel discussed how festival organizers and organizers can strategically work together in order to achieve success. Doing your research and homework so that you know that the brand seemed to be the foundation to building a successful long-term relationship.
Meghan had this to say in reference to the panel, “What I wanted to do today was connect the dot with three different positions: you have the marketing manager, the event production company, and the event organizer. And how do they make the dream come true and make that sponsorship journey that gets an ROI for everybody? Know the brand and understand what you’re pitching before you reach out. Know the brand and do your research.”
Overall FestForums seemed to provide fundamental basics in order to help promoters, organizers, and brands achieve long-term success in a rapidly evolving and competitive market and also assist you in developing a strong and useful network. It stressed how becoming a sponge of knowledge is fundamental to your festival's success.
In addition to the educational panels, FestForums also featured various musical performances including a talent show and a yoga class featuring live music from yoga bass collective Drishti Beats, donation-based massages, and the Woodstock bus experience, a powerful throwback to the legendary 1969 music festival. A tremendous amount of networking took place in the FestForums exhibit hall, which featured hosted booths from companies ranging from beer brand Sierra Nevada to ticketing platform Vendini. The Best of the Fest and Living Legend Award honored festival leaders in several categories along with director Penelope Spheeris is best known for her work on 1990s films The Beverly Hillbillies and Little Rascals received the Living Legend Award. Musician Jon Anderson of the band Yes was also a featured guest at the awards ceremony.
FestForums founder Laurie Kirby had this to say in reference to FestForums, “Stuart and I have worked tremendously hard over the last 5 years to shape FestForums into a conference that is tailored to the specific needs of the festival producer. It is a vital cultural experience that changes lives, creates lasting memories and hopefully effectuates societal change for the betterment of all. We cherish these community leaders and try to offer them an experience that educates them, inspires them and lets them relax with their peers. All of this culminates in our annual Best of the Fest ceremony honoring 9 festivals that were game-changers as well as our Living Legends who are the reasons we have festivals in the first place.”
Head to FestForums website for more information.