We recently sat down with Iqbal Ameer, founder and Group CEO of The Livescape Group, a creative independent experience & business incubator based in South-East Asia to discuss how promoters can de-risk themselves by embracing and nurturing fan ownership.
He is also the co-founder of All Access Anonymous (AAA) which is creating an open and fair decentralized network to connect credible and verified promoters, directly with others in the verified network including other creators, fans, artists, agents, venues, marketing agencies and production companies.
Iqbal shared some insights and ideas that promoters can apply to de-risk their music festivals by involving fans in the festival curation and how NFTs are leading the way in creating fan ownership.
But first, what is fan ownership?
As Iqbal put it, “Fan ownership basically means being a stakeholder and having a say in the vision, execution and the growth of a festival.”
“Fans of music festivals have a mutual interest. They are fans of your brand. They want to come to your show, they want to support the local artists that have been featured in the show and any international acts that they want to go and check out.”
“They are the most important component in a festival, so giving fan ownership to a festival is actually what I believe the natural thing every event promoter should do.”
How does fan ownership de-risk promoters?
Touching on his extensive experience promoting shows across South-East Asia, Iqbal has seen first-hand the downsides of not having a direct promoter-to-fan relationship.
For him, it’s about not assuming what a fan wants behind closed doors. It’s about taking a consultative approach with fans so they have a sense of ownership and belonging to the festival and feel like their voices have been heard.
“For the past 12 years of doing music festivals in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, we've always treated the music festival as something that we need to sit in our think tank and come up with ourselves.”
“And then when we're ready to go, we put it out believing that we know what is best for the fan.”
“So the six months of hard work and dealing with different agents, venues or production companies and for them, a show is a show, so you get all this feedback (from them) and you come up with your conclusion or your objective of how you want to go and put your show out (to market).”
“Then, what happens is, you put it out and it's not exactly what the fan wants and then you start to panic because you've got three to six months to sell your tickets. You don't want to discount your tickets because it's going to devalue your brand.”
“And what happens is to the fan, your festival is then looked at as if you're selling them a product. Then suddenly, it’s what's the difference between your festival and the other festival and the other festival?”
How NFTs are helping promoters to lead fan ownership
De-risking via fan ownership is happening with NFT projects right now says, Iqbal.
“With NFT projects, fans have a say. They can participate in the brand’s roadmap and the brand's objective. Festivals need to provide that medium where both sides can discuss what they want whilst working towards a common goal.”
“Because if you've got 10,000 stakeholders who are actually not only advocates of your brand, but they’re the people who are going to come to your show and promote your show, they're gonna give you unreal feedback and it allows you to de-risk immensely.”
Why open communication with fans is key
Open lines of communication with fans allows for two things. First, it allows fans to see the festival from the perspective of the promoter and secondly it allows the promoter to see the festival from fans' perspective. This helps to break down a lot of barriers, misconceptions and points of friction between both parties.
“We had a forum with fans of festivals where we talk to them and we try to get them to understand the perspective of the promoter. You will be surprised how many fans see the festival but they don't know the promoter.”
“So I think one thing promoters can resonate with is people buying drinks outside the festival grounds before they enter. If you ask them, 'why do you do it?’, the reason is simply that inside is so expensive. They want to save their money and get their drinks outside before coming into the festival grounds.”
“But they don't realise that's detrimental to the promoter because that’s what they need to make revenue, so they can keep putting on shows.”
“If the promoter is unable to sustain or unable to do that, then the promoter has to increase the drink prices because they have to go under the assumption that ‘30% of the people are going to rock up to my show are not going to be drinking, so I'm going to increase my alcohol prices by X amount so that I can cover that cost.”
“Then it's going to anger more people because they're just gonna be like, ‘what the hell, wait, why is a drink, so expensive here?’”
Iqbal says this cycle has been going on for a very long time but by breaking this there are massive benefits to both fans and promoters.
“It's simple, small things like this, in making sure the communication loop between the fan and the promoter exists and the fan knowing that if I help the promoter make these decisions, I truly benefit at the end of it. Because I get a cheaper ticket, I get a better experience.”
“And to the promoter, they benefit from it too, because they realise that they may not need to book 100 artists to get a stacked lineup or they don’t need to have eight different stages because they are not in competition with the other festivals. They are providing the experience for the fan of their festival.”
What does fan ownership look like?
Iqbal shared from his own experiences exactly how fan ownership can help shape a memorable and inclusive festival experience for fans.
“Livescape have a brand called ‘It’s The Ship’. It’s a 4,000 capacity event and we do it on a five-star cruise liner.”
“Leading up to it's a ship, we decided to have a very friendly approach (to producing It’s The Ship) and we talk to people, real fans.”
“Festivals don't exactly end at five or six in the morning. Whereas, we're on a cruise ship, so they were like, we want a festival experience until sunrise. And we were like, actually, why can't we do that?”
“Because we are on a cruise liner, we don't have sound restrictions, we don't have any of those (typically stringent) restrictions. So we go ahead and we do it, they feel heard, they get to experience a different dimension on ‘It’s The Ship’ and they feel they have contributed to it. It didn’t cost us much, we just set our timings a bit later and we actually made more money off the bar.”
“We also have a tattoo parlour on ‘It’s The Ship’, and people go and get tattoos of the brand ( ‘It’s The Ship’ logo) and if they have a tattoo they will be eligible for a cabin for life.”
“You'd be surprised at how many people get tattoos and there's a reason why it happens. The reason is that they believe that we hear them, and we actually do what they want.”
What should promoters be keeping top of mind when looking to bring fan ownership into a festival?
Iqbal reflects on the early days before social media and digital advertising saying these were the times when the promoter-to-fan relationship was more direct and locally focused.
He says promoters have forgotten to embrace this as social media marketing and networks have become normalised.
“When I was a nightclub promoter, I was doing flyer drops or sticking up posters in Melbourne. It's very local and the event that you do is very local. Everybody knows you, and you know everyone. This creates an emotional investment between you and the fan.”
“They know you as a person and you know them as people. So you are invested in providing them with a good show. If you do a good job, people from other states come down and go to your show.”
“And then the birth of Facebook and Instagram happened and suddenly it was about a global audience instead. And then what happens is, it doesn't become hyperlocal anymore, it becomes a global audience and suddenly the treatment of the fan is by segmentation now, it becomes what's your age, are you male, female, what are your shopping habits, so that you can kind of get an idea of who you’re marketing to. It's now normalised and this is what we (as promoters) do.”
“But what happens is, you suddenly forget who your fans are, you don't know your fans, you just want to know the demographics. So you can push your agenda, to inform and educate fans about your show and then try to sell it, versus caring for their wants and needs.”
“In my opinion, Boomtown in Europe, they've done it extremely well, in knowing their fans, and so has Burning Man. It's because they, they provide the tools for the fans to go there and to be open about who they are. Then promoters try to understand their needs and try to address those needs so that they want to come.”
It’s clear that in 2022, with oversaturated markets and endless content, fan ownership is a mechanism that will help a festival differentiate itself from other festivals and give fans a sense of community and belonging.
Fans want to and need to be treated like people, not numbers, in a world where more recently, data has driven decisions instead of consultation and human connectedness.