In this episode we chat with Berenice Guzman, event organizer and marketer for Austin City Limits Radio’s summer concert series Blues on the Green. This family friendly event includes four concerts with different homegrown musical performances, held over the summer. Berenice shares what goes into organizing a large-scale free concert series such as this.
During the podcast, Berenice talks about all things planning, including infrastructure, event organization and production, vendor maps and sponsorship packages. Berenice shares what it takes to keep costs down to maintain this type of event, ensuring it remains free for attendees. She also highlights the key planning and cost differences when operating a free versus paid event.
Listen now or read the show notes below to learn more about organizing this type of event.
Berenice is a Marketing Coordinator for Emmis Austin Radio. She has experience with sales, promotions, and events. Berenice works closely with event coordination and marketing for Austin City Limits Radio’s Summer Concert Series, Blues on the Green, with a focus on promotion, event planning and fulfilling sponsorship agreements.
Primary Costs of Producing a Summer Concert Series
“You want to ask yourself, what kind of event, and what scale you want to have it at. Those are big, big questions.”Berenice Guzman
The event production company hired for Blues on the Green is their biggest expense. They work with Austin company Event Production Services who supply materials such as the stage, screens, tents, and signage for the event, as well as stage management expertise.
A concert can also come with significant artist costs. However, Blues on the Green works with local artists supportive of this beloved free community event, enabling organizers to keep artists costs reasonably priced.
Infrastructure can make or break an outdoor event. Equipment such as stages, speakers and screens are big expenses. Setting up a relay so that people at the back of the park can still get quality sound is another expensive component, but hugely important to the attendee experience. Other infrastructure costs include electrical setup, restrooms, structures, tents, signage, security and other staffing.
For this event ACL Radio staffing includes about 10 people, while the event production team they work with is made up of 40 to 50 people. When you add hospitality and security staff on top of this, you can see staffing becomes a significant expense.
Another area to consider is if your event requires police involvement, to manage traffic or protect key areas (backstage, artists, attendees). Blues on the Green has a police presence at the concerts and also hires their own security company. There are also city costs to consider such as permits and parking.
Keeping it Free is Key!
When it comes to free versus paid events, there are some key differences in terms of event planning costs. For starters, if Blues on the Green was a paid event, it would have to be gated in. Gating an event like this would then include significant fencing costs, extra road closures and extra security.
While the event does provide alcohol as part of its hospitality package, this is a small area that is gated in near the side of the stage. One of the main reasons Blues on the Green doesn’t sell alcohol at the event is due to the extra costs involved. Once you sell alcohol you then have to close the event in with fencing, check IDs and hire bartenders. Blues would then also have to pay the city for the park, taking away the benefit of getting Zilker Park for free as a community event.
Paid parking is an additional revenue source that organizers rely on to keep Blues on the Green a free event. With limited parking availability, Blues on the Green rents parking lots from the city and offers prepaid ticketed parking through Ticketbud. This enables people to buy and secure their parking ahead of time. By using Ticketbud, organizers also have the option to create custom parking maps on tickets, as well as the ability to transfer or refund tickets at their discretion.
“Ticketbud have been an awesome partner and we couldn’t ask for anything better.''Bernice Guzman
Event Production Considerations
There are a lot of different elements that go into event production and management. While many were managed by the production company hired for this event, ACL radio staff also managed a range of tasks. Berenice mentioned:
- Scheduling artist availability
- Artists requirements and technical equipment, which is often different for each performer.
- Organizing artist trailers and bathrooms
- Managing client needs (vendors and sponsors). Ensuring they have what they need from staffing to lighting and gas.
- Coordinating health and safety permits and other communication with the city
Site-maps, Traffic Maps and Vendor Maps, Oh My!
Berenice is in charge of creating site-maps for Blues on the Green. These are like blueprints showing where everything needs to be, from staging to vendors, to fire extinguisher locations. Vendors get their own map, clearly showing them where to go and where to set up. Other important maps include those for attendees, with an event map, as well as traffic maps with road closures, driving and parking instructions.
The Sponsorship Lifecycle
1) Creating Great Sponsorship Offerings
Sponsorships are of significant importance to free events like Blues on the Green. Potential sponsors are approached with tiered sponsor package opportunities, as well as given the option to have something tailored to them. It’s important to understand their budget and what they hope to get out of the opportunity. Last year’s Blues on the Green event included 25 different sponsorship packages.
Examples of tiered sponsor packages:
- Booth sponsorship - securing a promotional booth at the event.
- Food in a booth sponsorship - providing food and drink.
- Tent sponsorship - with more space, tent branding and some radio and social promotion.
- Platinum sponsors - featured promotion on stage and in radio and social, with opportunities for tailored requirements and activations.
2) Delivering on Event Sponsorships
When you are managing 25 different event sponsorship packages for various sponsors, the next challenge becomes keeping track of it all. How do you ensure you don’t forget a detail of a sponsorship such as a piece of signage or promised social promotion?
Berenice shares that an excel spreadsheet with tabs for each sponsorship type is how she stays on top of the details. Create a checklist of what has been agreed to and when it’s been delivered (with evidence for the sponsor recap which we will talk about in a moment).
Berenice also creates a spreadsheet of onsite sponsorship requirements with what needs to happen on event day. This was printed and attached to the back of the site map, so it’s clear what each sponsor was doing, where they are, and if they needed anything special on event day.
3) Sponsorship Recaps
After the event a Sponsorship Recap is important to show sponsors what value they got from their participation in the event. It also plays a significant role in ensuring you will be able to secure that sponsor again next year.
A Sponsorship Recap is essentially a PowerPoint breakdown of everything that was done for them at the event, including photos, any on-air or social promotion, branding on website pages, and organic marketing. At the end of the recap, the sponsors are given the chance to get first rights to sign up for the next years sponsorships.
Connecting a New Brand with an Established Event
The radio station running Blues on the Green recently rebranded from KGSR to ACLRadio. The Austin City Limits name has significant value and legacy, so it’s an exciting rebranding opportunity. However, there are always challenges when introducing a new brand into the market. One of the big branding challenges for Blues on the Green is that while the event itself had huge recognition, but there was little awareness of it being run by a radio station. This meant there was a lot of work to do in branding the event.
Event promotion has shifted in the last couple of years to have more focus onInstagram. The digital team worked on making it easier for people to find and share the event. They faced the challenge of their desired Blues on the Green handle already being taken. This led to everything on Instagram needing to come under the @ACLradio Handle.
ACL radio promoted the event on air. They also had Fox Austin as a platinum client this year, who were doing shout-outs to the event on their morning news program.
Along with the usual branded merchandise, one novelty idea was the creation of branded patches for each event, available for free at the ACL Radio tent. The collectable patches were created for each show, designed to connect the ACL Radio brand with Blues on the Green in people's minds.
Although event production services begin to set up at least a day or two in advance, there are things such as drinks and signage that are brought in the day of the event. It’s important to stay flexible and be ready to help with any client setup needs. Have someone available who can collect anything that has been forgotten, or something you or clients realize they need on the day.
When organizing an outdoor concert event, a key consideration for the show going ahead is rain. Sometimes it can be called off when the grass is still wet from the previous day, as the city wants to protect the park and its grass. If the event was to be cancelled, a communication plan would need to be executed on the day to let everyone know.
Don’t forget - 3 things easily overlooked on event day:
- Water - especially in hot weather.
- Sponsor signage - they have paid for it and it's easy to misplace a sandwich board.
- Toilet paper!