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Portland, Oregon. Falling in love with the art of everything.

Case Study: Portland Music Month

Creative direction and media relations management for the month-long music festival that supports the local music scene.

Sit Pretty at Holocene in Portland
J. Graves at Holocene in Portland
Ghostfeet at KOIN studios in Portland
Ghostfeet at KOIN studios in Portland

Overview

Portland Music Month (PDXMM) is a city-wide, month-long celebration and a testament to the vibrant and unique music scene that makes Portland one of the top-five music cities in the United States. Despite boasting more venues than Nashville or Austin, Portland’s musical identity remains somewhat underground.

 

PDXMM aims to change that narrative, nurturing the city’s main cultural export - music - into a calling card for the city. Beyond entertainment, the festival actively supports local musicians: with each ticket to a PDXMM show, a donation to the Echo Fund, an annual award that supports Portland musicians’ creative projects, is included.

 

PDXMM is a rallying cry for the city, urging locals, tourists, businesses, and politicians to embrace and champion the diverse musical talent that defines Portland.

The Task

In previous years, PDXMM’s messaging lacked cohesion across platforms and made it more challenging for people to understand the purpose of the music festival.

 

In 2024, my mission was to unify messages across social media, earned media, website content, partner sites, and sponsored content. The goal was clear: boost attendance and ticket sales while elevating the festival’s profile through strategic local media coverage. 

 

I focused on crafting messages urging Portlanders to support their local scene and discover their next favorite band. These resonant phrases, embedded in social media copy, website content, and promotional toolkits for musicians and venues, aimed to evoke the innate sense of discovery within the community.

Challenges

Results

The aftermath of extended COVID closures left Portlanders out of the habit of attending shows. Navigating an uphill battle for attendance, compounded by the festival’s January timing - historically challenging for venues and musicians - presented a formidable challenge.

 

Despite a promising kickoff event at Holocene, midway through the month, an unexpected, week-long ice storm struck, canceling and rescheduling shows. The impact on musicians and venues was severe. Post-ice storm, a sense of normalcy returned, with people eager to support the remaining PDXMM events.

 

A targeted follow-up pitching campaign to local media resulted in two impactful stories that urged attendance at remaining PDXMM shows: an interview on local radio station KINKFM and coverage in the Portland Mercury.

Lessons Learned

Managing and executing a music festival’s messaging and media outreach strategy within a tight two-month timeframe is a substantial task. Looking ahead, my aim is to begin messaging work earlier, distributing supporting materials to venues, musicians, and the team much farther in advance. 

 

The key takeaway from PDXMM 2024 is the thriving, passionate community within Portland’s music scene. Despite its largely underground status on the national stage, the scene perseveres amid challenges.

 

Working with these dedicated creative individuals was a pleasure and career highlight, and the experience underscored the importance of building awareness for the remarkable happenings within Portland’s unique music scene.

Through press releases, targeted pitches, bus ads, social media copy, and revamped website content, media coverage for PDXMM permeated most Portland media outlets, including Oregon Public Broadcasting, the Portland Mercury, the WIllamette Week, KOIN, KGW, and more. 

 

Collaborating closely with local musicians, I secured coverage on KOIN News AM Extra, a local CBS affiliate news station. Five bands featured in pre-taped short sets and interviews gained them additional content for their social media, increased attention at their shows, and exposure to a new, larger audience, as well as good coverage for the festival in general. 

In total, media outreach resulted in a total potential audience of over 342 million (based on  combined UVM of website traffic), and we raised 30% more for the Echo Fund than last year.

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