Big name music festivals have grown into a massive cultural institution with major cities around the country scrambling to bring premier artists and massive crowds to their cities each summer. However, for a smaller city like Appleton, a music festival with more than 750 individual sets seems daunting.
“At first, we didn’t know if it would be a success or if two people would show up,” says Kim Willems, the project specialist and social media coordinator for Mile of Music. Her expectations were exceeded the first summer Appleton held Mile of Music, with over 20,000 people attending in the summer of 2013.
Mile of Music is a massive draw for tourists and one of the driving forces behind Appleton’s status as an up-and-coming city. While it would seem initially like a music festival as large as Mile of Music would cause Appleton to burst at the seams, Mile of Music had the opposite effect, bringing the community together and becoming one of the most important parts of Appleton’s cultural identity.
Over the last three years, the staff and volunteers for Mile 3 have been working tirelessly to generate hype for the festival. Willems discussed the different ways that Mile of Music builds a reputation with artists, citizens and businesses around Appleton.
First, the sheer success of the event builds on itself and becomes an attractive venue for the artists themselves, generating word-of-mouth buzz within circles of local and emerging artists around the Midwest. “One thing that’s cool with having artists from all sorts of different places is that the artists will go back and say, ‘I just played at this awesome festival in Appleton’ and then their friends want to come play at Mile of Music as well,” says Willems.
Second, Mile of Music’s use of technology and the internet generates more interest. Willems manages a small team of social media assistants who are dedicated to maintaining Mile of Music’s presence on the web, providing regular updates on the event’s Facebook page and posting to their Instagram feed. “We try and show the most important parts of the festival on our Facebook and Instagram page, so that even if you can’t make it to every venue you want, you can still keep up with the festival,” says Willems. Additionally, an app that allowed users to keep up with festival’s events and venues last year has undergone some major changes. This year, the app allows greater usability by allowing festivalgoers the option of searching for sets by artist, venue and time.
Mile of Music’s print marketing has been critical to its success as well. “We’ve gotten a couple of grants which has been huge, because we are funded on sponsorships and music-maker passes. Those are the WOW grant and Gem Grant. Those grants were given to us through the Fox Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. They’ve allowed us to expand to the Milwaukee-Madison area, the Minneapolis area … we’ve even had an article in the Chicago Tribune.”
Perhaps though, the most important form of marketing for Mile of Music is the residents of Appleton that attend who will hopefully walk away eager to share the experience with friends and family next year. To stay updated with Mile 3, you can download the Mile of Music app or follow their Facebook page and twitter feed at #MileOfMusic.