If an armadillo in a cowboy hat is your spirit animal, you can’t miss Old Settler’s Music Festival. The Tilmon, Texas fest has been gathering folk, bluegrass, country, and Americana fans for three-plus decades, keeping Central Texas the “live music capital of the world,” thanks to Grayscale Marketing, a fully integrated PR, publicity, advertising, and marketing firm representing events, artists, and brands.
“It was a record-breaking year,” Grayscale CEO Tim Gray tells ToneDen. “We’ve just had the festival wrap call and in 2019 we earned the client the most impressions, most ticket sales, most ad revenue, and the most attendees they've had in 32 years.”
Gray has been in events since his college days, when he founded a ticketing company. “There were just a handful of ticketing companies back then,” Gray remembers, “and they would charge out the wazoo for convenience fees. And there was a concert just south of Nashville that I really wanted to go to. I was just a broke college kid so I couldn’t afford it. I complained for weeks and finally my friends were like, ‘Shut up or do something about it.’”
Doing something about it took Gray from that first success in launching and selling the event ticketing company to his own event promotion company working with artists from Percy Sledge to Papa Roach, and everyone in between.
Meeting great up-and-coming and mid-level artists then lead Gray to launch his own booking and management agency, Grayscale Entertainment, born on Valentine’s Day 2014.
The Demand for Data
From his earliest days in the industry, Gray’s been interested in how ticket sales and ad dollars tell a bigger story, one about “understanding human nature and purchase patterns.”
“Pre-smart phones, pre-social media,” Gray remembers, “promoters were really dependent upon newspapers, billboards, television, radio, and more grassroots styles of promotion — and there’s no real tracking data there. If you were lucky tools you were using might provide city or demo info, maybe even zip codes of where purchases were coming from. But there wasn’t a lot of demographic information being collected at the time.”
Gray “noticed the same problems” when he moved to Nashville and worked as a booking agent. “For the majority of the venues, their websites were terrible and their ad creative was not professional looking; they were new to social media and didn't really know how to begin taking advantage of how to properly promote shows digitally. They were still heavily relying upon print and traditional forms of marketing or they would try and build great digital ads but their targeting was way off ending in frustration and further wasted ad budget.”
These problems, Gray knew he could solve: he started his own management firm. He soon found, however, that digital marketing agencies weren’t meeting his standards. “I wasn’t seeing the type of data or returns being tracked that I wanted,” he admits. “I was seeing plenty of digital but very little marketing. They just were not merging the two worlds in the most effective ways possible and I saw a gap in the market to step in and bring all of my experience to fill a clear need."
Now, ToneDen allows Gray to share his expertise, save time, and educate his staff.
“It’s so much easier to get my new ad person up to speed by teaching them how to use [ToneDen] rather than having them get their [Facebook] Blueprint certification before they start building ads. I do want them to do that — don’t get me wrong — but it’s much easier to see a dashboard, build an ad, track it, launch it, and have it optimized in real time from ToneDen.”
The Life-Cycle of a Festival
While Grayscale Entertainment uses ToneDen for contests and pre-save campaigns, Grayscale Marketing uses the platform for events. A recent and resounding success story? This year’s Old Settler’s Music Festival.
Festivals, in Gray’s opinion, are a perfect fit for ToneDen and Grayscale Marketing. “Venues are tougher because there’s so many different shows happening. But this festival, we began advertising in November and advertised the festival on the platform.” Monitoring the life cycle of the event in ToneDen, Gray notes, made life easier and more organized.
It also helped his team better strategize. “I want to be able to see the results in real time — day by day, hour by hour — but also as we’re doing our weekly sit-downs, looking back at our ads, asking: What’s performing best? Are there things that we need to shift and change?”
For the 2019 Old Settler’s Festival, Grayscale spent $500 on an announce campaign that reached 36,000 people in just two weeks.
A few months later, a January remarketing ad on which Grayscale spent $900 brought in nearly $45K, a 49.9x return on ad spend. By using ToneDen for the life cycle of this event, GrayScale took the festival’s revenue and ticket sales to a thirty-two-year high.
The Golden Rules
Currently, Gray has another goal in mind: collecting a hundred interviews and writing a book. “I launched a podcast and web series last year called The Golden Rules. "I’m interviewing thought leaders, movers and shakers, and grizzly old veterans that are part of the music industry about their golden rules for life and business.”
But one Golden Rule stands out in his own recent experience. “For all businesses and entrepreneurs,” he says, “I would suggest ToneDen for the sake of ease, for the customer service, and for the dashboard. Rather than go in and try to take the time to learn the back end of Facebook and navigate your way around that maze, trust the platform.”
Any legend will espouse the importance of innovation, and that’s another reason Gray recommends ToneDen. “You’re constantly launching new opportunities, new ways to track, new ways to sync things. Now I can attach Eventbrite and Spotify. To know that there is a company that I’m working with that’s constantly pushing the boundaries and looking out for their clients as much as I’m trying to is really important to me.”