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Customer Success Story - Weekender and Out-There

How CM.com helped Jersey-based music festivals overcome the challenges of COVID-19.


Weekender and Out-There

Jersey-based music events Weekender Jersey and Out-There have endured a tricky time throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Festival Director Tim Bartlett tells us about the challenges of live music, COVID and how CM.com is helping him overcome them.

Live HQ customer story

No ordinary year

The Weekender festival is a 10,000 attendee event that’s been running in various guises without a break for 15 years, but the COVID-19 pandemic made a mass gathering impossible in 2020. Nonetheless, hopes were high that it would be able to return in 2021. Hopes that were, sadly, dashed at the last minute. 

“It was heartbreaking enough to cancel Weekender for 2020, but then having to cancel 2021’s event as well was really crushing for us. One bright spot was being able to put on Out-There 2021. That’s a smaller event – around 4,000 people – but to get back to putting on live music is an amazing feeling. Back in early 2020, we didn’t know when that would happen again.”

Cancelling events threw up a host of new challenges, most of them communication-related. Tim already had a marketing platform in place, but was growing increasingly frustrated at its limitations. 

“We’d been with our previous vendor for about eight years, but we didn’t like the way it was going. They’d scrapped advance payouts, amongst other things, and it didn’t feel like they were serious about music anymore. We look around every year as part of our due diligence process to make sure we have the best marketing platform we can get hold of and CM.com had everything we needed, so it was a pretty easy decision to move across.”

“Advance payouts are key to live music events and then you’ve got great features like Mailchimp integration, and the fact that CM.com really understands SMS campaigns. Basically, everything we needed was right there, so it was a no-brainer to start using the CM.com solution.” 

“It's not an ordinary year… normally we would have sold out an event in September and done the planning for the next year, but instead we’re rolling a lineup and a load of tickets over for another event, so we're in a very unusual situation.”

– Tim Bartlett, Festival Director

Tim was already sold on CM.com’s ambitions for the platform, but it’s some of the additional features he didn’t have with his previous vendor that have really piqued his interest. 

“We’ve not even scratched the surface yet, really, we’ve only just started to look at SMS, so we’ve not fully utilised everything we can do yet – it’s been a bit of an odd year! Then there’s the Customer Data Platform – that was a big deal for us. It’s absolutely vast in terms of what it can do. The flexibility is a game-changer for us. To have everything built into the platform rather than having to outsource elements of it is huge.”

Live HQ customer story

Humble beginnings

The events space looked very different 15 years ago when Weekender (then known as Jersey Live) first arrived on the scene. Back then the mobile internet was in its infancy and smartphones were the exception, not the rule. 

“Back when we started, the Weekender event was called Jersey Live and e-tickets didn’t even exist. We sold physical tickets, which is a weird concept when you consider where we are now.

“We want to make technology ‘no big deal’”

– Tim Bartlett, Festival Director

“We had queues around the block because that was the only way you could get a ticket and 10,000 tickets would sell out in about four hours. Ultimately our goal has always been to use technology in a way that simplifies things for people. That was the point of moving to e-tickets in the first place; you didn’t actually have to physically queue for a ticket.”

Tim’s ambition for the business is to ensure that technology isn’t just deployed for its own sake. Too often there’s a race to react to the existence of technology without genuine thought to its benefit for the end user. It’s something Tim’s passionate about. 

“We wanted to simplify the purchase process, but equally we didn’t want to do it if it didn’t offer a genuine benefit to our festival goers. If we can make things simpler and more efficient, it leads to a better experience for our customers.”

Live HQ customer story

What’s next?

Next year, with COVID hopefully receding into our rear view mirrors, there’s plenty of potential and Tim’s excited about the opportunities with the CM.com platform.

“We really want to get into SMS – that’s not really been possible this year with the uncertainty around dates and just trying to get the events to go ahead, but next year we’re probably going to use SMS more than email. The web forms are also a brilliant feature that’s helped us roll over a bunch of tickets from this year to next. 

“We’ve had to rollover Weekender 2021 to 2022, so we created a submission form and split the data out to segment that audience. Being able to segment the audience and know who wants to roll their tickets over to next year has been a huge benefit. Now we know what inventory we have left to sell without using an Excel spreadsheet. 

Tim’s also looking at some other innovations to assist in his marketing efforts for next year’s events.

“The WhatsApp integration will be really helpful and we’ll be looking at Telegram for next year, so it’s good to know that CM.com has an integration for that as well.”

“Back when we started you had people queuing round the block for four hours to buy tickets, now you can get them on your phone in the bath.”

– Tim Bartlett, Festival Director

One innovation that’s really worked is the sale of bar tokens, whereby customers can buy tokens ahead of the event and pick them up when they arrive at the venue, making the process of paying for drinks on-site easier and reducing the need to handle cash. The ambition now is to digitise more purchase processes on-site. 

“Over here in Jersey, it’s taking a while to go digital but it’s about educating people. Tokens were important for us; we wanted to reduce the requirement for cash on-site and we’re seeing more and more uptake. We’re also seeing people continuing to buy tokens via their phones on-site, so that works and it’s another route to increase revenue by making it easy for people to buy. 

Next year will be a real proving ground for the new platform, but Tim’s excitement is matched by our own. 

“Being able to help streamline Out-There and Weekender and make them truly digital experiences has been hugely rewarding so far. What’s going to be even better is to spend the next few years using our technology to make things simpler, more effective, and more enjoyable for festival goers. We’re really looking forward to it…”

Josh Pow, Lead Account Manager at CM.com

Live HQ customer story

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