Why do Events Have to Change?

DJs, events and festivals need to change to survive in the digital world. At least, that's how Denis Doeland feels about it. The spam-like and loud- mouthed behaviour online, should be replaced by data and a smart strategy.

Kevin Van der Straeten
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DJs, events and festivals need to change to survive in the digital world. At least, that's how Denis Doeland feels about it. The spam-like and loud- mouthed behaviour online, should be replaced by data and a smart strategy.


Hi Denis, welcome to our studio.  


Thank you. 


You wrote a book: 'EDM and the digital domain', and the subtitle is: 'why DJs, festivals and event have to change'. Why do they have to change?  


Well, it's a quite bold statement actually after two decades of festival organisations. But I saw that the value proposition of organisations actually changed, because in Holland a lot of organisations put their business around the revenue streams. However, the value proposition in the digital domain is how you retain connections with your fans, which is a completely different ball game. 


But we always did it that way. Because that's where we gained the money.  


Some sort of, you know... Well, to be honest, I used to work almost two decades for the largest event organisation in Holland, and we weren't that connected in that time with fans. We made up an event, then we put up a marketing campaign, shouting on the traditional channels of radio, television, and even print and outdoor, and we were saying: "well, this is our event. Buy our tickets". Well, that's not a connection. 


No, it isn't but why did it stop working? Because it has worked for decades.  


Well, there's a lot of convergence in the festival market. For example we have about 1,000 events, which I'm continuously monitoring at the moment. 


Only in Holland?  


Only in Holland, yeah. So the market is full. It's really like when you have a bucket, it's full. It flows over a bit, so there's not really room for a new festival. 


So you need to make a difference?  


You need to make a difference. And the difference you make is actually by listening to possible fans or possible prospects. What they want, how they see the line-up, how they see the production, etcetera. 


But how do you do that in practice? I'm organising an event: what should I do? 


Well, first of course you determine the goal of your event.When the goal of your event is discovering music for example... When you ask for example here in Belgium who you would like to see in the Sportpaleis in Antwerp, then probably everybody will say: Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike. However, when your goal is music discovery, then you should really look into the conversation on social media which is going about new artists, new genres, etcera. 


So it's not just asking: "well dear followers, what do you want to hear on my event?" 


No that's the simple question, of course. But we all know that when you ask a mass audience what they really want, then you always see the followers. You see the big artists, etcetera. But when the goal is music discovery, then you should look further: which new artist besides Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike do you want to see on the stage?  


So the industry is actually changing, because before you had the organiser, who organised the event. He had a good feeling what his audience wanted, he made the decisions for the line-up, he made the event and sold as many tickets as possible. But now it has to come from the audience itself? 


Yeah, these days artists or DJs or bands actually have their own complete digital ecosystem of their website, their app, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Soundcloud, Spotify... And you really see what's going on with them. They started without any connections with a program or with a festival. So that pops up from nowhere. Each artist starts at the moment in his attic or in his bedroom with his own digital ecosystem, and you see it popping up. So even when you're a programmer and you're well connected to your booking agencies or whatever, you don't find a new artist. 


That's interesting. But if you look at how most events are using social media, it still is a screamy broadcasting of their message and not really a dialogue. How can we change that?  


First of all, when your company is more than five years old, you're still used to do the marketing top-down. Like I said: you plan your line-up, you plan your production, you plan your date and your location, and then you shout in the old-fashioned way through the traditional channels. And on social media or on internet: buy my ticket. They're used to it. And as long as you sell tickets, you don't find the blind spot, because you feel like: "I'm doing something right". However, you see things changing at the moment, like the convergence in the market is asking and is demanding actually from organisations to change now. 


Are there already big events who dared to change their approach? 


They do, they do. There are a couple of events in Holland, which I know. For example the music discovery services 22tracks, is also now in Belgium probably, in Brussels actually. You see that they are using their data actually to put artists on their stages on 22fest for example. 


Okay, and there is of course, like I mentioned in the beginning of the interview: the book. It's downloadable for free on your website. What's the link to it?  


The link is edmandthedigitaldomain.com. There you can find the book, and you can download it for free. 


Denis, thank you very much for coming over.  


You're welcome.  


And you at home: thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next time.