Email showdown: Bonnaroo vs. Lollapalooza

McKenzie Gregory


Summer is (basically) here! Which means we’re all happily soaking up some much-needed sun – and that people from coast to coast are flocking to summer music festivals.

With its unique blend of music, art, activism, and community, there's nothing quite like the summer music festival. And it presents an especially interesting challenge for marketers: How do you drum up excitement year-round for an event that only lasts a few days? In the weeks leading up to the festival, how do you tell your subscribers everything they need to know without completely bombarding them?

So for our latest email showdown, we decided to take a look at two of the biggest summer festivals out there: Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. They’re both huge events with engaged fanbases and top-notch marketing, so this matchup was music to our ears (or, more appropriately, our email-lovin' hearts). Enjoy!



July 28-31 | Chicago, IL


The sign up process

Lollapalooza invites you to sign up for their “E-List” in the top navigation bar of their website.



Or, if you prefer a full form, you can use this one in their “Connect” section.



It’s a straightforward signup process that gets bonus points for ease of navigation.

(Tip for those following along at home: Make it clear as day where your signup form is on your website – because in most cases, people won’t bother taking the time to find it on their own.)


The first email

Turns out, their team uses a double opt-in system. What’s that, you ask? A double opt-in means that every person who signs up for your email list has to confirm their request twice. First, they fill out a signup form on your website. Then, they must click a link (delivered in an automated mailing like this one) to confirm their subscription. 



Using a double opt-in is a great way to improve your deliverability and ensure you aren’t sending to bogus or incorrect email addresses.


The next few emails

The first email I received from Lollapalooza after the subscription confirmation was long, scrollable, and broken into a whole bunch of brightly colored sections.

In it, they included the full festival schedule, VIP packages, a sweepstakes, and artist updates – a lot of information, for sure, but information that’s easy to quickly scan and digest.



The rest of their emails continue in the same vein… long, scrollable compilations of both interesting content (like playlists, artist videos, and things to do in Chicago) and their latest news and announcements.



When I first signed up for their list (April 26), they sent a mailing every couple of weeks. Since then, they’ve ramped up their sending to every 4 days or so. And when we’re a couple of weeks out from the festival date, their frequency will most likely bump up to every day – a smart and completely acceptable practice for those email marketing for an event.

The verdict here? Lollapalooza sends nice-looking emails. We’re big fans of their use of mobile optimization, lots of imagery to supplement their copy, CTA buttons, and social share buttons in the footer. All in all, an admirable job from our friends in the Windy City.



June 9-12 | Manchester, TN


The signup process

Bonnaroo kills it right out the gate with a lightbox-style signup form that appears after you’ve explored their website for a little while. The same form pops up when you click “Join our list” in their top navigation bar, which keeps the signup experience consistent for all of their site visitors.

It’s bright, gorgeous, and features buttons leading to all their various social profiles.



The first email

Like Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo uses a double opt-in system for new subscribers. Same deal as before… and still a smart strategy!



The next few emails

Once I opted into receiving their mailings, I quickly noticed that the format of Bonnaroo's emails is quite different than Lollapalooza’s.

Rather than sending compilations of news and content every few days, Bonnaroo sends more frequent campaigns focused on just one or two topics. Examples include this email about a Bonnaroo Ambassadors program...



...this one that announces the full 2016 schedule...



…and this one that lists different activities at the festival.



As far as the design goes, I like that they change up their layout more from send to send. And I felt more compelled to click their rounded CTA buttons than Lollapalooza’s rectangular ones – though it may have had less to do with the design than the fact that emails with a single CTA increase click rates by as much as 371% (Toast).

Bonnaroo's GIF game is also on point. Since signing up for their list, I've gotten lots of campaigns like this one…



… that feature GIFs that aren't just super engaging – they actually make sense in the context of the email. We love it when brands find ways to incorporate GIFs seamlessly in their mailings rather than just throwing in a bunch of needless animation.

You have to admit, guys: Though perhaps a bit too vibrant for more conservative brands (can you imagine this color scheme in a B2B email?), Bonnaroo’s email design works perfectly with their branding and the general aesthetic of the festival. These are some good lookin’ – and incredibly smart – emails.



The winner of this one shouldn’t be a surprise….9 times out of 10, we’ll choose targeted, hyper-focused sends over anything resembling a newsletter. Plus, with that gorgeous design? And that lightbox?!

We might be biased since it’s so close to home, but we have to give this one to the good folks down on the farm. 

Winner: Bonnaroo



About the Author

McKenzie Gregory

McKenzie Gregory is a senior content manager on Emma’s marketing team. A Nashville native, she can be found covering all things email on the Emma blog, debating hyphenation rules, and watching obscene amounts of Netflix without a trace of shame.

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