The best and worst of music festival branding

Nothing says spring like the onslaught of music festivals. In honor of flower crown season, we’ve created a lineup of our own, giving you the best and worst of music festival branding ranked in terms of what kind of band they would be on the festival roster. Heads up: there may or may not be a Kanye of branding somewhere on this list…

The headliners

coachella logo and website header

Coachella

You can complain all you want about how mainstream Coachella has become, but it’s undeniable that their brand identity is clearer than the Palm Spring skies. The Southern California festival has made themselves synonymous with pastel and palm trees, matching the vibes of their Indio Valley location. Not only are Coachella’s logo and website on point, but even the little package they send your tickets in is too, complete with branded calendar and festival poster. It’s the little things like this that create hype around the festival and encourage attendees to share their excitement on social media.

coachella tickets box
The 2012 Coachella ticket box. Via hmcoachella.com

The tell-tale marker of how successful Coachella has been at branding is that even festival-goers’ fashion matches the brand. Think of all the fringe, denim cut-offs and flower headbands that saturate your Instagram feeds as early as Day One of Weekend One. The festival’s collaboration with Swedish fashion giant H&M proves the fashionable extension of their brand is very much intentional.

Coachella’s perfect branding is due in large part to their seemingly endless budget, courtesy of corporate sponsors and record-breaking ticket sales. Money may not be able to buy you happiness, but it can definitely buy you a remarkable brand identity.

bonnaroo logo and website header

Bonnaroo

While Coachella may win for consistency and meticulous detail, Bonarroo’s brand strength comes from their unique brand identity which seems to celebrate eccentricity in all forms (just as a music festival should). One visit to Bonnaroo’s website breathes life (and unicorns) into a dull day and lets you drift off into a brightly-colored haze dreaming about Purity Ring, Chainsmokers, and all the other talented acts sure to kill it at this year’s festival.

The Manchester, Tennessee festival’s logo is beautifully crafted, with swirly textures and shapes that evoke music speakers or a psychedelic trip. But the real success in Bonnaroo’s branding is their color scheme. The bold color choice makes their posters easily recognizable, and the fact that they can pull off electric purple and green without looking like the Joker is also pretty mind-blowing.

#bonnayou
The #BonnaYOU campaign allows fans to win tickets by using a hashtag. Via Bonnaroo.com.

Bonnaroo can be considered among the “OG’s” (original gangsters, for all you dads out there) of the festival circuit, and their branding reflects this. They break the rules of mainstream festivals and create a cool, fun-loving feeling while maintaining their mission to “radiate positivity.” Their latest Instagram campaign, #BonnaYOU, is perfectly on-brand, as it encourages festival-goers to share photos of their Bonnaroo experience for a chance to win tickets. One look at the campaign’s feed reveals a bunch of cool-looking people (not in flower crowns, thank you very much) having a blast at the festival and, well, pretty much radiating positivity. Can we join in?

The mainstream acts

It’s not the worst we’ve seen, but we see some room for improvement with these B-list branded festivals.

burning man logo and website header

Burning Man

With art installations aplenty and a renowned audience of hyper-creative people, we expected a lot more from Burning Man’s branding. Their website is pretty bare-bones, with a washed out brown background and generic serif font. However, while not too impressive, it is consistent with Burning Man’s tenet of “decommodification.”

But, there’s one big branding mistake that we cannot forgive Burning Man for, and that’s the dreadful V Man logo. For those who have never come across this branding mishap before, let us tell you about the V Man. He is the ultimate in generic logos, appropriated by health care providers, home improvement companies and real estate agents everywhere. A festival as unique and transformative as Burning Man should not have the same logo as your dad’s chiropractor, amiright?

Stock logo (via Dreamstime)
Burning Man logo
Stock logo (via logoary)

In defense of Burning Man’s lackluster appearance, their anti-branding mentality seems perfectly on-brand with the theme of their festival. The lack of a loud brand gives attendees the space to create their own experience and form their own community around themes of inclusion and radical self-reliance. Just burn the V Man and we’re cool.

Electric Daisy Carnival

electric daisy carnival logo

Neon colors and daisies for a festival called Electric Daisy Carnival—who would have thought?! However on-the-nose, this sort of branding is to be expected from a festival that attracts frat stars and high-school-aged spring breakers. The Las Vegas (and now New York and UK) festival capitalizes on rave culture by saturating their brand with bright colors and LED-infused flora. However unappealing for most people over the age of 21, EDC’s branding remains consistent and does evoke the energy of rave culture. Their simplistic wordmark logo looks like it is glowing in the dark, with neon blue letters set against a black background, and their website welcomes you with a flashing video of sunglass-clad attendees jumping up and down.

If there’s a lesson to be learned from EDC’s branding, it’s that knowing your audience is key. EDC’s brightly-colored branding matches the energy of its festival-goers and delivers the grown-up carnival its name promises.

The indie stars

These independent acts are making a name for themselves with unique branding that stays true to their roots.

Sasquatch music festival poster 2016
Official 2016 Sasquatch! poster

Sasquatch!

As soon as you see the exclamation point in their name you know Sasquatch! festival’s branding is going to be fun. The Washington-state festival embraces the homey, DIY vibes of a true festival committed to community-building and letting the good times roll. Their wordmark logo changes every year, giving it (and their website) a hand-made feel. The festival poster is decorated with fun-loving colorful illustrations of furry mascots partying at The Gorge. The same mascots are sprinkled across their website and merch shop, showing their support for local artists and lighthearted design.

Sasquatch’s artistic and independent identity explains why many of the festival-goers have been attending year after year. Even their contact form reads, “We’re a very small team that loves working with and helping out our customers!” Sasquatch’s brand creates a sense of comfort and community. In the words of one of our Customer Support reps, their branding is simply “on fleek.”

primavera sound poster 2016
2016 Primavera Sound Barcelona poster

Primavera Sound

Muted and artistic, Primavera Sound embodies the very European “less is more” aesthetic. Their posters and other collateral are decorated with beautiful, clean illustrations using a very harmonious color palette of peach, turquoise and gray midtones. There’s a lot of information on the website, which works well with their toned down visuals. Unlike many American festivals that boast over-the-top art installations and fireworks, Primavera’s physical appearance emphasizes open space to give festival-goers a chance to enjoy the music without distraction.

Primavera Sound’s minimalistic appeal lets the music speak for itself. And with an all-star lineup (hello, Radiohead) and killer location (hola, Barcelona) the branding doesn’t have to say much.

The burn-outs

Expect the best, get the worst. This usually tends to happen when Kanye’s on stage, or when these festivals try to brand themselves.

sxsw website
Would you be able to tell this website is for a music and film festival in Austin? Looks more like a tech conference to us!

SXSW

By the looks of it’s branding, you would think SXSW was a tech startup rather than a world renowned music, food and film conference. Their logo confronts viewers with big, bulky letters in clashing bright colors, and their website is even more chaotic. The homepage is packed with so much information that it’s difficult to navigate and registers more like a tabloid magazine than an event. The cool, artsy appeal associated with SXSW’s independent music and film sectors doesn’t come through in their brand identity.

SXSW’s lackluster branding proves the Austin, Texas festival has become more of a tech and marketing conference and less about art and discovery. The event is a chance to rub elbows with the big wigs and network your way to the top, and their industrial appearance reflects this.

Their clashing brand identity makes us think SXSW has grown so large that their brand has begun to escape them, and it’s hard to even call it a festival anymore. How about a tech party?

The up-and comers

These events may not be famous…yet. But they’ve taken the right first step by getting their music festival branding created on 99designs!

by Barrios1 for cjm1982
by yusakagustinus for info c9
by Bence Balaton for Culture1
by extrafin for malachaijohns
What’s your favorite festival? Is their branding on fleek like Sasquatch!, or a buzzkill like SXSW? Let us know in the comments below!

The author

Brea Weinreb
Brea Weinreb

Brea is the Marketing Coordinator at 99designs. When she's not working you can find her painting in her art studio, reading a good poetry book, or drinking boba tea while dancing around in suede fringe culottes and pretending she is Jimi Hendrix (actually though).

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