Talking Digital Q&A #7: John Curtin, Marketing Director Totem Onelove Group


Last year the Stereosonic juggernaut was unstoppable. Smack bang in the middle of a difficult time for festivals, Stereosonic launched its 2011 campaign and instantly had traction unlike many of us had ever seen. An estimated 70,000 people attended the Sydney show and across Australia approximately 200,000 attended the event as it covered the country. The hype was immense and in many ways reset the expectations of what a large scale, dance music oriented event could become.

Leading the marketing of Stereosonic (and sister event Creamfields) is John Curtin. For as long as I’ve known John (over 10 years) he has been involved in connecting people and music. He is widely respected for his work and after numerous dinner chats about marketing and events I wanted to showcase his thoughts for Talking Digital.

Talking Digital: How important for you are digital channels and tools, and which ones and why?

John Curtin: For our music festivals a lot of it is built on hype and literally friends encouraging friends to come to an event. My philosophy is that if a friend tells you about a great movie or event or festival you will be more inclined to go to the said event, advertising in general is a trigger for this but it’s not as trusted as a friends recommendation. The advantage of our digital channels is not only we can showcase our events but also inform our potential patrons on artists, news, sponsors etc. We don’t get a great level of media coverage (like a lot of events) so we work with key media partners, create our own content, manage a heavy social media strategy with Facebook, YouTube, twitter etc and also encourage all our content to be shared across our patrons social networks. For example some of our artist videos have had over 1,000,000 views or our lineup in 2010 was viewed on inthemix.com.au over 223,000 times and in 2010 it was shared on Facebook over 11,000 times.

We are now building Facebook applications, competitions and promotions on a weekly basis as not only does it make noise across the network but complements our advertising on the site in general. We also run a lot of market research, customer service and trend searching on Facebook and to a degree twitter.

Our ATL/BTL advertising is heavy during campaign and we push everything back to our website and it has grown to over 1.5 million visits during campaign (July-Dec 2011) from 592,000 visitors in 2010. We are not only seeing a large increase in visits but our overall numbers to events have grown as well.

YouTube is an incredible medium for us, with HD viewing we can produce cutting edge videos for our artists and events and represent our music, vibe, artists etc. We create the content and it is broadcasted worldwide.

Most of our artists have management that are very digital savvy and we can work with them from our pre-launch and promote music, mixes and news on them. Twitter for us is not a major concern but when you look at some of the artists with 5 million followers it’s a great marketing tool

Working with inthemix.com.au has been great and we see that not only are their users interested in our events but they have a great database of users that they email out to weekly and we like to share content with media and then release it on our website, inthemix/Nova are trusted news sources in the youth community so to run an exclusive with them and then link back to our sites is much better for us.

We also don’t over complicate our website, it has all the relevant info, easy syndication and sharing via our EDM’s and social media and viewable on mobile/tablets.

We had 58,500 of our iPhone application was very successful (even in comparison to sporting/non dance events), it was the #1 app for iTunes music and #8 most downloaded overall which was a great result but again it continued our patrons sharing content and organizing their day by the set time planner etc. We saw a huge growth overall in mobile, iPhone is still dominating but android is picking up some speed and we had an android app for Stereosonic.

TD: You also run the Top Melbourne Restaurants brand which has a heap of loyal followers, how did this come about and what are your plans for Top Melbourne?

JC: It has been a learning experience for me and has taught me a lot about working with developers and working with PR agencies etc. It has grown to 68,000+ fans and a lot of interaction, it’s a great service for Melbourne in the sense that I learn a lot about places to go in Melbourne, in the next 3 months we will launch our site then an iPhone application based heavily on user generated content and contributors writing articles and interesting people in hospitality adding content. We will then have advertising for restaurants/hospitality and brands that work in this space and launch weekly/monthly events. I have started building the other cities now and plan to have them launched soon as well.

It’s a really interesting way to launch a product via Facebook we have taken a long time but I really want to get it right, have been able to work with genuine people in the Melbourne hospitality industry, created an audience who are keen to push our website etc when launching and spoken to hospitality businesses who have seen patronage from our press releases/promotions etc. I started Top Melbourne as I love going out for dinner and it was a central spot to talk about Melbourne dining and now it is a pet project that is growing and have some great hospitality companies wanting to work with us.

TD: As a consumer, what media and technology innovations are impressing you?

JC: I no longer take my laptop home as I use my iPhone/iPad at home and primarily when travelling. I love a lot of iphone apps especially Pulse which is an incredible news aggregator. http://ssonic.co/GV3AFj

I love Google Analytics, I am not an expert but we have built monthly, weekly etc reports and it is so interesting to see our growth, referrals, mobile usage etc.

I have been trialing Spotify and think that its going to change the entire music landscape, so amazing to use, share content and the music database is fantastic. Being able to stream songs to your TV/digital radio etc will be great.

Digital Radio will hopefully open the opportunity to have more dance music content on our airwaves as currently commercial music/Chris Brown is been played but not much more, it is so hard to get a song to radio as not many songs are added.

I love Google Docs so I can work on one document with a number of users worldwide or local and collaborate.

Google Cal is great to manage multiple calendars in personal and work time. I have just started using tungle.me which is great for organzing time and meetings

I love my Apple TV at home, been able to watch movies that are still at the cinema is awesome via aUSaccount.

I think that Australians kind of luckout with a lot of technology, for example how silly is it that we spend billions of dollars on MYKI (public transport card) and we can upgrade our cards at 7-11’s but we can’t actually purchase products in store using the cards, whereas in Hong Kong the Octopus card you can pay for parking and products in-store etc, iTunes is way too expensive and shows/movies should be available faster, why punish those who want to download legally?

TD: When marketing a festival as large as Stereosonic or Creamfields, how do you go about pulling together a strategy to create demand for the event?

JC: Months and months of planning, coming up with interesting concepts and banking on artists that we think are headliners and hope some acts break through (e.g Avicii, Afrojack, LMFAO) that have. Although I am not primarily involved in any of the touring aspects of artists it weighs heavily on the overall marketing. We have been working on Stereosonic 2012 since before Stereosonic 2011 finished and really getting our marketing right.

The competition is pretty fierce, not only other festivals, but with the Aussie dollar at parity, people are travelling overseas and even going to other festivals internationally. For example Coachella, Tomorrowland, Exit Festival and Ibiza are definitely been pushed on to our patrons and it is a believable option for our consumers where 5 years ago it was too expensive.

We also like to hype our event via online, social media and push everything back to our website. For such a long campaign (July-November) we have periods that we push heavily and then in tune with university exams or spring racing we will drop off.

We love working with artists and push their careers as well so I guess as a strategy we plan but a lot happens along the way, such as shows selling out early or sideshows or artists getting bigger and bigger during campaign.

TD: Which brands marketing efforts inspire you and why?

JC: I love Apple’s marketing, I know its captain obvious but I do. I thought Vivid and Sydney Festival marketing was great, I was on a panel at Ad:Tech last year and Jill from Sydney Festival was a really interesting panel member and campaign. Jay-Z does a lot of great stuff and some of the smaller startups on facebook etc. I love the Absolut marketing books and I love travelling to Hong Kong and looking at the skincare activations in department stores. If you have someone that is passionate about a brand and clearly knows the results they want it generally works. Sometimes people are so hell bent on sales that they don’t understand that marketing gives your brand identity. That’s why I love looking at some of the installations or billboard campaigns inNew York, it’s about identity and been present in the market place.

TDLastly, can you give us any hints on what Stereosonic has in store for us in 2012?

JC: I am really excited as always about Stereo, 4 shows sold out last year and although Brisbane didn’t sell out it was a huge increase in numbers, as a group we are working harder and working with better people to make it bigger. As an operation it is amazing to work for, Private Planes for artists, been flown all over Australia and seeing 160,000 + over 2 weekends having an amazing time. Just expect a big tour, heaps of amazing artists, all your friends and a great mix of electronic acts.

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