Hardwell vs Beyoncé: Two strategies for a highly anticipated festival performance.

How artists generate and distribute content around Ultra Music Festival and Coachella

Festivals in the US are crazy. And no, I’m not referring to the fluorescent festival outfits, or the crazy rule that you’re not allowed to drink outside certain bar areas on the festival grounds.

For artists worldwide, a show at Ultra Music Festival in Miami or Coachella in California is one the most important shows in a year, or maybe even in their career. Therefore, it’s really interesting to see how artists generate and distribute content around their show at Ultra or Coachella. A case study of superstars Hardwell (Ultra 2018) and Beyoncé (Coachella 2018).

What dj’s get right in general, is that they know which show is important for their brand and which show is important for their fans. Laidback Luke and Afrojack talked about that in a vlog about pre-recorded sets. If they play at Ultra, they play a set that builds their brand. A set at Ultra is not only for the crowd in front of you: a dj also plays for the millions of live-stream viewers at home. It’s even larger than the moment itself: A set at Ultra is being streamed millions and millions times after Ultra on Youtube for an even larger audience.

For an EDM dj, the marketing value of a show at Ultra is that high that they leave nothing to chance. It’s that important, that they even talk openly about how and why they pre-record some mixes and edits in their sets.

Knowing this, I totally understand why Martin Garrix was pissed off about a technical failure during his set last year.

So, let’s talk about one of the EDM superstars at Ultra 2018: Hardwell. How did he generate and distribute content around his Ultra set?

  • For starters, Hardwell’s set at Ultra was almost immediately posted online on his own channel. Fans were able to watch the integral recording a few hours after Hardwell left the stage.
  • Hardwell sent out a Facebook Messenger broadcast (push message) to his messenger subscribers. I don’t know the current numbers, but last year the bot has 500k+ subscribers.
  • The video contains a sponsored message for a merch item in the Revealed store. Fans can buy the same t-shirt that Hardwell wears at his set at Ultra. An extra revenue stream!
  • The setlist was posted at 1001tracklists, including a lot of ‘ID’s’ (EDM slang for unreleased tracks). This gave fans a lot to talk about.
  • Last but not least: The video has almost two million views. That’s a lot of interaction with a brand. And, all viewers can be saved in a remarketing list, which gives Revealed the opportunity to show an ad of the Ultra t-shirt on top of other video’s that a Hardwell fan is viewing.

So, from a marketing and branding point of view, the EDM superstar in this case study does a brilliant job. Let’s take a look at the greatest superstar there is, who conquered the largest festival in the world last weekend: Beyoncé.

Beyoncé did an amazing job on Coachella 2018. She opened the show with husband Jay Z to perform Crazy in Love, brought out her sister Solange for a dance-off and reunited Destiny’s Child on the largest podium in the world.

News outlets describe the two hour performance as ‘epic’, ‘triumphant’ and ‘best of all-time’. Some media even dubbed the festival to ‘Beychella’. (Google News).

I would love to see this show on Youtube! But I can’t..

At the time of writing, it is almost two days after Beychella. But unlike Hardwell, neither Beyoncé or Coachella has posted the full set and I’m wondering if they will post it ever.

I can give a few explanations for the lack of sharing:

1 — Coachella has two weekends, so there’s a second Beychella this Saturday April 21st. Maybe it’s important for Coachella to boost live stream viewers.

2 — Strangely enough: Posting a full video is off-brand for Beyoncé. Her brand is NOT about live music. It’s about female empowerment. Her show at Coachella is just an expression of her brand.

However, these arguments are kinda lame. Beyoncé knows what an effect a good video can have. Remember Run the World?

The epic Run the World live performance at an award show in 2011 is seven years old now, but I still know how impressed I was when I watched it for the first time.

Now, for Beychella, I and millions of other fans have to do it with smartphone camera recordings from the audience. Which is a total disappointment.

This video, for example, has 1.9 million views at the time of writing:

This video has 1.4 million views:

Remember, at the time of writing it is less than 48 hours after Beychella. Almost two million views for badly recorded videos are A LOT of disappointed fans.

Beyoncé did posted a few photos from on her website, showing scenes from the shows, backstage shots and drawings of what seems to be the designs of her outfit by famous fashion designer Bailmain Paris. The photos are all tagged ‘Beychella 2018’ and they’re all great shots and, most important, totally on-brand. Every photo and drawing show female empowerment.

In my vision of marketing, not posting an integral recording of the show is a huge mistake. With all the great responses afterwards, Beychella could break all streaming records. If fans could watch the video whenever they want, Beychella has the potential to become the most legendary performance ever, by any artist. Now, it’s just a great performance on a Saturday in April.

I’m a digital strategist for artists and creators, based in the Netherlands. I write in Dutch & English about music, marketing and branding.