Mustard Media: The uncomfortable truth about why your tickets aren’t selling

Listen to this article

Rory Palmer-Rowe, senior strategist at Mustard Media, the festival and events marketing agency, believes that amazing ticket sales can be achieved by understanding your tribe…


I think I speak for most of us when I say that we assumed that 2022 would be the (third?) Summer of Love. After two years of empty dancefloors, we predicted that people would be tripping over themselves to buy tickets to events across the globe. Those promoters that were lucky enough to weather the storm, were buoyed by thoughts of a less crowded market.

How wrong we all were.

The market feels even more crowded than before. It seems COVID has been the catalyst for a whole host of first-time promoters to dip their toes into the murky world of festivals and events. YOLO and to hell with the consequences! According to data from RA, there are 66 per cent more electronic music festivals in 2022 than 2019.

The Adeles and Ed Sheerans of this world have continued to sell out but for events on the rungs below, it’s been a hard slog. 

Throw into the mix the recent cost of living hikes and it’s a little grim out there. Events that were seemingly “sold out” thanks to payment plans have now found themselves with a mountain left to climb, as people happily default on these plans. Forced to choose between keeping the lights on at home vs three days dancing in a field.

But if we were to blame this all on the pandemic and economic climate, we’d be making a huge mistake.

We were always going to find oureleves in this situation…

The recent factors have just meant that we’ve arrived there a little sooner than planned. As bookings become more homogenised and marketing departments rely on aggressive paid media budgets to create cut through. Events’ unique points of difference become harder to find than a clean portaloo on the final day of a festival.

There has been both a generational and a societal shift. What started with Millenials has now bubbled up, with society at large placing a much greater emphasis on unique experiences over possessions. This shift has been further pronounced by the recent increase to the cost of living. Now forced to choose, there’s only one winner.

Now the old school amongst you may have tuned out when I started banging on about ‘societal shifts’. But wait, here’s the kicker.  We need to shift our focus.

Not only do our past strategies no longer make sense from a sociological standpoint. There’s also a business case. If anyone with enough time and money can recreate your music offerings then you no longer have a moat that safeguards your business. 

This is why branding really is the only game left in town.

Green Man Parri Thomas

As the saying goes, “people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”

Brands create a sense of self. By choosing to buy into a particular brand, people reaffirm both their own and their tribe’s perception about their desired identity. In short, the brands we choose send a message about who we are, and often more importantly, who we are not. Consider Houghton and Parklife. Two very different brands with two very different tribes.

So how does a festival or event tap into the power of branding?

It starts with you. What do you value? What is it that your event stands for? It has to be about more than just selling tickets.

Yes, we all have a P&L. But no one ever woke up in the morning thinking about how they could line promoters’ pockets.

Once you know the answers to these questions you then need to think about your audience. Who has similar values? Who might want the same thing? Remember that the goal is not to create a brand that appeals to all. By attempting to appeal to everyone, you’ll ultimately appeal to no one. A strong brand should actually repel members of certain tribes. Think back to our Houghton fans baulking at the idea of a weekend at Parklife and vice versa.

Armed with this understanding, it’s all about creating those moments and experiences for your tribe. You’ll most likely find that investing in your brand actually aids the creative process. Suddenly, it’s much easier to be selective about which concepts are on brand. There is a thread that ties all your activity together and it no longer feels like throwing the proverbial brown substance at a wall.

Lost Village Festival

Strong brands in action 

For examples of putting this into practice, look no further than Green Man Festival or Lost Village. The latter were actually nominated for Campaign of The Year in 2016. Going up against the likes of Adidas, Beats by Dre, Ford, Nike and Uniqlo.

Lost Village’s commitment to their brand is unwavering. The brand story, based upon the history of the site, provides the creative direction for the whole festival. The idea of tribalism is first brought to life through the custom typeface. A series of tribal markings inspired by runes, that the festival goers are encouraged to own and adapt.

The brand is then carried across into Lost Village’s digital marketing. Caption copy and creative all take their cues from the brand story. The literal execution of this sense of “tribe” is Lost Village’s commitment to user generated content as part of their social strategy.

The brand story then becomes the narrative for the whole onsite experience. Tribal banquets, hidden areas, secret performances and stages such as Forgotten Cabin, Abandoned Chapel and Burial Ground.

Green Man’s brand places its Welsh heritage and pagan origins front and centre. This can be seen in its visuals. A bespoke typeface based on an old type specimen with added Celtic quirks. Complemented with the woodcut-effect imagery.

Much like Lost Village, the brand is visible through social media captions and posts. Celebrating pagan dates such as Summer Solstice and All Hallows Eve and an overall reverence for nature.

Once onsite, the brand informs the experience; from sound installations that produce melodies from the sun’s energy, to mushroom growing workshops. This culminates in attendees taking part in their own Celtic ritual, writing effigy wishes that are then attached to the green man and burnt.

This may all sound like a lot of work. Especially as I haven’t even touched on line ups. 

If you’re still yet to be convinced, let me give you this real world example.

Mustard Media was running a workshop for a new festival and a young waitress came upstairs with coffee. We asked her if she was planning on attending any festivals this summer. 

“Yes,” she replied. “I’ve got tickets for Lost Village. It’s costing me an arm and a leg though.”

We probed a little deeper asking about who she was looking forward to seeing.

“Oh, I don’t know anyone playing! I just thought it looked like an incredible experience.”

Branding isn’t a quick fix. It takes time and effort to craft something unique and compelling. That’s why there’s never been a better time to start thinking about 2023. 


Green Man image credit: Parri Thomas https:

Lost Village image credit: Lost Village