With social distancing rules putting a stop to large gatherings, musicians, record labels and festival organisers have been thinking up innovative ways to engage with fans in the absence of live events. John Legend, Chris Martin, Billie Eilish and Elton John have all performed live from their homes, while members of New York’s Philharmonic Orchestra recently put on a virtual performance dedicated to healthcare workers.
UK label Defected Records was one of the first to experiment with digital events – live-streaming a 12-hour virtual festival from an empty Ministry of Sound nightclub on the eve of UK lockdowns. The festival was broadcast on Facebook Live and featured sets from ten well-known DJs, including Dan Shake, The Vision, Monki, Joey Negro, The Shapeshifters, Sam Divine and Melvo Baptiste.
Last week over 2 million people tuned into Defected #VirtualFestival…❤️This Friday, we go again…✊ Our House.Your House.United Together.
Posted by Defected Records on Wednesday, 25 March 2020
The virtual festival came together in just a few days: Defected’s leadership and events team came up with the idea over WhatsApp on Sunday 14th March and had just four days to promote the festival before it launched at midday on Friday 20th.
The label created a series of static and video ads to raise awareness of the event, which featured the message Our House, Your House, United Together, and a call to action encouraging people to set up an automatic reminder to tune in. Ads were optimised for Feed, Live and Instagram Stories, with Defected creating 1:1, 16:9 and 4:5 versions of creative. It also ran a series of ads to promote the festival while it was live.
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Defected In Your House… ???? —— Our hearts are heavy as we see what is happening around the world. We are all connected, so if you are suffering in anyway due to the epidemic we wanted you to know that you are not alone. —— Some of you may be isolated &, with all of our events postponed until May, we wanted to re-connect you with your fellow House Heads in a different way. So after bringing you live streams from Defected Croatia, We Are FSTVL and Defected London FSTVL, we are now producing our first ever Defected Virtual Festival… No barriers, no prejudice, no VIP…..everyone together on a virtual dance floor. Celebrating unity & solidarity. —— This Friday, from 12pm – 12am, we will be programming 12 hours of house music on Facebook Live and YouTube. The 12 hours will consist of classic sets, never-before-heard exclusives and brand new mixes from all of your Defected favourites. ???? ———— Look after yourselves, be considerate to one another and join us this Friday for the ultimate house party. ???? —— Together we shall over come. —— #housemusic #defected #housemusicalllifelong
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Right then, this is happening… ???? —— Friday. Us + You = We Are Defected… From midday (UK time), we’ll be broadcasting live from the legendary @ministryofsoundclub. ???? —— @simondunmore1: “WHEN WE ANNOUNCED THAT WE WERE PROGRAMMING 12 HOURS OF FOOTAGE FROM OUR EVENTS… A VIRTUAL FESTIVAL THE REACTION WAS INSANE… SO MANY DJS WANTED TO PLAY….SO ON FRIDAY FROM MIDDAY TO MIDNIGHT UK TIME WE HAVE A GREAT LINE UP OF DEFECTED & GLITTERBOX ARTISTS, PERFORMERS & PRODUCTION… STRAIGHT INTO YOUR OWN HOME… DEFECTED WILL LITERALLY BE IN THE HOUSE! —— IT’S AN EVENT THAT WE HAVE PLANNED AS WE WOULD ANY OTHER… I HAVE NO IDEA ON HOW IT WILL COME ACROSS BUT I HOPE PEOPLE JOIN US AND KNOW THAT THIS WILL PASS… WE NEED TO ADDRESS THIS COLLECTIVELY / POSITIVELY.” —— #housemusic #housemusicalllifelong #defected #virtualfestival
The event reached over 6 million people, with posts generating 13 million impressions and 1.4 million engagements. Defected saw an 8.1-point lift in brand awareness (around twice the normal figure for an entertainment campaign) and content kept viewers engaged, with 89% of people watching videos for more than three seconds. The label has since put on two more virtual festivals, combining live footage with classic sets and mixes from Defected’s roster of artists.
Defected regularly interacts with fans over Facebook and Instagram, sharing new music, curated playlists and video footage of DJ sets. “Facebook and Instagram are 100% key to Defected. We’ve seen huge growth in both and place vital importance on our community. For us they’re our lifeblood,” says chief business officer James Kirkham.
Defected #VirtualFestival round 2! ????
Posted by Defected Records on Friday, 27 March 2020
While the label isn’t new to streaming (it has previously broadcast footage from its annual festival, Defected Croatia, and recently broadcast a Camelphat set from London’s Tower Bridge), the virtual festival is its most ambitious digital experience to date: “We’ve never created something quite like this, with this level of line up and involvement and layers of fan interaction,” adds Kirkham.
Alongside broadcasting footage, Defected encouraged fans to engage with the festival through Facebook and Instagram and share details of how they were watching it – something that Kirkham believes was key to its success.
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This Friday, we go again… ✊ —— After the incredibly positive and overwhelming response to our first ever #VirtualFestival, it's only right that we continue to bring you those positive house vibes this week. ???????? —— We will be kicking off proceedings at 1pm, running all the way through to 8pm, bringing you sets from some of your favourite DJs… This will include brand new mixes from their homes, plus a couple of exclusive sets from the vaults / previous Defected events. ???? —– Our House. Your House. United. Together. —— #housemusicalllifelong
Offering advice for other brands, he says: “You need to think about how to bring in the fans, way more than solely a broadcast. For us, this was the magical layer of interaction: a feedback loop through videos, films, pictures, posts where our fans and the community could show and share what they were doing during the broadcasting and how they were being involved and excited. Social platforms enable you to move quickly, to spike and encourage interaction, to read the room and amend the flow of the event accordingly. Get it right, and it feels like an alchemic moment.”
The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a huge blow to the music and events sectors, but Defected’s festival shows how brands can use digital platforms to bring people together and spread some joy at what is, for most of us, a difficult and uncertain time. As well as engaging members of Defected’s existing fanbase, the festival has also helped the label reach new audiences – and allowed DJs to carry on performing (albeit without the massive crowds they’re used to).
“People came on board to smile, sing, laugh and dance, all the way from the Solomon Islands to Senegal,” says Kirkham.
Jim Stannard, Head of Digital – Entertainment at The 7 Stars, which worked with Defected on the project, says: “Defected Virtual Festival really set the standard for LIVE – finding a perfect balance of entertainment and connectivity that audiences are craving at this time.
“At a time when the need for positivity and a feeling of community felt at an all-time high, Defected were able to seamlessly bring the experience of live music into millions of people’s households.”
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