Making a Festival: Paul Stuart

Making a Festival: Paul Stuart

How to run a festival, with Musica Viva Director of Sales and Marketing, Paul Stuart. 

Paul Stuart
Sydney, Australia

Making a Festival: Paul Stuart

How to run a festival, with Musica Viva Director of Sales and Marketing, Paul Stuart. 

In the lead up to the Musica Viva Festival, what are your main responsibilities? 

I lead a fantastic team of marketing professionals who deliver the marketing and promotional campaign for the festival. Each person has a part to play and I’m the captain at the head of the ship and I guess my main role is to set the destination, ensure we stay on course, and avoid the icebergs!

What was the process for producing the print and online marketing campaign we've seen about the festival? How far in advance did the artwork have to be made and ready?

The marketing campaign for the festival launched last August, at the same time as our International Concert Season (ICS) and Coffee Concerts series but the development of the creative campaign started in February. We use an external design agency who develops the creative in answer to a brief which is jointly prepared by the marketing and artistic teams. As the festival forms part of our Concerts activity, it’s important that the look-and-feel aligns with the ICS and Coffee Concerts creative as we’re in the market at the same time, speaking to many of the same customers.

What are the main priorities of the festival marketing?

Selling tickets really is the main priority as so much of the festival income is drawn from ticket sales and subscriptions. All marketing activity needs to have a pay-off, but that pay-off doesn’t always need to be direct. For instance, PR and media coverage is very important in building awareness of the festival which can have an impact on ticket sales but more broadly raises awareness of Musica Viva as an organisation. And whilst ticket revenue is important, we also need to sell the right tickets to the right people, which is why we offer heavily discounted student and Under30 tickets to encourage younger people to attend, which is important in terms of audience development. Increasingly for us, and many other performing arts organisations I’d say, developing a deeper engagement with our audience is becoming more of a priority so we also invest considerable resources into creating video content to give both current and new customers insights into the featured musicians, composers and repertoire.

How important is social media in getting your messages out to a broader public, and are your priorities different on online platforms compared to traditional media? 

Social media is very important and the percentage of our marketing budget spent on paid social media is growing each year. We have quite active social media communities and the main platforms we use are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, with Vimeo as our main video channel. For the festival, we use a mix of paid and organic methods in the lead-up and then during the festival we encourage our patrons, staff and artists to engage with us and each other across our social platforms which is a great way of generating buzz and excitement around the festival.

For young performers hoping to draw attention to their upcoming concerts, what advice do you have in regards to content creation and marketing?

Digital content is a great way to promote yourself and your work and it’s so cheap to produce with the advent of smartphone cameras and desktop editing software. It’s also very easy to disseminate through social media. Just make sure the content is original, tailored to the platform and short. As far as other marketing tips for a young concert promoter? Avoid traditional media and mass marketing and focus on building online and offline communities of fellow classical music fans.

Aside from your work on the festival, what does a normal day look like for you as the Director of Sales and Marketing?

I know everyone says this but each day really is different – apart from coffee which is my constant companion. The time of year also dictates where my focus will be. At the moment the big focus is the festival but also the upcoming concert tour of Angela Hewitt, as well as preparations for the launch of our 2018 concert and education seasons, both of which will launch later this year. I have quite a large team so a chunk of my time is spent in one-on-one or small group catch-ups and as part of the senior management team at Musica Viva, I also get involved in bigger organisational matters.

The Musica Viva Festival starts on Thursday 20th April, and runs to Thursday 23rd April. Tickets and full program are available herePhoto of Elias String Quartet by Keith Saunders.