An Interview with Frank Litjens

Bello was lucky enough to sit down with him and gain an insight into his world of festivals, digital development and social media.

Bello: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us! We’re excited, so we’ll get right to it: do you have any big events or festivals coming up soon?

Frank Litjens: Yes, quite a few actually.

Bello: You have a very unique approach to branding and the whole festival experience which seems to translate onto your digital platforms, is that an important part of your strategy?

FL: Yeah that’s the idea, because we are made up of a lot of different electronic music festivals that all cater to a specific kind of audience we need to approach them all in a unique way.

Bello: When you have such a distinct audience for each event, how do you figure out the right angle in branding the events and appealing to the different types of audience?

FL: That I need to contribute to our event marketeers because they know their audience and the DNA of the festivals and the visitors. They are very much in tune with what’s happening within that group of fans, what they like and how to set the tone of voice towards that specific audience.

Basically the entire radius of the festival, the pre and after experience, will at some level be personalized.

Throwing Spotify into the mix, really just opens up a whole new world for us to gain insights into the musical preferences of our audiences.

Bello: But are you also doing anything online to get insights into these customers as well?

FL: Yes, absolutely. Just this season was a first where we allowed our visitors to pre-register for early bird tickets. We’ve done that before of course, but now we are offering the opportunity to pre-register for tickets through a social sign in, such as Facebook but also Spotify. Throwing Spotify into the mix, really just opens up a whole new world for us to gain insights into the musical preferences of our audiences.

Bello: So how are you using Spotify in terms of engaging with the audience, are you making playlists? Or is it mainly ads you run on Spotify?

FL: Some of our festivals actively curate playlists. For instance, we have Q-dance, who curate the biggest Hardstyle playlist on Spotify. But it’s also about giving the audience a choice of what they can use to sign up with. And on the other hand, it also provides us with new data.

Bello: OK. You also said that Facebook was the primary driver of signups and engagement in general, how do you run with these different kinds of target groups? Do you run different Facebook pages for every event and target group?

FL: That’s exactly what we do. Once we feel an event has become big enough to be its own brand, we launch a separate Facebook page and start directing people to the event page from the organizer’s page. Let’s take Q-dance for instance, which is the biggest Hardstyle events promoter around, and who has several events that are big in name and brand, for example Defqon.1, Qlimax and Q-BASE. Basically, we want to direct the fans to the event pages while still keeping them engaged with Q-dance on a higher level. Through the event pages, they will find only the information of the specific events. On the Q-dance page they get the news about everything that’s going on. In terms of targeting, we target countries but when we start to advertise, we target interests and other page likes, artists follows etc.

Bello: So would you say that Facebook pages are perhaps the best medium for you to promote your content? Do you promote primarily on Facebook?

FL: Yeah we do, but in terms of our digital ecosystem we have a few exciting new developments going on. Across every digital touchpoint we are starting to implement new ways of engaging with the audience. We are for example gradually rolling out a single sign-on which will provide a seamless customer experience for our audiences. Launching the single sign-on will allow us to learn more about our audience and offer a better and more personalized event experience.

Bello: So you’ll start gathering data on all of your festival goers so you can give them a more personal experience?

FL: Anonymized data of course, but yes, that’s exactly it.

Bello: So technology can create a more holistic experience where everything is tied together. How do you think technology will transform festivals in the future, say in 10 years time?

FL: Haha, I hope to make it to five! But basically everything will be centered around your mobile device. So you’ll get your tickets on your mobile, get through the gates, and if you lose your friends at a festival, you’ll be able to locate them through our services. Other things we are already offering are a tent-finder or a car-finder for instance. Also, when an artist you liked or favorited in the event’s app, is playing in a tent or stage near you we will push out a message to remind you. Basically, the entire radius of the festival, the pre and after experience, will at some level be personalized.

Bello: That sounds exciting! But phones are already a big part of people’s festival experience: they take pictures and film the festivals with their mobiles and share on social media. Of course they are advocating for the festival but don’t you think you risk taking the personal out of the festival if everything is on or through your mobile?

FL: Obviously the most important thing is that everything we do adds value to the visitors’ experiences. Of course it’s really great that everybody’s taking pictures and sharing them, because they become our advocates, but more importantly we would like people to just enjoy their festival.

It’s all about getting very creative and trying to create a new world.

Bello: It’s finding that balance…

FL: It’s like when you’re on a holiday and you try to record everything, you’re missing your entire holiday because you’re only seeing it through a lens. You saw all this amazing environment, but you didn’t really experience being right in the middle of it. It’s definitely a balance, but at the same time you can’t force people to experience a festival the way you would like them to. If they want to take 10.000 pictures, then we’re not going to tell them they shouldn’t.

Bello: On the subject of pictures, on your website you have lots of pictures and videos of your events. Having all that content from a previous event makes it easier to promote next year’s events, but what about when you have a whole new event, how do you tackle that?

FL: That’s a great question! There’s nothing harder than launching a new event because you have zero content. You probably only have a logo or maybe some extra artwork, but you can’t really use any videos or other rich media to start pushing the promo campaign. Then it’s all about getting very creative and trying to create a new world.

Bello: How many new events do you make a year?

FL: Well, we are starting up an entirely new festival next year, an entirely new event. That happens rarely, maybe once every 2-3 years.

Bello: So when you develop these new events, I guess you have to do a lot of customer developments to find out what the gap is, what you need to create next. How do you do that, given that you haven’t got the people that signed up on Spotify, you haven’t got any of that data?

FL: That’s something that definitely comes from gut-feeling of the founders of the company because they have, for the lack of a better word, a sixth sense of what’s missing in the market place or what’s not yet being addressed very well; what audience isn’t being catered to. And basically from that point on, our event marketers and project managers take over and start setting up the concept for a festival or an event from scratch. Of course we have data telling us what’s already there, but putting in some reverse logic and trying to find out what’s not there helps us build a case, combined with that gut-feeling.

A little wiser on the digital processes and data endeavors behind dance festivals, we thank Frank Litjens for his time and words.