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Bamboozle With A Twist

05:31 PM Friday 3/18/11 | |

Speaking with Bamboozle founder John D’Esposito is like trying to capture lightning in a bottle, as the promoter’s sheer exuberance for the yearly festival combined with his passion for his craft sometimes appears to overwhelm even him. But all that excitement is understandable when you realize his online marketing efforts for this year’s event have succeeded beyond all expectations.

We first met D’Esposito, known as “John D.” to Bamboozle fans, last year when he talked with Pollstar about all the work it takes to make the festival bigger than the year before. This year, John D. is pushing the envelope through his “BoozleTwist” loyalty platform that enables fans to earn points by virally spreading the Bamboozle gospel throughout the Internet. Points exchanged for prizes like meeting bands and other “life experiences.”

For many Bamboozle fans, the festival taking place in New Jersey April 29-May 1 at E. Rutherford’s New Meadowlands Stadium actually started the day BoozleTwist launched, as the loyalty platform involved them from the get-go. To appreciate just how much effort John D. and his associates are putting into this year’s online marketing efforts, Pollstar spoke with the promoter earlier this month.

How did “BoozleTwist” come about?

Our biggest focus coming into 2011 was using our fans – which I credit as our biggest success – to engage and use them to our advantage. You got to keep it credible. You can’t run a shooting contest and you can’t favor anybody over anybody else. You got to give the fans something to believe in. Something to build their weekend experience around.

Somehow, we connected with a young company, CrowdTwist, and we were able to launch BoozleTwist, a fan loyalty platform.

You know how airlines have frequent flier miles? I wanted Bamboozle to have Bamboozle fan miles. I wanted to see it come out of the box during our first days of marketing without any real hard dollar expenditures in hopes the kids would gravitate to this platform and engage in it to help promote the festival virally and through word of mouth.

Bamboozle is already known for its online marketing efforts. How was the initial response for BoozleTwist?

The CrowdTwist people set a goal of a 1,000 kids from the day we launched this program until May 1st. I didn’t know what the response would be. What we were trying to do was engage the fans in a platform that would allow us to reward them for the amount of time and activity they dedicated to Bamboozle. We would put up a post and hope the kids would use Facebook and Twitter to forward, share and connect. And on our end we needed to reward them for that in the form of points. The kids can cash in the points for one of the prizes from the group of prizes we put together.

I’m talking about a life experience. An experience that you can’t get anywhere else. I think we were so ahead of the time with this program that it took two or three weeks for the kids to understand that it’s real. I mean, who offers meet-and-greets with a band for free? Bands don’t do that. Artists want to cash in. I needed the kids to do what I needed them to do. That was to promote our event.

Bamboozle is an artist development community. We sign and development from within. And we successfully did that last year with the launch of the new B-Boy Arena and artists named Wiz Khalifa and Sam Adams. Those two came out of that stage and Khalifa went on to headline the first night this year.

How do Bamboozle fans accumulate points?

This platform allows us to have the fans work, just do what they normally do online, but reward them for their time. If they listen to the BoomBox on our radio player, they’re granted x amount of points. If they share something, post or invite a friend, they’re rewarded. These prizes are lunch with the band, a meet-and-greet with the artist, including a photo and a signed CD. We want to offer an experience, not just prizes. We want to have these kids remember that day for the rest of their lives. That’s why we call it “Twist” because it’s a little different than a normal contest and a little different than a normal approach to viral activity.

Live Nation didn’t understand where I was going with it, but they supported it. That was the most important part. That and having the artists support it, to step out into this new world and bring the kids into our overall experience.

[The kids] even feel like they're part of our marketing team. That 1,000 kids goal over the year was done in the first hour and 16 minutes. That was earth shattering to this new company CrowdTwist. The demand was so big we shut Facebook down. They had to deal with Bamboozle for one day. We set a trend on Twitter. You need to be Charlie Sheen and all causing craziness to be a topic and here we are, a trend on Twitter. Facebook had literally shut Bamboozle down and we’re like, what do we do now?

The most important thing in there was not having a negative experience. We needed to stop the cheaters. They were creating fake accounts to get the points. So we had to stop everything for two days and revamp this thing because demand was so high. We doubled our ticket sales with viral marketing and they’re going to be tripled coming into phase three of marketing. And I credit probably 75 percent of that to our online fans’ activities and the other 25 percent to our lowering prices.

Bamboozle grew with the Internet. Now, when you look at time and money spent online vs. traditional advertising channels such as radio, TV, newspapers, which is bigger?

Right now, because of the success with BoozleTwist, we’ve gone back to the traditional outlets to promote our new techniques. We’re not promoting Lil’ Wayne. Of course, he’s an issue, but we’re promoting the fact that fans can get the experience of a lifetime by signing up for our online loyalty platform. When it was compared to airline miles, kids understood what we were doing. We used the traditional advertising to strengthen the new technology. And the kids didn’t trust it yet.

The trust factor for a festival is incredible. I think other festivals have that in their strategies. Bonnaroo or Coachella can sell out without any band announcements. They have trust.

Bamboozle is still a relatively young festival. MySpace and some of our outlets had dried out to a degree. So it was like how do we capitalize and educate people to our new plans? That’s where the traditional marketing comes into play. You can mention Lil’ Wayne and all the artists but it [traditional media] really drives them to our website to become part of our community. So it’s really a sales pitch of the community rather than that traditional “Bamboozle! Discounted tickets!” Something like that. We didn’t want to go that route. We need to stay focused on what makes Bamboozle the best. And that is our fans.

I go online every Tuesday. It’s called “John D. At 33” and it’s where I can chat with the fans. They tell me what they like and don’t like about BoozleTwist. I’ve learned so much from them.

For example, we’re giving away prizes of meeting Lil’ Wayne or having lunch with Motley Crue, stuff like that. Then I get kids that say, “Why don’t you give away water? I don’t want to spend six dollars on every water. I’ll give you 20,000 points if you give me water for the day.”

Would you have guessed water is what kids want at Bamboozle instead of autographs? So we’re doing that. It’s the ability to use traditional marketing to strengthen our brand communities, our brand loyalty.

Bamboozle has a younger demographic than, say, Bonnaroo or Coachella. Do you still consider the event to be a festival training ground for young fans?

Our fans grow into Bonnaroo or Coachella. Their musical tastes change and Bamboozle helps them become accustomed to festivals. It’s a commuter festival, not like a stay-over or a camping thing. So I think we prepare our fans for camping and being away from home. When I was in high school, we went on a cruise and that was really big thing to be away from home and the parents for a week. Kids now go to Bonnaroo.

  • Bamboozle's John D.

    “I’m talking about a life experience. An experience that you can’t get anywhere else.”

    (Mark Sullivan)


Would you say that each crop of festival newbies is more technologically savvy, especially in social media, than the previous year’s crop of newcomers?

That’s right on point. That’s our focus group. We’ll take 20 of them in early September, sit them in a room and talk to them.

Our biggest fear is a 15-year-old hacking our site. I know the 26-year-olds aren’t doing it. It’s the young kid that wants to be cool to his friends that is going to hack into Bamboozle site. To thwart that, I had to sit in the room and ask, “How did you do that?” I got one kid on the phone, and after I promised him immunity, he told me how and why he did it.

It was our mistake. We didn’t think these kids would want to get in there. And he did. He was excited. He was in tenth or eleventh grade and he was scared that he was going to be arrested. And we were like, “No. We need to learn from you.”

That’s the relationship we have with our fans. I don’t think it compares to the other festivals in terms of one-on-one communications. You don’t see Jonathan Mayers (Superfly Productions) from Bonnaroo or Paul Tollett (Goldenvoice) from Coachella doing chat rooms. I have to. I need them to come up to me in a show and talk to me about the band they like or what they didn’t like about my festival or what they did like but I need to make it better.

You say you have to do this, but it sounds like you really enjoy meeting the fans online or face-to-face and getting input on how to make Bamboozle better.

I have two kids. My wife says she has three kids and the youngest is 38.

Is just mentioning a festival on a Facebook page good enough to earn points?

Mentioning Bamboozle can earn points as long as it’s on the CrowdTwist platform. We’re able to use Twitter and Facebook. That’s why we were shut down on Facebook. There was so much activity going on on so many different levels. Just like Facebook, if you say “yes” to allowing access to my Rolodex or whatever, our partner can tap into that. Any access you use on Facebook, Twitter or Bamboozle.com, we’re tracking your movement. Every time you use the word “Bamboozle,” even on our Twitter feed, we’re posting that and we’re rewarding you with points.

We’re getting a lot of incredible information. We’re seeing trends, we’re able to analyze where kids are going and what they’re looking at. I can tell you right now what kids are intrigued about. And the festival hasn’t played yet.

What have you learned that surprised you?

The artist development tools. The youngest artists are getting more hits. One headliner for example, Motley Crue, they’re not a Bamboozle band. They’re not going to get the activity. They’re probably more of a curiosity. But a young unsigned band that’s playing the B-Boy Arena, Lil B, for example, is being added to our site, and my guess is he’s going to triple the action of Motley Crue. We can track who gets the most views on our site. I can rank the top 20 bands on activity, who’s Twittering the most, who has the most Facebook mentions, who is listed in profiles. It’s incredible. We have the age group and demographic that any sponsor would go nuts for.

Here’s a great example. Through Foursquare, I can reward kids for going into a store. If they Foursquare from that store, they're getting points because that location is in our database. We’re teaming up with Verizon and we believe we can drive traffic into select stores by just giving them points, an incredible prize package for going in there.

This is uncharted territory. That’s why it’s so crucial that with every move we do, we think about what it’s going to do, what affect it’s going to have and how do we benefit from it?

I believe this platform can redefine sponsorship and fan relations. Especially for a company like Live Nation who sometimes doesn’t have the most fan-friendly site. We were able to engage this platform on multiple levels.

All this is fine during the time leading up to Bamboozle. But what happens when the festival begins?

I’m going to blow kids’ minds there. They’re going to need to [use BoozleTwist] to get the secrets. We’re having bands play unannounced under secret fake names every day and the only way they’re going to find out in advance is through the platform. Then, after the festival we’re releasing a documentary. We’ve had offers from big production companies that do reality shows and we chose these two young gentlemen that have this new and upcoming company that we’re going to work with to film this documentary and hopefully put on the film festival circuit. But we’re also going to build online state-of-the-art TV.

On May 3 Bamboozle’s website dies. Maybe people go there to see photos or whatever. But now we’re going to put up videos and this BoozleTwist will enable us to keep the site running 365 because fans are going to be rewarded. We’ll partner with bands and sponsors and every week there will be a new episode of either a band show, the documentary, outtakes or something. So we’re covered at the festival. The kids will use BoozleTwist to reveal the fake artists, prizes, meet-and-greets and some of the unexpected stuff that’s going on. It’s going to be our way to communicate with fans and they’ll be able to get rewards. At some point we’ll have to shut it off because they have to cash in their points, and then we’ll re-start it.

Next year we’re going to have teams. Kids can sign up as teams and the bands will be part of the program.

How do fans cash in their points?

We’ll have a tent, called the “Redemption Center,” where kids can cash in their points for things like the meet-and-greets taking place in the tent. It’s all going to be broken down hourly. They’re going to get a ticket and like at Disney World where if the line for a ride is too long they give you a ticket that says come back at 5:15.

As the kids check in at the tent, we’re going to give them a time when their prize redemption is available.

You mentioned Facebook and Twitter as well as the project with Foursquare coming up, what other social networking sites are you using?

We’re using MySpace too and the Bamboozle site. For example, we can’t get on YouTube and track their activity. But if it’s a YouTube video embedded on the Bamboozle site, we can track how long they spent watching it. So, for our documentary, kids are going to be rewarded as to how much of that movie they watch. We’re also going to have them write reviews that we’re going to post and they’ll be rewarded for it. Obviously, sharing a movie, cutting segments and different little film projects we’re going to build around it are activities that earn rewards.

Of all the social networking platforms you’re using for Bamboozle, is there one that has a clear advantage over the others?


Is it because of the limitation on the length of the messages enabling you to focus on one particular aspect? Or is it the immediacy, the ability to reach thousands of recipients with a single click?

With Facebook, you can go to a particular site and see so many different things. With Twitter it’s just that one line. Twitter’s not better than Facebook but your question was also about immediacy. Like with the secret performances. We can Twitter five minutes before the band goes onstage and reach 100 kids. Within 5 minutes we can expect 2,000 to 3,000. If I put it on Facebook it would take too long for fans to get on Facebook and sign in. With Twitter it’s immediate.

Has working with CrowdTwist in building the loyalty platform you call BoozleTwist influenced what you’re going to do next year?

It has totally changed my philosophy.

Are you talking about Bamboozle specifically or your overall philosophy as a promoter?

My goal is to take what I’m doing and revolutionize the relationship between the promoter and the fans. That’s my goal. And to increase the ability for us to service sponsors with dedicated means. If a sponsor has a struggling store and they need traffic in that store, then call your boy John D. and I’ll fix that right away for you.

For example, if BoozleTwist users say they’re at Joe’s Market via Foursquare –

And if you go to Joe’s Market, I’m going to give you a meet-and-greet with A Day To Remember. If you go to the Verizon Wireless store between 4 and 5 p.m. and Foursquare from the location, you’ll get a free Taking Back Sunday CD. And for the first couple, we’re going to secretly bring in bands to throw it up a notch.

We’re cooking a sauce and it’s going really good. Then it’s time to add the seasoning, time to spice it up and then knock it home.

What would you tell other major festivals just now beginning to invest in social media activities?

Get in the back seat and watch because it’s going to be incredible. I’m being dead honest. I finally feel that this program shows our passion and our ability to communicate with our community. They may have better lineups but we have a better online strategy than anyone. European festivals should really take a look at what we’re doing. They have much bigger crowds. Can you imagine what would happen if they did something like we’re doing? Nobody has the airline rewards program.

If we didn’t advertise at all, just because of BoozleTwist we would have stayed at the same number as last year. But because we’re so completely on top of our game I believe that’s transcending itself. You have moms and dads signing onto BoozleTwist because they’re trying to win the prizes for their kids. Especially with Motley Crue and that was part of our plan. When Motley Crue gets on that stage, the parents and the kids will be there. We needed that element.

BoozleTwist is enabling families to work together. That experience of meeting Bruno Mars or meeting that artist is something they can’t buy. There is the ability to sell on CrowdTwist for points, but we’re not going to do that. I want people to earn that experience.

Bamboozle’s 2010 ever-growing lineup includes Lil’ Wayne, Mötley Crüe, A Day To Remember, Bruno Mars, Taking Back Sunday, The Gaslight Anthem, Wiz Khalifa, LMFAO, Alkaline Trio, Thrice, A Day To Remember, 30 Seconds To Mars, Plain White T’s, Travie McCoy, Circa Survive, Waka Flocka Flame, Streetlight Manifesto, RX Bandits and many more. For more information, visit TheBamboozle.com and the festival's homes on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.


Artists Mentioned in this article