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“Some people think the festival bubble has burst,” Donabedian said. “That may be true for the mega-festival, but you can do more boutique events, you just have to find a way to differentiate yourself from the others and create a great experience. What’s really driving the popularity of festivals, is the fact millennials don’t buy stuff. They want experiences.
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“Companies are realizing brand activation and experiential marketing are so much more important to connect with this audience,” he continued. “The very best brand activation or experiential marketing you can do is live events. We aren’t coming to the tail end of festivals, we’re at the beginning.”
Donabedian believes the future is niche.
“You’ll see more niche events because the events are the advertising or online connection,” he said. “Those two things together will really feed one another. That’s because the events provide great content for social media and social is a way to reach people and let them come together in a live setting. It’s a perfect ecosystem.”
Bellwether only has two stages with staggered performers so festivalgoers won’t have to choose between two bands playing at the same time. For Donabedian, this is different from the multi-stage Bunbury Festival and the multi-venue Midpoint Music Festival.
“Everything else I’ve done, the user has to choose what bands they see,” he said. “Sometimes you see all the bands and the price and you think, ‘This is awesome.’ But how many of those bands do you really get to see? It’s like when you get cable and everything is bundled and you think, ‘I don’t even watch most of these channels. Why am I paying so much?’ Our idea is to curate this in a manner where if you want to see it all, you can.
“Unlike a lot of festivals, the stages face one another and they’re about 1,000 feet apart,” Donabedian added. “When one band finishes, there’s 15 minutes until the next band. You get to see all the bands and you won’t feel rushed or like you’re running around. Some other big festivals only have a couple of stages so this approach may be sustainable in the long run.”
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HOW TO GO
What: Bellwether Music Festival with MGMT, the Flaming Lips, Echo & the Bunny Men, Local Natives, the Psychedelic Furs, Erika Wennerstrom, Dawg Yawp and others
Where: Renaissance Park, 10542 E. State Route 73, Waynesville
When: Friday and Saturday, Aug. 10 and 11
Cost: $55 per day general admission, $95 for two-day general admission pass. VIP, camping, glamping and RV packages are available. The festival is rain or shine.
More info: www.bellwetherfest.com