Festival Frontlines: Bunbury Music Festival’s Social & Digital Media Strategy


Bunbury Music Festival is celebrating its second year in 2013 and will feature eighty live performances across six stages, including performances by headliners Fun., MGMT, and The National. The Cincinnati festival was named by Yahoo Music last year as one of the Top 10 National Music Festivals of 2012. We caught up with Bunbury Founder Bill Donabedian to talk about the festival’s social and digital media strategy.

Bill Donabedien – Founder

kickshufflelogo_300final Bunbury Music Festival is only in its second year, yet continues to attract attention from all over the country. What did you learn from last year and what are you doing differently?

Well, I think the biggest thing we learned is that social media drove more ticket sales than probably any other thing we did. That changed our approach to marketing completely this year. We were surprised that traditional forms of media just didn’t have the impact that social media did.

So the biggest lesson was that it was working. It reaches our audience, and we’re trying to leverage it more this year and be more active and create a better community. And we can do this through generating more conversation and interaction. We’re going to continue to spend a lot of time on focusing on social media.

Twitter – @bunburyfestival
Facebook – facebook.com/bunburyfestival
Tumblr – tumblr.com/blog/bunburyfestival

kickshufflelogo_300finalOne way you do this, and a lot of other festivals are doing it now, is by tapping streaming services like Spotify to create playlists featuring the festival’s artists and bands. How exactly are you leveraging this approach? (And here’s a link to the Bunbury Spotify playlist)

One thing we’ve seen is that everyone creates their own playlists and then shares them on social media. I think what we try to do more is spotlight our lesser known artists. For example, this year we have these active artist profiles, and we’re trying to share more of that. We think it’s more important to educate and provide more information about these artists. So that’s what we spend more time on.

Because we found with the playlists, we don’t have to encourage, people just do it. We see tweets and Facebook posts, ‘Hey, here’s my Bunbury playlist!’ It’s almost happened organically. I think the thing that is great is if you create that community, it’s amazing what will just happen.

kickshufflelogo_300finalAnother way you are leveraging digital media is with your mobile app—and specifically with the Slacker radio integration. Can you talk a little bit about how this enhances the festival experience?

Well, we are actually in the process of rebuilding our app with help from our providers. So in the long run, it will be easier and provide for a much better user experience. The app should be available around Memorial Day. But the great thing about the app is that it will allow fans who are at the festival to check out some of the artists they’ve never heard of. So if there are 2 or 3 artists getting ready to play on different stages, the fan can use our app with the Slacker integration to sample the different artists and decide who to go watch. It’s that ‘just-in-time’ information for the user.

kickshufflelogo_300finalThat’s a great point, and that’s what I want to touch on next. How do you plan to incorporate social and digital media during the festival?

We want to highlight the people who are posting and blogging, and we want to create a place where people can go and meet the people who are running this day in and day out. We might even allow people to sit down and write about their experience then and there, or share their photos with our photographers, so I’m really looking forward to creating a place where people can come together through social media, and then through a physical site at the festival, and share their Bunbury experiences.

kickshufflelogo_300finalDo you have any plans to live stream the festival – or any parts of the festival?

We are thinking about it this year. We are looking at providers right now, and we may do a small test. Maybe it’s just the headliners this year. Last year, I was really adamant about getting people to the festival. And I still think it’s really important — you just can’t replace that. You’ve got to be here. But the reality is some of our customers might not be able to make it that weekend. So we’re going to try some stuff and see how it goes. We’ll probably do the test, but I like to see it as something we’ll do in 2014.

kickshufflelogo_300finalWhat are your social and digital media plans for after the festival?

Last year, we started selling tickets a month after the festival. And people we’re buying them. So we may even sell tickets at the festival at an extremely low rate. If people are there and having a great time, and before they leave say, ‘You know what, I want to come back next year,’ I want to make sure we can provide that at a price that’s really enticing. Your existing customers are your best customers. You need to take care of them and find a way to say thank you.

But as soon as the gates close, you will probably see our box office open the following day. And we’ll start to take feedback in, because that first month is about how we are we going to make this better. We’ll start to figure out who the artists are that we want and we’ll get started for 2014.


Kickshuffle is an online publication dedicated to covering the impact of technology on music and music business. Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter.


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