How Wonderfront Rocked Their First Festival with

The Wonderfront Festival is a one-of-a-kind event hosted in San Diego, stretching from Broadway Pier to the Embarcadero parks. The inaugural festival took place in November 2019 with an artist lineup of more than 125 musicians playing across 10 stages. 

These performances took place as part of a three-day music, culinary and arts festival. Attendees also enjoyed the stunning waterfront of San Diego Bay. The weekend festival offered many diverse attractions—including yacht parties, water sports, art installations, afterparties, a craft beer village, and plenty of local flavors.

As you might assume, it took a lot of planning and forethought to pull off an event of that size. The ambitious Wonderfront Festival needed to coordinate dozens of locations, hundreds of people, and thousands of minor considerations—like housing, scheduling, and safety. It also needed to do all of this without a template from past events.

But the co-founders, Ernie Hahn and Paul Thornton, had a vision for the festival. The Wonderfront Festival was made to be a sprawling celebration that would also incorporate the city itself. “We wanted to create a different kind of festival,” said Thornton. “One where the destination becomes part of the experience, one where the fan can customize their weekend, and one that integrates downtown San Diego into the fabric of the festival. We are creating a ’Fall Break’ celebration like none other.”

To achieve this, they decided to institute a uniquely permissive re-entry policy. Unlike many music festivals, Wonderfront wanted to allow attendees to come and go as they pleased. The goal was to encourage festival-goers to customize their weekend experience and genuinely integrate the city into the fabric of the music festival. 

Getting Through the Challenges of a First-Time Festival

When Hahn and Thornton were planning the event, one thing became clear. To maintain the re-entry policy that was so integral to the event, they needed a cutting-edge and expert event management platform. They wanted to create a seamless and unique experience for event-goers, so they needed a robust but easy-to-use music festival ticketing partner. 

More importantly, they needed a team they could trust. First-time music festivals have no room for screw-ups—a single failure can end the festival for good. The platform couldn’t crash, lose information, or force the Wonderfront team to field constant questions and concerns.

That’s why they turned to

Simplifying Ticket Sales for Complicated Events

In a world full of music and arts festivals, Wonderfront needed to stand out. The ticketing platform allowed the festival to customize its sales pages with the right branding. This not only gave the festival more exposure but also built a sense of validity and trust with their audience. 

The event ticketing platform also made it easy for both the Wonderfront team and their target audience to navigate sales. The festival runners were able to focus on planning and organization because they trusted the world-class support team at to handle event details. “Our unique features meant we needed a fully customizable and cutting-edge ticketing partner. was the best solution we found, and to boot, they have some of the newest marketing capabilities that others just couldn’t touch,” Thornton stated.

For example, the Wonderfront team wanted to run a pre-sale launch to build excitement. In addition to the standard pre-sale, they also offered a “locals only” pre-sale discount for San Diego County residents. That required ticketing technology that could not only support a three-stage pre-sale strategy but also qualify the location of residents for that local discount. They used the invitation tool to:

  • Take RSVPs
  • Perform a pre-sale launch
  • Sell multiple ticket types to the festival also helped them navigate changing requirements in the lead-up to the event. One major adjustment took place when the Wonderfront team decided to offer three-day tickets as well as one-day options. For first-year festivals, many people purchase a one-day pass to check it out. Built-in upgrade functionality and the use of promo codes made it simple to provide current ticket-holders the opportunity easily to switch to a two or three-day pass right from their mobile phone. Ticket buyers could also upgrade to a VIP level pass with a couple of clicks. 

Another major complication was the sheer size of the festival. Keeping track of ticketing for festival events like the craft beer village and the multiple afterparties took significant coordination. Collecting all of these events in the platform made it easy to keep attendees and team members alike up to speed without wasting time. 

Supporting the Re-Entry Policy With Technology

Once tickets were sold, the final hurdle was managing the re-entry policy. It was clear that traditional ticketing for festivals wasn’t going to be the right choice for Wonderfront. Paper tickets are easy to lose or destroy, and scannable codes would have taken too much time. 

That’s why the RFID wristband technology provided by the partner network was a perfect choice. On-site activation made the check-in process quick and painless. After check-in, guests could leave and come back to any gate whenever they wanted as long as they kept their RFID wristbands. In addition, other points of exclusive access, including VIP sections and afterparties, needed a further level of qualification for entry, which integrated into the RFID program.

The Point of Sale system was so successful that it was easy to manage the five main gates on all three days of the festival. The team only needed 35 on-site staff split between the five gates to keep things running smoothly.

Having Results That Speak for Themselves

Despite the size and scope of the Wonderfront Festival, it went off without a hitch. Not only did the event succeed but it also generated incredible attendance and sales. Without the benefit of a pre-existing audience, Wonderfront saw 57,000 attendees over three days. They offered tickets for multiple attendance levels to the 10 stages, 125 artists, and all the ancillary events. 

The whole time, the team was working behind the scenes to manage sales and event details. This support led to favorable results:

  • The pre-sale strategy using the invitation tool generated 33% of all tickets sold during the festival. 
  • The simple ticket upgrade option led to 15% of all attendees going up to a three-day pass, keeping them on-site longer and increasing revenue. 
  • The ticket checkout flow offered customers the chance to buy merchandise with their passes. This simple addition allowed Wonderfront to successfully upsell merchandise to festival-goers prior to the event and gain additional revenue in the checkout flow.

The Wonderfront Festival organizers saved time and stress by relying on the platform for festivals. Instead of worrying about tickets, they could focus on finding the right artists, venues, and special touches that made Wonderfront so special. The results are obvious: The inaugural Wonderfront Festival was a resounding success and it quickly became one of the top music festivals in Southern California.

Be sure to check out the Wonderfront website to stay up to date on festival plans for 2022 and beyond.