What happens when art, nature, and technology collide? The potential to awe a lot of people — and sell a lot of tickets.
But just because you build it does not mean they’ll come.
Sensorio is a brand new arts and events space in the California wine country destination of Paso Robles. When owners Ken and Bobbi Hunter brought event management pro Tracy Strann onboard in 2018, they had an ambitious and exciting assignment. She set out to create an immersive experience where art lovers could take advantage of the beautiful existing landscape.
Art installations have a bit of a unicorn vibe in the event world. They require an extra caliber of imagination as well as a grounded sense of practicality mixed with a big dose of ambition. Here are the steps Strann took to make Sensorio’s Field of Light a success, and takeaways other art installation overseers can glean from her expertise.
Step 1: Build it, so they will come
When Strann first took the job, she had a blank slate in front of her. She says: “There was nothing here. When I arrived it was just land. There was no address, no employees, nothing.”
She enlisted UK artist Bruce Munro to create a lavish light show across the sprawling 15-acre property. Every night, 60,000 solar-power, swaying LED orbs illuminate the contours of the land as far as the eye can see. Field of Light is a magical backdrop for a destination designed to host concerts, picnics, and other events.
An art installation grandly executed is a wonderful thing. But the job of an event creator isn’t just to curate an experience. You have to ensure people show up to see it. And that means finding a practical way to sell tickets.
Step 2: Secure a scalable ticketing partner
FInding the right technology to use for ticketing was just one small part of Strann’s job, but obviously an important one. Anything she can do to simplify the logistics of selling tickets lets her focus on the bigger picture. With Sensorio’s events manager, Rae Myers, she sought out event ticketing technology that would be easy to set up and even easier for ticket-buyers to use.
Eventbrite was that turnkey solution. Field of Light is open five nights a week, with music, local food, and wine available onsite. This “ongoing event” model requires a ticketing partner with a flexible calendar. Eventbrite enables attendees to choose the date, with options to buy a general admission ticket or a VIP ticket, which includes access to a private dining area. And by using Eventbrite’s embedded checkout feature, Sensorio hosts end-to-end ticket purchasing right on its website.
So far, art lovers and adventurers have come in droves. The venue has already sold 30,000 tickets — an average of 2,600 a week.
Step 3: Turn a local treasure into an arts destination
Initial response since Sensorio opened in May has been sensational, but Strann plans for the long term. Paso Robles is off the beaten path of most tourism traffic. He wonders how they can constantly attract new visitors from afar?
Knowing who is coming to your events helps you promote to more people like them. Strann proactively taps into Eventbrite’s reporting capabilities to understand which demographics are buying tickets. She says: “Where people are coming from is huge for us. I am able to download a world map snapshot showing where attendees are coming from.”
So far, the reporting confirms that the majority of out-of-town visitors are coming from San Francisco and Los Angeles. This information helps the team hone its marketing efforts in and beyond those cities.
The reporting you get from your ticketing partner can tell you not just where your ticket-buyers live, but what their purchasing patterns are like. Have they come to multiple events? What kind of tickets do they buy? You can also connect your ticketing data to third-party marketing in order to retarget to current fans and similar audiences on social media platforms.
Step 4: Be ready for TBD
Sensorio’s launch has been a huge success, but the attraction will grow and change over time. When Field of Light wraps up, other artists will come in, new events will be planned around installations, and ticketing needs may evolve. In fact, the long-term vision for Sensorio is to add a resort hotel with a native botanical garden.
“Eventually,” says Strann, “Sensorio will be a 380-acre experiential attraction and destination.” As that dream unfolds, Eventbrite will enable Strann to keep pace with change from a logistical angle and gain more and more insight into the relevant audiences.
The takeaway for other ambitious events? Choose a ticketing partner that will scale with you, with sophisticated capability and integrations with other apps that will give you flexibility down the line. After all, you never know where your events might take you.
To read more about how Strann accomplished her financial and event marketing goals — and get ideas for your own events business — read the full Sensorio case study.