Outdoor music festivals can be some of the most rewarding events to run, but they can also be incredibly difficult. You’ve got to juggle a thousand factors that you can and can’t control: weather conditions, electricity and plumbing, rowdy attendees – not to mention the musical acts, often a dozen or more, all of which need to start at the right time and place with the right setup. If on top of this you’re dealing with never-ending lines at vendors, wallet theft and security issues, both your patrons and you are going to have a bad time.

The Cashless Solution

To tackle the latter issues, music festivals across Australia, the UK and the US have started adoptingcashless payment systems, wherein organisers give patrons the option to load up RFID wristbands with credit, and later use those wristbands to pay for food, drinks and merch during the festival. This is meant to encourage attendees to spend more time and money enjoying the event, and less time standing in line or worrying about where they left their wallet.

The cashless trend is spreading like wildfire: if in 2011 there was not a single festival promoter who could confirm that his or her event would definitely be cashless to the BBC, a few years later cashless wristbands could already be seen in some of the world’s most iconic music festivals such as Lollapalooza, Coachella and Firefly. But is going cashless actually worth the trouble, or is it just another passing fad?

Let’s look at 3 major music festivals that decided to go cashless, and see how things played out:

Outside Lands RFID Festival

The Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival is held annually in San Francisco. Featuring a broad lineup of indie rock, hip hop and electronica, the event regularly attracts a crowd of over 200,000 attendees.

The festival first introduced RFID wristbands in 2015, and by 2016 the vast majority of vendors were already accepting cashless payments, according to an account of the event published on CNET by Lexy Savvides. She also notes that:

“When you’re surrounded by sweaty crowds and long lines, the last thing you want to do is carry anything valuable that could get stolen — like your wallet… Buying food, drinks and merchandise at the festival using the wristband was simple..”

The takeaway: cashless helps attendees feel more secure

Savvides’s personal experience reflects one of the main advantages of cashless music festivals for event-goers: instead of carrying and risking losing their wallets, they can manage payments through a wristband that’s been preloaded with a set amount of cash, and which anyway is much more difficult to steal or lose compared to a bulky wallet. This translates into a stronger sense of security and a more carefree experience, which could in turn mean stronger financial returns for the organiser.

Speaking of which…

Vanfest Goes Completely Cashless, Sees Major Boost in Revenue

Future of events

For its fourth year running, Vanfest Music and Arts – a fast-growing festival that brings the most popular musical acts to New South Wales, Australia – was looking for ways to increase revenue in order to continue its growth and bring an even stronger lineup the next time around.

The challenge that the organisers faced was achieving these stronger returns while continuing to provide the awesome experience their loyal fanbase had grown accustomed to; and that as a smaller operation, spending a ton of money upfront on marketing wasn’t an option.

After some deliberation, Vanfest came to the idea of going cashless. The organisers partnered with the Token team (full disclosure: we are Token) – and in 2017, for the first time Vanfest ran as a completely cashless event, with payments being handled solely through Token’s advanced RFID technology.

By the time the event was over, it was clear that the experiment was massively successful. The system ran without a hitch, lines were shorter and customers spent significantly more than previous events, leading to a 16% increase in revenue, and additional sponsorship possibilities in the future (you can read the full story right here).

“It was amazing to see sales data live across all bars & vendors and nice to know that cash wouldn’t go missing for the first time… In my eyes, this alone pays for the implementation of RFID on site.”  – Matt Clifton, Vanfest Founder

The takeaway: cashless music festivals are often more profitable for organisers

The Vanfest case study shows us that festival-goers tend to spend more in a cashless event versus a traditional one, due to decreased lines and the psychological effect of detachment from physical money.

Enhancing Fan Experiences through Mobile Payments at Coachella

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival needs little introduction – the California gathering has attracted around 250000 music lovers each year for nearly two decades, and today is considered to be one of the largest, most famous, and most lucrative music festivals worldwide.

A 2016 Forbes story details  the reasons that Coachella, which for years was a strictly-cash affair, decided to switch to cashless payments through mobile devices in the past few years (with plans to introduce RFID wristbands in the future). Forbes quotes Gopi Sangha, one of the organisers, who puts it in very clear terms: “…This is a trend that couldn’t be ignored and denied; it’s the way consumers want to complete transactions onsite.”

In addition to answering popular demand, Coachella organisers partnered with American Express  to further tie experiential activations into visitors’ mobile devices, offering a chance to win rewards based on the attendee’s exact location in the festival.

The takeaway: cashless events create stronger experiences for fans.

Coachella’s successful foray into cashless payments shows us that today’s young consumers – who generally do not tend to carry cash on the one hand, and are eager to try new technologies and gadgets on the other – are more than happy to go along with cashless music festivals. In addition, RFID and mobile payment technologies can help organisers create even greater fan experiences through social activations, mobile apps and more.

Learn More About Cashless Festivals

If these examples have piqued your interest, we’ve got your next steps covered: You can go here to read about the RFID technology that makes cashless events possible, read the full Vanfest case study, or can find out how you can implement cashless payments at your events by scheduling a session with one of our experts.

Token Team

Author Token Team

Token is a global leader in RFID technology for events. With over 20 years of event experience, we provide cashless payments, access control and experiential activations to organisers all around the world.

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