12 Challenges to running an online music festival with Facebook

We recently ran The Takeover Festival an online music festival presented by Bose in support of Nordoff Robbins. Over three days we had 49 artists from 12 countries performing live on the Right Chord Music Facebook page. To date The Takeover has generated 687,000 video views and 1,167 shares. We’ve also raised over £4,000 for Nordoff Robbins. It was a great success, but running an event of this size on Facebook comes with a unique set of challenges.

To help future event planners, we are sharing the 12 biggest challenges we faced working with Facebook and how we overcame them.

Why Facebook?

As a top 10 ranked indie music blog (Feedspot) Right Chord Music has a growing community across key social channels including Instagram, but our largest community (12,800) is on Facebook which made it the obvious place to host The Takeover.  With over 2.6 billion monthly active users as of the first quarter of 2020, Facebook is still the biggest social network worldwide (Statistica) and there is no point hosting an online music festival if you don’t have global ambitions.

The 12 biggest challenges facing Facebook Live events

One. Fake event hackers

When you create an event with scale on Facebook it gets the attention, and not all of that attention is positive. A few days ahead of the festival we noticed a copycat had appeared in the events section. The title of the event was the same (although written in lowercase type) and they were using badly cropped versions of our images. They had also invited my artists to be co-hosts and my friends to attend. We warned attendees and artists, I assumed at this point there was no malice, surely, they were just trying to promote the music? I emailed the event group owner with a firm but friendly request to remove the event page, I expected the event to be removed, sadly it never was. 

On the first day of The Takeover we started receiving messages from confused fans asking why they needed to pay with a credit card to watch the music. It appeared our event page was being spammed, we deleted dozens of comments containing website links, and added and pinned new posts to provide further information about how to watch The Takeover.  But it didn’t stop there, there were now 5 or 6 copycat fake events claiming to represent The Takeover all trying to direct fans to websites to enter credit card details. We reported as many as possible Facebook, but no action was taken other than to hide the fake events from my own feed. Facebook clearly recognises the problem, but seems reluctant to do anything about it.  It’s unclear how many potential viewers and more importantly donations to Nordoff Robbins were lost because of these fake events.

Just some of the fake copycat events that sprang up confusing fans and reducing our ability to raise money for Nordoff Robbins

Fake Events

Two. No promotion on scheduled video premieres

About 90% of our performers played live, but a few of our headliners and a few of our independent artists asked to pre-record their sets due to time, geographic or tech challenges. There are certain benefits of a pre-recorded set. 1) You can add logos, titles and end frames to the video 2) You can share a link with artists fans ahead of time that contains a ‘remind me’ button so fans can be notified when the video premiere begins. But once the video had played, we planned to promote the video to a wider audience of fans that were unable to tune in live. Unfortunately Facebook now prevents you from spending any money to promote scheduled premiere video content on their platform. This feature is only available to verified pages. We applied but were rejected, and told to reapply in 30 days, not helpful. When we explained this was for charity and we wanted to boost the reach of our content to offset the negative impact of the hackers (see above) it all went quiet. The way to overcome this challenge is to re-upload and share the performances as standard video posts (no premieres).

Three. Donate to the event not the Post

Facebook makes it very easy to add a charity donate button to a post, but currently each post and each donate button is independent. There is no option to have a master donate button and totaliser for your event. So at the end of The Takeover the only way to calculate how much money has been raised is to go back through each individual post on your page, your event page and on the artist pages looking for donations. When you have 49 artists, an event page and a Facebook page where you have been posting for the last 5 weeks it takes some time. 

Four. Beware of Google Chrome updates and tech shifts

Ahead of The Takeover we organised live test posts with all of our performers to ensure they knew what to do on the day. Having run previous online festivals, this process was also designed to reduce my own stress levels. All of our live performers completed this test most within 5 minutes, it’s relatively simple when you know how. However, on Saturday morning, our first performer was about to go live when she discovered she was now unable to use her laptop webcam. It appears Facebook had changed a setting which made their Live Producer incompatible with Google Chrome. After a mad scramble to download an update (which also failed), she reverted to using a mobile phone. The show continued, but we suffered again, because when you perform live from a mobile device there is no way to cross post the performance to your artist page. So while fans could watch on Right Chord Music the performance didn’t appear on her own page simultaneously. 

Five. Selling t-shirts for charity

We worked with a designer and Fifth Column T-Shirts who kindly produced 50 festival t-shirts for free, our plan was to sell the t-shirts with all proceeds going to Nordoff Robbins. We added the t-shirts to our website shop and tried to add them to our Right Chord Music Facebook shop. Unfortunately Facebook rejected them. After much investigation we discovered the only way to get them approved was to remove any mention of our presenting partner Bose and our charity partner Nordoff Robbins. When the sole purpose of the t-shirt is to raise money, not being able to mention the charity is a challenge!

The Takeover Festival T-Shirt

Six. Facebook Watch – Start, stop, refresh

Facebook doesn’t allow you to watch back to back live stream performances from one page. At the end of each live performance, Facebook Watch kicks in and redirects you to watch something else. This means viewers have to exit, revisit the page and start all over again, it’s not the greatest user experience!

Seven. No customised event page URLs

Facebook allows you to customise the URL for a Facebook Page or Group, but strangely not for a Facebook Event, this makes pre-event promotion difficult. Afterall, there is no point in asking people to remember https://www.facebook.com/events/625179745000723/ With the challenge of hackers, and fake events, you start to question whether an event page offers any value. When you consider that anyone that Likes / Follows the Right Chord Music page on Facebook is notified when live music starts, it’s tempting to cut out event pages completely.

Eight. Beware sideways filming

Remember if you begin filming in portrait mode you can’t turn the camera to film in landscape mode, if you do you will appear sideways on the broadcast. Luckily we only had a couple of artists that did this and on both occasions we were able to start again, but beware it’s easily done and can quickly ruin the fan viewing experience.

Nine. Instagram to Facebook promo

Right Chord Music have 3,300 followers on Instagram, a decent number for an indie music blog, but sadly not enough to unlock the Swipe Up feature where a URL can be added to a Story post. (You need 10,000). This greatly reduces your ability to drive Instagram viewers through to watch on Facebook, visit a donate page or even visit the Festival website. Without this feature we were reliant on visitors searching on line or clicking on the link in our Instagram bio. When approximately 80% of content views are in stream this is a challenge. We circumvented this challenge by working with influencers who were able to share links. 20% of our Facebook traffic came from Instagram, so we found a way to overcome the challenge.

Ten. Deciding on a single destination

Pre event we drove people to the Event page, but after the event started it made little sense to direct people there, only for them to have to click again to visit the Right Chord Music Facebook page. At this point you realise there is no simple destination. You could tell people to go to the Right Chord Music Page and hit Like to receive notifications, they can scroll down your posts to see previous performances, they could also click on the ‘Live’ page tab to watch back all live performances or they can click on ’Videos’ where they can also see the performances arranged by playlist, but this takes them off your page and into Facebook Watch so good luck getting back! Confused yet? Facebook is increasingly becoming a confusing maze that is hard for anyone to understand. When you consider the page layout and navigation options are also different between a computer and a mobile device, providing simple directions becomes a challenge.

Eleven. Whitelist your page to avoid content takedowns

If you have signed artists posting content to you page you must ensure your page has been whitelisted by their label first otherwise you might find the content is removed. Luckily we were tipped off about this in advance and avoided this potential problem.

Twelve. Allow sufficient time to upload pre-recorded content

Ok so this might be a challenge with our home-broadband provider rather than Facebook but I’m including it, because it can catch you out. Uploading a 25 minute video to Facebook took us over 8 hours! So give yourself sufficient lead time to get any pre-records online. We ran them over night using a wired connection to minimise disruption to family viewing, and gaming.

Discover the artists playing at The Takeover Festival