Bespoke events: How small independent brands can succeed by being different.
Updated: Jan 25
We are well and truly into festival season and last weekend we attended a bespoke independent day festival - Clockstock.
Clockstock as a festival began in 2018 out in Ibiza. It was put together by legendary club promoters and brand Clockwork Orange. Founders, Danny and Andy always looking to raise the bar and push for something new, bigger and different took over Benimussa Park near San Antonio. The venue, a former zoo provided a unique and different festival event that saw over 3000 clubbers have the time of their lives in locations such as the old Seal Pit.
With the success of that event, the demand and following now built up again for the brand. They decided to bring the festival back to the UK this year and chose Chelmsford Racecourse as the venue to host it. As ever, the marketing around the event was fun and spread across several months. This strategy created enough hype and interest to sell out the event with around 15,000 people attending on the day - their biggest ever event.
With Clockwork Orange you are always guaranteed a fun inclusive welcoming crowd. Artists and music that will suit all needs but what struck us was the amount that was put into sound, production and set build. If we are being honest we probably paid more attention to this than most...you can never escape the job! But for a small independent brand and festival, they really did go all in to make this both visually and acoustically something amazing.
The advantage and well thought out plan to host at a venue such as a racecourse enabled them to focus design and build around each area of the already established buildings such as the Grandstand and Marshall's quarters. So rather than just having a random field to put a few tents up, they had architecture and infrastructure in place to then build upon.
5 different arenas covering all aspects of dance music for all tastes. All beautifully designed and built including a terrace area off of the Grandstand that served as a great place to dance your socks off with a different feel than a tent, marquee or open stage. The biggest impact for us was in the Food Court where they had a "Disco Bus" banging out the tunes all day. It created an amazing atmosphere and if they had a bar there, it would have been an arena in it's own right!
Another component to the day was that it was a cashless event. Prepaid vouchers were bought and added by code to a smart chip on your wristband. You could load up via certain points across the venue if required. But the fact you simply scan your band made things so much simpler, quicker and easier for both staff and queues. Prices were also fair with on average drinks costing £5 and burgers around £7.
Overall, and the message we took from the day...other than thoroughly enjoying ourselves, would be that it really does pay to think different. We see so many events such as festivals or even business expos fail because they try to imitate or stick to a model that has been done for the ages. Festivals don't have to be tents in some random field. Business expos don't have to be in a large hall with the same layout, stands, seminars and plan as every other.
Yes, they do work but generally for those who are well established, well funded and backed by large brands. For those who are smaller independents, you can still play in this sandbox. But don't imitate - innovate. Be different, make your event stand out whether that is through venue choice, design or production.
Dare to dream...it may be the difference in a successful, memorable event. Rather than falling by the wayside as just another event like the all the others.
We would love to hear your views on festivals, business expos and bespoke events. Do you think it's time to change, and what changes would you make to make? Or is tried and tested best?
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