How mobile and social have changed live events

Posted by Radha Subramanyam on April 16th, 2014 at 7:00 am

From my place at the intersection of the music and communications industry, I've witnessed the many changes technology has brought to live events and music festivals.

Music festivals throughout the decades have made history due to a variety of reasons. No matter what they’re famous for, they've always brought together fans and artists of all genres. In 1969, Woodstock became a definitive pop culture event thanks in part to the social harmony exhibited by the musicians and attendees. In 1985, Live Aid broke barriers by hosting a dual-venue event simultaneously in London and Philadelphia. Nicknamed the “global jukebox,” the concert was one of the largest-scale television broadcasts of all time with an estimated 1.9 billion people around the world watching.

The advent of smartphones in the past five years has revolutionized the live concert experience in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Coupled with online social media, smartphones augment the power of video screens and ultra-connected stages in driving engagement at live events. Concert attendees now send Tweets and text messages to the big screen, encouraging others to do the same. With mobile devices in hand, they can easily text their friends and post to social networks instantly, greatly expanding the impact of a performance.
Mobile and social has drastically changed the way audiences interact with artists, friends and brand sponsors while at the show, and perhaps even more importantly, with fans who aren’t physically at the event.

Mobile Usage Is on the Rise

Mobile devices enable attendees to capture the most memorable moments from live events, and mobile and social usage has yet to peak. At this year’s Super Bowl, Verizon Wireless reported that customer data usage among fans inside the MetLife Stadium reached 624 GB—nearly double the 388 GB used in New Orleans last year.

We’ve seen a lot of similar jumps in social usage from Clear Channel events. iHeartRadio’s Jingle Ball Tour in December 2013 generated over 4 billion social impressions—almost a 200 percent increase over the prior year. The huge jump in social sharing didn’t surprise me as much as the fact that sharing was split evenly across channels: Instagram accounted for 33 percent of social media engagement; Twitter accounted for 31 percent, and Facebook accounted for 28 percent.
Timing Plays an Important Role

I’ve learned that when a fan uses his or her smartphone during a concert makes a huge difference for sponsors hoping to make the most out of their promotions during the event. The majority of mobile participation happens in the final minutes leading up to a headliner’s set. Fans are anxiously awaiting the beginning of the show. With their attention on stage and surrounding screens, they’ll will immediately notice something on the big screen that incentivizes them to engage via mobile.
Instagram, Or It Didn’t Happen

Instagram takes the cake for being the standout social network at live events. At the 2013 iHeartRadio Music Festival, Instagram posts accounted for 23 percent of all social media activity, as compared to less than one percent in 2012. With a few taps on their smartphone, fans shared festival images and concert clips across several social networks. Plus, using a hashtag allows the user to not only join the conversation taking place among concertgoers but also to display a badge of loyal fandom to those in their networks. Those who can’t attend, also appreciate the intel that Instagram provides them.

Fans aren’t the only ones posting concert snapshots on Instagram. I’ve seen brands take advantage of creative photo contests (complete with a hashtag) that offer compelling chances-to-win to those who enter the most Insta-worthy shot.
So Go Mobile or Go Home

Powered through mobile phones, social media provides fans, artists and brands with a constant flow of communication. From what I’ve seen, brands and artists miss huge opportunities for fan engagement if they don’t plan their events with a mobile and social strategy.

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