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How the Coachella app uses your data in a ‘not creepy’ way

Oscar Raymundo | March 18, 2016
Festival organizers, artists, and app developers all rely on collecting your data to try to figure out the future of live music.

Official festival apps have become indispensable survival guides to any big music festival. You can check out the map to find the nearest place to buy beer, and get notifications about last-minute lineup changes. Similarly, music festival organizers and promoters also rely on these apps—for all the user data they collect.

“We can literally, in real time, take a look at how people who are utilizing the app are migrating around the facility,” said Creighton Burke, vp of digital strategy at AEG Live, during a panel at South By Southwest on how data is impacting music festivals. AEG Live puts on 25 music festivals a year, including Coachella and the New Orleans Jazz Fest. 

This April, Coachella will return after a record-breaking 2015 that had almost 200,000 attendees jammed-packed to see their favorite bands over two weekends. And once again, AEG Live is working with app developer Aloompa to create an iOS app and Android app for Coachella. Aloompa’s co-founder Drew Burchfield, who also participated in the panel, said that if Coachella-goers have opened the app and their Bluetooth is turned on, his company’s beacon technology can track their location down to a foot.

Although this tracking feature sounds alarming, Burke pointed out that Coachella tries to leverage this data in a way that’s “not creepy.” Instead, festival organizers uses this location data as a “gut check” and to cut through the hype. They can compare which artists you favorited, starred, or scheduled using the app and which artists you actually checked out once you get to the festival. The data is also used by promoters to inform their decisions about booking artists that better resonate with a specific audience. 

For example, Burke was able to tap into the Aloompa data to find out that when electronic duo Flosstradamus performed at Coachella right after rapper Tyler the Creator, 40 percent of the audience stayed to watch both acts. So when he was tasked with finding an opening act for Flosstradamus, he had the data to support booking Tyler the Creator again.

“That’s a compelling statistic,” Burke said, “but moreover, the agent and the manager were like, ‘Holy crap, nobody’s ever told us about stuff like that.’ And that’s just the top layer, so that’s where I go back to the creepy thing.”

Who owns the fans?

Music festivals are a big business. They draw over 14 million people every year, and these fans spend upwards of $1.34 billion on live music, according to one recent study commissioned by AEG Live.

So it makes sense why managers and executives would want to know as much as they can about the fans that make up this billion-dollar industry. But according to one SXSW panelist, music festivals can’t really license their data to third-parties without the appropriate permission from users.


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