Client: Friday Night Live! is an award-winning free outdoor concert series that is one of the signature attractions of the Town of Herndon, Virginia and has grown to become the most successful and longest-running free outdoor concert series in the Washington, DC area. The series had just celebrated its 25th season, during that time there have been 414 scheduled concerts with over 560,000 total attendees.
Problem: The purpose is to bring people to downtown Herndon to support the businesses and restaurants so the question was, can that be done with the online audience we have built? Especially since the local businesses and restaurants were hurting so bad due to the Governor’s stay-at-home order.
Before we went virtual, however, we had spent months re-imagining the live event to follow the existing health and safety guidelines.
“We tried really hard to have something resembling a normal Friday Night Live! this year and we just couldn’t work it out with the Town,” said Friday Night Live! founder Doug Downer at the start of our first live stream. “Literally in the last four months every single thing we have done the same for the last 25 years had to change.”
Solution: When the Town declined our safe, socially-distant plan, we decided to move to a live stream.
We knew we’d have a captive audience since everyone was at home. And we thought we could take advantage of the social media and email audience of over 17,000 that we had built. So we decided to live stream the last two Fridays in July. Luckily I had been planning on a promotional live stream or two and had been running some live streams for other clients, so I already had the plan in place to execute the live stream. We only announced the first two shows because we wanted to see what the reception was. It was very well received!!! We gave our sponsors exposure by announcing our largest sponsors during our band introductions, which we do at the live event. We also ran a rotation of sponsor logos during the lead up to the show, during a mid-stream 10 minute break, and at the end of the show. We also featured one of our local restaurant partners each week both through announcements and mid-week social media and email promotions. You can check out our 2020 live streams on our YouTube channel.
Result: Our attendance at a live show is usually over 2000 people over the course of the night. Through the 10-week live stream season, we averaged 2500 unique viewers across Facebook and YouTube and had 4000 on our top stream. We know the number of viewers is much higher as many families watched together and one of our local restaurant partners hosted a watch party every week.
The key to the success of our live stream was focusing on the purpose of our event and constant communication with our stakeholders including our sponsors to make sure we were doing everything we could to help support them.
Expanding Event with Partners
Mile 20 at Mediterranean Breeze, one of our restaurant partners, had implemented a large, socially-distant outdoor seating area so each Friday they would broadcast our live stream out to that area. We also hosted giveaways at the restaurant to encourage those who were comfortable with outdoor dining to attend the watch party.
“We’re thrilled to offer some version of live music during these unique times,” said Phil Orme, owner of Mile 20 at Mediterranean Breeze. “It’s nice to see people coming out to our extended socially-distant outdoor dining.”
Bonus: Friday Night Live! Christmas Special
A few weeks into the live stream schedule, I had the idea to record a Christmas Special. I asked each of the remaining bands to perform a Christmas song of their choosing for our cameras after the live stream ended. I made all the bands and production team swear an oath of secrecy because I wanted the Christmas Special to be a surprise for our fans. I also wanted to make sure that the project came together as I envisioned it.
I chalk this up a silver lining of the stay-at-home order as I would not have been able to create this project if we had our regular outdoor concert series. This kept me excited during our season as we added Christmas décor to the set and gave the band Santa hats and reindeer antlers.
We did promote a local shopping center along with our online tip jar in the comments section of the live premier, but the main point of the Christmas Special was just a gift to our fans for sticking with us during this unusual year.
Here’s some of the feedback we received:
“Laura you and your team did an amazing job of putting this together. Watching this will be a part of my Christmas routine moving forward. Happy Holidays to you all and congratulations on providing a true gift to our community!” Joe Martin | Interim President & CEO, Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce
“Really enjoyed the FNL Christmas video. Great bands, music, & production all the way around. Thanks for making it happen & including us.” Friedrich Dietrich, Herr Metal (via Google Translate)
Read about other client events we took virtual in 2020: