Attending EXIT Festival in Serbia 15 years ago changed Alex Jukes’ life.
On track for a career as a PE teacher, so great was his experience at EXIT he walked away knowing he had to find a way to work in the scene.
Fast forward a decade-and-a-half and Jukes has built Jukebox PR into a global publicity company supporting more than 200 international music festivals and events in over 50 countries. In a full circle moment, one of his clients in 2023 is – you guessed it – EXIT Festival.
“I'm actually going to be on the stage that I was looking at 15, 16 years ago going, ‘I want to work on that stage’,” he beams. “It’s gonna be a really nice moment.”
Here, Jukes talks about using social media to market festivals, the content that resonates best across social platforms, the traps to avoid when using influencers, and more…
When you're trying to generate publicity and excitement about a festival, what are the most impactful digital channels?
A lot of people now are on Instagram or TikTok and consuming their content from there.
Where I think festivals really need to focus is tapping into not just [different media outlets’] websites or their magazines, but really tapping into their social media, because they’ve obviously built up big followings.
So yeah, that's where you can see the traction happening. People get FOMO, and if they can see what the festival is like they're more likely to attend.
"I think more organic videos work a lot better than promo videos. On social media, if it feels like you're being sold something, people just switch off."
Do you find that different kinds of content work best on different platforms?
I think more organic videos work a lot better than promo videos. On social media, if it feels like you're being sold something, people just switch off.
A lot of festivals we work with use videos – not just from behind a DJ, because that's someone in a privileged position, [but they] actually use videos from someone on the middle of the dancefloor filming a moment, like a really big drop that a DJ’s just done, or a really fun moment of a festival.
I call it user generated content, or fan generated content. I find that other fans engage with that because it feels like that could be them. And this seems to be a trend that's happening on Instagram and TikTok at the minute.
On TikTok you can't really post promo videos, because it just doesn't engage very well. I think people want to see real people and real experiences. So that's what we're telling our clients to do when we do our live PR strategies.
Are you using influencers to create that content, or are you finding it organically?
We actually run another company called The Tribe. We own and manage over 40 different channels that we work with, as like an exclusive network across house and techno, EDM, drum & bass. And we go out and we find this content.
Our team are constantly trying to find user generated content or fan content that we can use in the promotional material to push the festival, especially straight after the festival.
That's the most important time, because everyone's buzzing – they've just had the best weekend of their life. We are on Instagram and TikTok searching for their content on the Monday morning to then push out that week to talk about the announce for next year.
That's when a festival might put on super early bird tickets, because that's when your key audience – the people who really enjoyed the festival – are like, I want to go again next year. So it's a really, really important time to buy tickets. And this ties in with all the fresh videos that have just been recorded that weekend.
Technically, you should really start promoting next year's festival three months before this year's festival. So three months before your 2023 festival, you should already be planning how you're going to use the content from 2023 to promote 2024 during the festival, and then literally the week, two weeks straight after it as well to get that excitement and that buzz.
"Technically, you should really start promoting next year's festival three months before this year's festival."
Are there certain ways that festivals can organically generate PR interest just by having a distinct USP?
Yeah, definitely, I think that's really important.
There are so many festivals out there that each festival needs to have a different USP now. We mainly work on destination festivals. So that might be in the Caribbean. It might be in Brazil, it might be in Vietnam. We do some city festivals, and festivals in fields as well, but I think a lot of people now want to go and have an experience. They don't just want to go to a rave in a field for one day.
A lot of festivals are based around holidays now. So they need to be working with the tourism board and promoting the fact that there's this amazing restaurant, or you can go to this amazing beach, or there's this amazing activity you could do, or anything that's really going to add to the value of the experience.
"A lot of festivals are based around holidays now. So they need to be working with the tourism board..."
Yes, the lineup is important. But also, what else can you do around the festival? I think that's really, really important for festivals that they push the tourism side and what's going on, but also work with the tourism board of that area, because they do offer a lot of support, whether that helps with flying media over to come and check out the place.
And also by doing that, you then engage with different types of media. It's not just pure music media, you might bring travel or lifestyle media, you might bring out a big broadsheet paper, because there's a bit more of an interesting story about what's going on.
I also think a lot of festivals are looking out for these interesting venues. So whether that's an amphitheatre, whether it's the stages on a beach, whether it's in a cave… I really do think a festival can blow up based on its location. And its venue. And then people see that on social media and go, I really want to go to that because of where it is.
How important is word of mouth when you're promoting a festival?
Word of mouth is massive.
And what normally happens is, a leader of the group or the person who's most into the music will be the person who tells all [their] mates, ‘This is the festival we're going to this year.’ So, I think it's really important for festivals to build an army of superfans or build their tribe, where they have 100, 200 people that basically do their marketing for them.
Whether they reward them with tickets or they get some drinks, or they get to go in a special area, or meet and greets or things like that, or there's a special party just for these people. I think this is where the word of mouth comes in. If you've got these 200 superfans, they're going to tell 10 of their mates, and 10 of their mates are going to come, all of a sudden you’ve sold 2000 tickets. And that all comes from really looking after them.
It's all about building communities, and from building those communities that's where the word of mouth comes from, about how good the festival was or why people should go.
We mentioned influencers earlier. How important is influencer marketing and publicity in 2023?
I think it's probably the number one thing the festivals need to be doing now. Everyone's got an iPhone, everyone's filming what's going on, so using these FOMO style videos – whether that's fan content, whether that's videos onstage of a DJ dropping a big tune – to tap into these communities.
The term influencers is so wide. A lot of festivals get this really, really wrong. They'll think, oh, right, that model’s got two million fans, let's bring her because she's gonna sell lots of tickets. They don't realize that her audience is mainly 16-year-old boys that have no interest in your festival.
So, when using influencers it’s really, really important to know who their audience is, what type of music or artists they are into. You don't need someone with a lot of followers – it's better to use a smaller influencer that's got more of a niche crowd, but actually, they’re your target market.
[It’s about] really understanding the demographics and the audiences of these influencers. Really tapping into the right people.
How are you seeing the smart festivals and promoters work with brands?
I think it's happening more and more now. Festivals are getting more and more expensive, so festivals do rely on brands to help pay for lineups, to help put on experiences.
I think there's been some really good examples of brands coming in [and] designing stages and giving platforms to young DJs or new talent to showcase their [music]. Bacardi have always done that really well, Strongbow in the UK always do that really well at festivals.
But yeah, it's an important part of the mix. But again, it's the same as the influencer thing. A festival needs to know who their audience is, they need to have that data. And then they need to look at what brands their audience are into. There's no point sending out an email to 100 brands going, ‘Do you want to sponsor our festival?’
Like, who is our audience? What are they into? Where do they shop, what sunglasses do they wear, what beer do they drink? And then you can be really targeted about what brands will work with you.
And then once you've got the right brand, you then can come up with an amazing activation or experience that is going to end up being beneficial for both the festival and the brand. And that's when it becomes a positive thing to do, where both sides are winning.
What trends will we see in festivals over the next 12 to 24 months?
Rewarding loyalty is going to be a massive, massive thing. Because it's so competitive now.
A lot of people who love a festival, they go again and again and again. So if you can reward them by giving them a ticket, giving them a couple of drinks, giving them some merchandise or making them feel part of the experience… Maybe you can ask them, ‘We want you to come for a round table, you can tell us what you think we should change, what you should think we should do better’, making them feel really part of the festival.
I think really engaging really closely with that community is going to be a big thing.
I also think you'll see a lot of festivals come and go because of this, because they'll just try to book a massive artist [and] put them on a stage. I think you’ve really got to get creative now. Find amazing locations, really tap into those communities. And use the best content and short form content to show off the festival. That's where I see it going.