Hailed as one of the "20 legendary world festivals to see in your lifetime (Distractify)," Electric Forest delivers the ultimate festival experience with its unparalleled integration of music, art and community. Known for showcasing some of dance music’s most relevant performers alongside a mix of roots, rock and jam- style acts, Electric Forest consistently delivers a diverse lineup of over 100 established and emerging artists performing across 7 stages; and has done a credible job of creating a festival culture and ethos that permeates through their community of fans, not only during the festival but year round online. The end result is the truest sense of “community” you will find at any large-scale festival. But it wasn’t always that way…
Searching for the Keys to the Next-Level Music Festival
The usual U.S. festival paradigm relies on booking headlining talent to attract patrons, with little money or attention allocated to creating an experience that fans will come back to year after year, regardless of whether that year’s hottest festival act is on the bill. In what’s become an oversaturated market where promoters scramble to out-book their competitors, it’s become a slippery model. So how do you shift that paradigm—to build something where fans feel ownership of their experience, and build something that can grow well beyond the sum of its parts?
Making an Experience a Brand
Electric Forest producers Madison House Presents’ first festival attempt on the Double JJ property in Michigan - ROTHBURY - was born around what was, at the time, a unique “much-more-than-a-music” festival concept. However, while attendance was large and patrons certainly knew they were experiencing a festival like no other—the spirit of being part-of, rather than at, a festival—didn’t quite gain traction. When the property owners filed for bankruptcy after the second year of ROTHBURY and the festival lost the land lease, Madison House Presents had an opportunity to retool their vision. The next incarnation was Electric Forest with LiveLoud Media.
Electric Forest’s out-of-the-box business model, which offered no “real” artist headliners, required an out-of-the-box PR strategy; one where a festival that was doing things differently could find a home in the media landscape.
Reaching Beyond the Bubble
Even with niche storylines and broad trend story parallels to share, why does what is happening at Electric Forest matter to anyone who didn’t attend the event? The saying “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” could too easily ring true for Electric Forest. Even while attendees were having life-changing experiences at Electric Forest, who outside of the bubble of a four day event was paying attention, and why would they? How could Electric Forest reach people to let them know that there was something there for them.
Smart Strategy Builds Community...and Can Include Media
For Electric Forest, we knew that the constant underlying thread that would keep people coming back was the experience, and that what the festival did with an engaged group of people, is what would matter most. So LiveLoud built a PR strategy for a movement, not a festival. We told the story not just of what Electric Forest is at any given moment, but what it could—and eventually would—be, and we invited the right media to help us unfold the story.
Work in the Present. Envision the Future.
At LiveLoud we knew that a typical music festival PR strategy - one that relies on media-buzzy artists on the bill to secure placement in large print music publications - would not work. The real, multifaceted story of Electric Forest was much deeper than that of the top four acts on the lineup. It was experiential. Our PR strategy for Electric Forest was holistic. We simultaneously pitched the story to far ends of the media spectrum—niche storytelling to niche media and broad trend stories to mainstream publications—laying the groundwork for influential music-culture tastemakers to “discover” a version of Electric Forest that fit into their archetype of their publications.
Defining a Culture
At the outset, LiveLoud rooted Electric Forest’s bold vision of an engaged community deep into its messaging. We went to work sharing the core values of the new movement - to fans, to media, and to anyone else who cared to listen. It was an important truth: that we are all connected, and in that connectedness we choose to create space to celebrate our diversity.
Of course, the curators of an authentic, sustainable movement must walk-the-walk. It’s what inspires others to do their own version of the same. Together with Electric Forest producers, LiveLoud established the festival’s Music In Schools Program (donating ~$100,000 and counting to music programs at local public schools), the Electric Forest Food Drive (donating ~250,000 meals in-county), and Electric Forces (working to nurture healing and build connectedness between U.S. military veterans and music festival communities and beyond). LiveLoud pushed these stories to receptive media, further broadening awareness of Electric Forest and it’s community, and deepening the messaging of the festival’s commitment to its core values.
LiveLoud consulted with producers to imagine, build, and evolve festival fan programs—like the Plug In Program, EF’s fan participatory platform—and EF’s Neighbor Program, which offered unique ways for the festival’s nearby neighbors to contribute to the experience; programs that by providing opportunities to join, participate, and contribute in shaping and strengthening the EF experience, have become flagship activations in the EF ethos.
LiveLoud enlisted media to help amplify the stories. Others began to consider if and why and how they might fit. This is how communities, and cultures, are built.