5 Events That Have Seen Massive Growth and What We Can Learn From Them

Some events are are meant to stay, they go from strength to strength, develop a cult-like following and will go down in the history books.

Here we explore how five iconic music festivals, conferences and exhibitions – kings of events – have managed to achieve massive growth, live long and prosper in a very competitive industry. Most importantly we consider what sets them apart and what all event planners can learn from their stories.

5 Events That Have Seen Massive Growth and What We Can Learn From Them

Glastonbury

glastonbury

The Event

Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts takes place in Somerset, England. In addition to music, dance, circus, and theatre are important features of the festival.

How Did It Start?

Glastonbury was launched in 1971 by Michael Eavis, a farmer from the Somerset valley, who was inspired by the 1970 Bath festival of blues and progressive music. It takes place on the grounds of the Worthy Farm in the 800 inhabitant’s village of Pilton, which has belonged to Michael Eavis’ family for many generations.

Glastonbury distinguishes itself from more commercial music festivals by the social change perspective it has represented since its early days. Several political parties (mainly the Labour, Liberal Democrats and Green Parties) have been involved with the event. The festival first embraced a peace movement, and later focused on environmental campaigning more widely. Moreover, it has held long-term relationships with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the 1980s, and currently with Greenpeace, Oxfam and WaterAid.

In terms of sponsorship, Glastonbury Festivals Ltd is very selective. It will not allow any compromise to its values, such as consumerism-orientated brands. Small businesses and alternative science organizations are encouraged to take part in the event. However, in addition to a financial contribution, they are required to provide added-value to the festival.

What Has It Achieved?

Glastonbury is the only festival of this size to be organized by a farming family that were probably initially overwhelmed by the turnout. The Eavis family always insisted on keeping their moral values at the core of the festival, but that didn’t stop them from following trends and innovations. In 2007, they were awarded the Innovation Award at the UK Festival Awards for Glastonbury’s ticketing system, and today at Glastonbury you can find free WiFi, energy-producing toilets (“PeePower”), and virtual reality headsets.

Event Planner Takeaways

Although Glastonbury Festival welcomed 135,000 people in 2016, its values remain close to those of the first festival in 1970, when the public was offered free milk. Glastonbury reminds us of the importance of sponsors aligning with the event vision. Your principles should never be compromised in pursuit of monetary revenue. More than just another music festival, Glastonbury is probably the inspiration behind the immense current music festival landscape, and will always be a reference point in the industry. Who else stops a legendary festival for a year, because ”it’s been tough on the cows”?

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

TED

Edward_Snowden's_Surprise_Appearance_at_TED

 

The Event

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) are conferences organized by the Sapling Foundation, a nonprofit organization. The classic structure is organized over 4 days with more than 70 speakers limited to 18 minute presentations.

How Did It Start?

TED was first introduced in 1984 as technology, entertainment and design converged. The first conference featured a demonstration of the newborn Apple Macintosh and Sony compact disk. The scope of themes discussed was enlarged in the 1990s, spanning sciences, politics, and business.

What Has It Achieved?

Today, physically attending a TED conference is an item on a lot of people’s bucket list, which can seem surprising since a large selection of TED content is published online and freely available on TED.com, which was launched in 2007. TED’s objective is to foster positive changes in the world, and counts on the influence of the smartest and richest to help with this. The smartest people are often invited to attend, and the richest are welcomed to purchase an 8k entry ticket. That controversial exclusivity gives a high value to TED conferences and reflects the importance of the high calibre network surrounding TED. The income is dedicated to the considerable logistics involved by TED.com and also fuels all the other TED programs such as the TEDPrize, TED FellowsProgram, TEDed and TEDx events.

Event Planner Takeaways

Increasing attendance numbers should not always be a determining success factor for events. In this case, TED is limited to around 1,500 attendees, but the quality of these attendees is what makes the value of the event. Attendees are at the core of the event as they are considered as the means to reinforce the message sent by TED and literally these influencers have the power to change world issues.

Coachella

coachella

The Event

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is an award-winning festival that has been taking place annually since 1999 at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California. Nowadays it is held in April, when the heat is still bearable for festival-goers. The festival features a plethora of music genres, such as hip hop, indie, rock, and electronic dance, as well as various art installations. It is organized by Goldenvoice, a regional division of AEG Live, which is the world’s second largest entertainment promoter after Live Nation.

How Did It Start?

Coachella started as the ultimate solution to save Goldenvoice in 1999 when it was struggling to book concerts, and faced the competition of larger production companies. The aim was to recreate European music festivals by offering several simultaneous stages, instead of one unique stage.

What Has It Achieved?

Coachella split from the patterns of more classic festivals by innovating with a new model. By taking place a few months after the Woodstock ‘99 revival, which was marked with many cases of violence and rape, Coachella invested in the development of a positive image, by offering high-comfort to its attendees (water, ample toilet spaces, tents…).

Since then, many more positive developments have been implemented. In 2012, to face the high-demand, Goldenvoice took a big risk by organizing the festival over two consecutive weekends, with identical lineups. Despite the doubts, they sold out in less than 3 hours.

Coachella developed to become a top entertainment destination, right in time for spring break, and attendees now go there more for the event experience than for the lineup. Coachella has become a career-goal for musicians and artists. Today the festival is invaded by celebrities. Top brands want to associate their image with the festival.

Event Planner Takeaways

When planning events sometimes you need to take risks and do things a little differently. Just because you organize a certain type of event you don’t have to conform to classic expectations and traditions. Times are definitely changing and attendees’ needs are changing too. If you believe in something break free from the negativity and go for it. Your event might just make history if your innovative ideas appeal to the masses.

CES

1982_Consumer_Electronics_Show_Chicago_(4507239103)

The Event

The Consumer Technology Association organizes the annual CES (Consumer Electronics Show), taking place in January at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and featuring presentations and demonstrations of innovative products and technologies in the consumer electronics industry.

How Did It Start?

The first CES was held in NYC in 1967 and derived from the Chicago Music Show, which at that time was the main event to exhibit consumer technologies and electronics. Motorola, Philips and LG were among the exhibitors, and 17,500 attendees turned up. Over the years the organizers tried to tour the expo to cities outside of Vegas but had limited success and cancelled events as a result. From 1998 the exhibition found its permanent home in Vegas, running once a year. Apple hasn’t attended the show for years. The show takes 18 days for set up and break down.

What Has It Achieved?

Increasingly companies are organizing their own events to launch products, but CES managed to keep on being a must-attend for the industry as it grew to become the largest gathering place in the world for the industry of consumer electronics. Attendees are not coming only to find out about the key players’ innovations, but mostly to engage in passionate conversations with visionary entrepreneurs and get a feel of what the industry is cooking for the near-future. Startups now represent a huge share of the exhibiting companies and attending CES has become the best means to find partners and investors, and close contracts.

Event Planner Takeaways

Your event is not dead if you experience some difficulties along the way or if key players are bailing out. Innovation is at the forefront of all industries today and attendees will keep coming to catch new fish if you give them a space. Sometimes the best ideas emerge from the most simple organizations and your event can create a favorable environment for geniuses to meet. Sometimes familiarity and a permanent base is what your event needs to expand and grow roots.

SXSW

DSC1944

The Event

South by SouthWest is an annual event featuring festivals and conferences on film, interactive media, and music taking place in March in Austin, Texas.

How Did It Start?  

It was founded in 1987 by members of the Austin Chronicle, an alternative newspaper, with the aim to showcase local music and bring an international audience to Austin, building up on the success of the already infamous Austin University. Word quickly spread and international audiences popped up, as well as a high demand from international bands wanting to benefit from the rising exposure. The festival has since then branched out to the film and interactive media industries, and the tech side has become one of the main activities of the festival.

What Has It Achieved?

SXSW managed to completely shift its initial identity by picking up the need for knowledge exchange and still pursuing its objective to help creative people reach their goals. Now a reference in itself, the SXSW name is often associated with “unofficial” events happening around Austin during the festival.

Event Planner Takeaways

You can adjust to changing times and evolving needs by shifting the content and support of your events, as long as you continue to focus on the core message. Recognize that people come to experience and feel the legacy of your event and that fringe events and other ideas may grow up around your event.

In Conclusion

Sometimes, changing times will force you to make drastic changes to your event, and take a risk, but that isn’t necessarily negative. Attendees’ needs evolve, whether it is in terms of technology or comfort and your event should evolve according to the times.

These five almost legendary events have managed to successfully shift their strategy in response to emerging trends. Although the content and event structure might be completely different today to when they first started out, these events remain close to their original values and objectives, which constitute their soul.

About The Author
EventMB Team
This post is brought to you by the EventMB editorial team.   
Comment Policy Comments
Julius Solaris
Editor, Julius Solaris

Plan awesome events & boost your career

How often should I update you?

Join over 60,000 subscribers that use EventMB to stay on top of How to's, Trends & Event Technology.