How to get a summer solstice music celebration started

Me and 2 other partners got Solstice Austin (146 concerts happening at 35 venues across the city) started up with only 3 months of preparation.. and here’s how we did it:

1. We clearly defined our goals and intentions. Check out our about section. Austin is an over saturated festival market… and if we were going to try and bring a new festival to this city, we had to clearly define why we were different. Putting our unique mission on the website really helped, especially when addressing naysayers. 

2. We did everything in waives: we first got club owners to sign up… Once we had 20 venues signed up looking for bands, all we had to do was open the floodgates, and the bands poured in. By the way, it took asking about 45 venues, to get 20 to actually sign up. (that’s another thing, we asked LOTS of people)

With getting the first participants signed up, many people wonder, “how do you get over the chicken and egg situation”. We did it by putting up a strong front, looking club owners in their eyes, saying this is what we’re bringing to the city, and asking them if they wanted in. Check out this great printout we brought to each and every venue… it really helped add a legitimate front:

Another thing that helped build a legitimate front, was us leveraging the history of the event (started in Paris, expanded to NYC where thousands come out and celebrate, and now we’re bringing it to Austin). We shared the history with just about every potential participant (whether that be a club, venue, sponsor, or attendee)

3. We set deadlines: I’ve learned that many people in this world wouldn’t do anything if it weren’t for a deadline. It’s important to set deadlines all along the way… even if that means creating deadlines (we told our first venues that we had a press release going out on Friday, and that we needed to know if they were in… this was all true, by the way )

4. When we had any bit of legitimacy (great clubs, or artists signing up) we used it to get others on board! As soon as one legitimate club in an area signed up, other clubs were much more likely to join the party because they don’t want to miss out. Anytime we got a writeup in a legitimate news source, we were sure to share that with potential users. 

5. After we got lots of venues and artists on board, we went the extra mile to make sure everyone was playing their part: we called each and every venue and artists, emailed them all of their concerts/promotional materials, and sent them messages on facebook/twitter… Not only did this assure that everyone was ready for the big day, it really helped spark a nice viral marketing push (many of our artists and venues did a great job at spreading the word!) Which is a good segway into my next point. 

6. We did mostly gorilla/viral/free marketing, and only spent a little of money on traditional media. One of the gorilla marketing tactics we used was we created a spotify playlist of all the participating artists, and asked each of the artists to share it with their fans. When our venues got featured in a writeup about the festival, we were sure to share the exposure with the venues, and asked them to post it as well… It may not sound so deep, but simply asking for your users to share goes so far! Not to mention, since the festival involved so many local venues and artists, everyone pretty much has the same social network (to 1-2 degrees), and the way facebook works, is if similar content is being shared in the same network, it boosts the contents “edge ranking” which assures that information will make it to the top of everyones news feed.

The last thing I wanted to note, is none of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for the Solstice Festival Technology… Not as big as it was, as organized as it was, with only 3 months to pull everything together. 

All-in-all, I had a blast organizing the festival… and the huge payout was the day of the event. Everything ran smoothly, and I got to drive around town, listening to great local music that I helped facilitate. What a dream! I even got to play in my own festival (video below). We’re to grow the Solstice Celebration into a great yearly tradition!