Country Music Association Gleans Real-Time Event Feedback With Mobile Qualitative Research
Attendees for the annual CMA Music Festival used their mobile phones to provide real-time feedback about their experience. This case study describes the process and the results gleaned from this mobile qualitative research project.
Every June, country music fans flock to Nashville for the annual CMA Music Festival, a four-day event jam-packed with concerts, artist meet-and-greets and other activities. This year, some of the attendees were asked to provide feedback about the experience — but they didn’t have to meet face-to-face with a researcher. Instead, they used their mobile phones to provide real-time insights. Keep reading for more about the process and the results gleaned from this mobile qualitative research project.
Serving both the fans and the artists, the Country Music Association (CMA) is a worldwide organization whose goal is to heighten the awareness of country music and support its ongoing growth by recognizing excellence in the genre. Its event calendar is highlighted by the four-day CMA Music Festival, held every June in Nashville, TN.
When it came to the 2011 CMA Festival, CMA Research Director Greg Fuson says, “We wanted to see the event through our attendees’ eyes. We wanted to know what they were looking forward to each day, and then, once it happened, what did they like.”
This wasn’t the first time CMA tried getting feedback at the music festival. In previous years, they did a few in-person interviews, but Fuson describes past efforts as “low-key.” The issue, of course, was that it was a challenge to engage fans who were there for the music and the experience — not to provide event feedback to researchers.
Fuson connected with the team at 20|20 Technology who recommended a multi-day project on QualAnywhere, their mobile qualitative research platform.
As a long-time researcher and moderator, Fuson knew about the benefits of mobile qualitative research for event research: “It’s very hard to moderate event-based focus groups, and with today’s technology, I thought, let’s try mobile. It’s a great way to communicate with massive amounts of people outside of focus group size and get real-time responses. Especially from an event perspective, you can understand what they’re doing, when they’re doing it and why they’re doing it just by sending a simple text message.”
Fuson’s team recruited 100 participants who were at the event’s kickoff parade. The only criteria, besides their willingness to participate, was that they had purchased the four-day pass to the event, which meant they had access to all of the concerts and fan experiences.
Each morning, participants received what Fuson calls a “wake-up text.” “We basically woke them up with a text that said, ‘Good morning, what do you have planned for today?’ We did that every morning, which gave us a good indication of daily drivers,” he says.
“Then, throughout the day, we sent 5-6 texts asking things like ‘What was the most fun you had today?’” Fuson also asked participants to take a picture of their favorite vendor setup, which he says he’ll share with next year’s festival partners so they’ll know what fans like. “Overall, we wanted to know what they thought of the festival experience. Was it artist driven? Or did it have something to do with the city?”
Fuson says participants were practically begging to give feedback: “One day, there was a two- to three-hour gap between text prompts, and we were getting responses from participants asking if they did something wrong. It was very engaging from the consumer’s standpoint,” he says.
Fuson says the results were impressive. “It allowed us to experience all aspects of the festival through the eyes of our attendees,” he says. “The feedback is very intriguing, especially when you’re looking at thousands of responses.” Fuson says he has a binder of 100-plus pages of research transcript (including the back-and-forth texts and photos) that he can share with others at CMA and partners they want to engage with for next year’s festival.