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Communication is Key

As the virus rages on with no vaccine in sight, the drive-in format looks to be the closest we’re going to get to “normal” for a while. And it doesn’t seem to bother fans - drive-in shows across the country are selling out left and right. Why? We think it’s deeply tied to engagement. Virtual events certainly have their benefits, but keeping fans engaged in spite of the looming distractions at home (snack cabinet, anyone?) is proving much harder to do online. Drive-ins are a happy medium, giving fans the engrossing, in-person experience they crave while keeping them safe from crowd sizes that just won’t fly in a world saddled with COVID-19. We’re an incredibly creative industry when it comes to ideation and execution, and as we continue to produce these shows we’ll have to keep finding our legs, fine-tuning along the way. While doing so, we encourage you to keep communication strategies at the forefront of all of your plans. When we effectively communicate new policies, before and at our events, fans are encouraged to do their part in keeping everyone safe and happy. Idea in Action: Big Gigantic and Manic Focus Drive-In On July 11th, Big Gigantic and Manic Focus hosted a live, drive-in performance in McHenry, Illinois. We got the chance to catch up with Jacob Barinholtz of Manic Focus after the show to see how the actual day compared to the event’s planned procedures. Jacob noted that the promoters had prepared messaging which required artists to wear masks (except when onstage, which was optional), and let them know the show crew would be wearing them as well. Understanding that mask mandates might be new and intimidating to fans, Jacob felt there was an opportunity to set a good example, and wore one the whole show (even through the uncomfortable heat). He noticed right away that the security staff had been well-briefed and that they made an effort to remind fans to put their masks back on in approachable ways.“It felt less like a police force presence than we are typically used to...they weren’t trying to get anyone in trouble.” He applauded their demeanor saying, “it was more of a friendly reminder to put masks back on when guests finished eating. Overall, the staff adapted well.” We all know that creating a well-informed staff is essential to event success. We’re quickly learning it is also a major step in strengthening communication of new policies to fans.

Jacob Barinholtz of Manic Focus / Josh Skolnik Photography
(Jacob Barinholtz of Manic Focus / Josh Skolnik Photography)

On Language

Not long ago, pat-downs and bag checks were thought of as invasive and over the top. Today they’re welcomed by fans as an integral part of event safety. Making new public health policies feel non-threatening and easy to understand will undoubtedly lead to a smoother event, and better fan experience.

When it comes to communicating new policies, there are many strategies to choose from - visual communication, information platforms, nudging, interactivity, the list goes on. At the Big Gigantic and Manic Focus show, landing pages, social media, and LED screens were the cornerstones of messaging reinforcement, though Jacob mused that “having some permanent signs up around the venue would be a great reminder” as well.

The language we use can make or break a campaign, and it’s up to us to tweak messaging so it’s appropriate for our respective audiences. Trying to enforce masks with a campaign doused in dense facts and numbers might prompt information fatigue among guests. Instead, consider making the pros and cons more personal and translating scientific language to a friendlier tone, so fans know that we’re all in this together.

White Oak Music Hall
An example of clear signage communication (White Oak Music Hall).

On Merch

Merchandise is one of the most beloved parts of shows, and the Big Gigantic and Manic Focus drive-in had the traditional merch stand we all know and love. Though it mostly ran well, Jacob noticed that “people were definitely a little shaky on the [social] distancing at the merch line.” He advocated for drive-ins to focus on how to politely enforce people in line when they absentmindedly start to cluster. At the End of it All... Though they’re not perfect, drive-ins have the potential to give us back that much-needed sense of normalcy in the short-term. They allow us to get back to work, and the fans to bask in the magic of live music. Of course, socially distanced concerts aren’t ideal, but we can embrace this historic moment to flex our creative muscles, come up with innovative solutions, and contribute to the health and safety of our cherished community.

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