Festivus the app: Bringing accessibility to festivalgoers



With summer fast approaching, the festival season has finally returned to Atlanta. From Shaky Knees to Music Midtown, Atlanta boasts dozens of music festivals that entertain hundreds of thousands of people. With such a high volume of events and patrons, the issue of communication and networking at these events continues to present itself. Finally, the groundbreaking event app, Festivus, has provided a solution.

Launched in March of 2015, Festivus was created to converge artist profiles, music streaming and social networking. Festivus is going through further development in Buckhead’s “Atlanta Tech Village,” a sleek, cutting-edge networking hub for start-up businesses and IT visionaries.

The first phase of Festivus

Jason McGraw, Founder and Lead Developer, is a former Georgia State student that studied Computer Information Systems before graduating in 2013. McGraw found the inspiration for creating Festivus after attending several music festivals and seeing the need for improved interaction.

“[I’ve] been to a few music festivals, and it became obvious to me that the environment is extremely social. I began looking for apps that brought together the music festival community and realized that we were lacking that.”

After a year of developing software at Norfolk Southern, McGraw began doing mobile development, specifically Festivus.

“I was originally just going to make a website to follow festivals, but it wasn’t a very popular idea among anyone I talked to,” he said. “Then, I did a lot of research for about six months and reached out to my friend Neil, who ultimately introduced me to Elijah, Brad and Mike joined in, and it was history.”

Marketing and Operations Director Elijah Watkins handles the majority of the creative and branding for Festivus, and explained what the exact purpose of Festivus is for users.

“Festivus is the connection between festivalgoers and music festivals,” Watkins said. “It allows users to find info about upcoming festivals, its dates, artist lineups, prices while also creating a community among users that have similar interests and tastes in music. It’s a niche platform.”

Although Watkins plays an integral role as one of the visionary directors of the app, he didn’t initially own such a large stake in the company. After seeing the potential of the app, he knew he had to do more.

“It wasn’t originally my idea, but Jason reached out to me to help design the logo and website,” Watkins said. “My background in event planning allowed me to see the potential in pushing the culture for event-goers. After that, I asked to become a partner and gain some equity, involved specifically with the marketing and business planning aspect of the app.”

Standing apart from the start-ups

App development is a popular trend in today’s market, and many people assume that it’s as simple as having an idea and finding a developer; McGraw assures that app development is never that simple.

“It’s extremely complicated. I spent most of my time researching, coding, creating web databases and a lot of tech stuff,” he said. “Elijah keeps me on track with deadlines and the creative aspects, and Brad oversees the administrative panel that manages analytics and user information.”

Festivus is an innovative concept with its capabilities, but competition among apps is always present. There is another “Festivus” app provided by Google Play, although it differs in its brand and purpose. Watkins explained what makes their app unique from others of the like.

“This app is a bit more user-friendly than the Google Play ‘Festivus’ app. It’s a bit more intuitive and eye-catching,” Watkins said. “Personally, we have more passion and human capital as developers, in terms of knowing how to create digital content as well as giving users and artists the quality of [a] product they need.”
McGraw also felt that their app distinguishes itself from others because of its function.
“Our app promotes social engagement more than other apps,” McGraw said. “Our tagging system allows users to create subgroups and stay in contact with not just the event and artist, but anyone talking about it as well.”
With the app being so new, the team has only had a few opportunities for testing the technology. By attending recent festivals, they are able to receive a better perspective of the apps usability.
“Our first time testing the app was during Spring Break at Buku Fest in New Orleans, and South by Southwest in Austin,” McGraw said. “We targeted the guests and looked at the responses amongst the users. All we really had to promote it was our social media accounts and word of mouth. One Music Fest and Shaky Knees are next.”
McGraw decided to take field testing a bit further and recently attended one of the largest festivals in the world, Coachella, to promote the app and getting more involved.
“Coachella was my first time actually testing it out in a real festival setting,” McGraw. “The way service is at festivals makes it hard to communicate with others through the technology, but the real intent is to catalyze interaction among users before and after the actual festival has happened. It’s more about sharing the anticipation, experience and memories.”

Working out the kinks

McGraw acknowledged that the lack of data service during large festivals could be a potential problem for the app, but he’s already begun working toward a solution; he is currently developing a 2.0 version with a few updates.

“We’re developing a device that allows wireless communication and message transmission,” McGraw said. “Each device acts as a node in a specific network, so in crowded places it works to your advantage because the influx actually strengthens the communication network.”

Watkins and McGraw also said that outside of the technical difficulties of creating an app, there are personal struggles that creators must face.

“The biggest thing is trust; trusting whoever you’re going into business with has the best interests of the brand as [a] whole, not just someone looking for a quick buck,” Watson said. “We can’t jeopardize the integrity of our vision, so we want to go as far as we can without outsourcing and investors. We want to stay true to our vision.”

McGraw’s difficulties may be a bit different, but he still faces creative obstacles, all the same.

“With the creative approach, I have to think about making something you would personally enjoy using frequently,” McGraw said. “It has to be interconnected, very clickable and easy to get lost in; how can we connect fans with artists, connect artist’s profiles to festival pages, and still allow you to follow up with that girl you met at the show? Those are all of the things I think about when planning.”

Although everyone on the team plays different roles, McGraw explained providing an improved cultural experience for users is the ultimate goal.

“Seeing people use it will be the most rewarding thing,” McGraw said. “The love, memories, and bonds formed at festivals are life changing experiences, so we take pride in knowing we can contribute to that.”

The Team

Mike Parker MBA GSU – Business Analyst
Duties include:
– Researching music festival market
– Creating a revenue model to present app at TiE Business Plan Competition
– Combining advertising and data analytics, while studying social media trends

“I want to show festival organizers the attributes you need to emphasize at their events and the intangible factors that go into bringing people to festivals.”

Brad Hobbs Met Jason at Norfolk Southern – Senior Developer
-Managing data analytics dashboard
-Tracking user-post content, quantity of monthly active users
-Developing Android brand version of the app

“I keep track of all of the logistics needed to drive a company forward. We already developed the iOS app, so we want to get more exposure on the Android side of things. The Android version is in the works.”

How to use Festivus
1. Download app from iTunes
2. Create user profile
3. Follow favorite artist and festival pages
4. Join a crew and tag artist, subject, or festival in discussion posts
5. Send messages and posts to other users that are following the same tag

Cool feautres
1. Sounds: artist’s Festivus pages are connected to their personal Soundcloud pages, so users can listen to an artist’s music and decide if they’re a fan
2. Tags: system allows users to not only follow an artist’s page for updates, but also allows users to follow and respond to any posts regarding the same tag.
3. Crews: join multiple ‘crews’ that allow you to follow patrons with similar interests, musical tastes, and discussions

User profile display
1. Where the user is from
2. Artists the user is following
3. Festivals a user is following
4. Crews a user is a member of