For most of its more than decade-long career, the Australian indie-electro trio Rüfüs Du Sol has toured on its own terms — booking and promoting its concerts without much outside help.
The model has allowed the group to stay directly connected to their fans, says Danny Robson, co-founder of management firm Leisurely, which counts Rüfüs Du Sol as a client and credits the band’s sustained rise to its DIY ethos.
The challenge, Robson explains, is finding ways to continue to independently grow while mitigating the financial risk bands face in promoting their own concerts — a setup that puts them on the hook for all of the marketing and production costs. After Rüfüs Du Sol successfully launched the Sundream destination festival in 2022 in Tulum, Mexico — and then expanded the event to a second weekend based on outsized demand — it wanted to move it to a bigger venue in the resort city of San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, in 2023.
Robson said he was confident Rüfüs Du Sol could sell the 4,500-plus tickets allotted for this year’s event, which is being hosted at San Jose del Cabo’s El Ganzo Sculpture Gardens, a 12-acre park that houses a collection of large-scale sculptures by Mexican artists. Based on sales from 2022, Robson even believed the band would be able to sell tickets for a second weekend if demand held up. Not wanting to bring on a third-party promoter that might be unable to curate the event in a way that felt authentic to the band, Robson opted to promote the event in-house — but also wanted to find a way to reduce the risks faced by the band in adding a second week.
To that end, Bobby Koehler — who heads up business development and innovation for Robson at Leisurely — linked up with longtime friend Robert Davari at California-based ticketing company Tixr, which offers technology-driven ticketing solutions for clients in various industries. By teaming up with Tixr, the band and its team found they could mitigate the risk by taking some of the uncertainty out of the purchase process by creating an accurate picture of true demand.
“He created this white label system which has these capabilities for leveraging data that have helped other clients we’ve worked with,” Koehler explained. “It’s very applicable to what we are trying to do.”
“A destination festival is a much more complicated endeavor than hosting a concert,” says Davari, founder/CEO of Tixr, which has been ticketing destination events for several years, including the Big Mouth Bluegrass festival, the new punk-themed Bamboozle festival in Atlantic City, N.J., and HootieFest in Riviera Cancun, Mexico.
“There are differences between managing cash flows and working through add-ons like hotel rooms and destination packages,” Davari adds of the complexities. “It was important to everyone to meet early on and map out the full revenue picture.”
Tickets went on sale on Dec. 16 for Sundream’s first weekend (May 4-7) and quickly sold out. With thousands more in the queue, Robson and the band opted to forge ahead with the second weekend using Tixr’s wait list pre-authorization system, which measures how much demand is left after the onsale. The system, which has been used by artists like Luke Bryan and Phish, has fans agreeing to preauthorize their cards to buy tickets for an unspecified future event if the one they are looking to attend sells out: “The idea is that we’re capturing the entirety of the demand,” says Davari.
Under the partnership, each Sundream ticket sold (face value $555) includes a $37.19 ticketing fee that goes directly to Tixr.
For fans, the pre-authorization system triggers in real-time during a major onsale. In Sundream’s case, fans in the queue received a message asking if they wanted to pre-authorize their card to be charged if more tickets became available for the first weekend.
“We explain the basic terms and then the language on the site changes from ‘buy ticket’ to ‘complete pre-authorization,’” says Davari. “So, it’s very clear that they’re preauthorization[s]. And then it’s up to the band or the promoter what they want to do.”
Robson said that by the time the first weekend’s onsale had concluded, “we had enough people who [had] committed to trying to buy a ticket for that weekend … which gave us the confidence to reach out to the artists and put a lineup together for weekend two.”
While both weekends include two live sets and a DJ set from Rüfüs Du Sol, the artists lineups are completely different. Weekend one features Tale of Us, Michael Bibi, Monolink, Weval and more, while the lineup for weekend two, set for May 11-14, includes Dixon, Bedouin, Whomadewho and Jimi Jules.
Because the lineups are different, Robson and his team knew they had to go back to fans with a new offer for weekend two to ensure they were still interested.
“What we’re able to do is put together a second weekend and send all those people a direct message and say, ‘Hey you guys are on the wait list. We’re going to give you first access to tickets for the second weekend, which we’re announcing tomorrow,’” says Robson. “We want it to be an amazing on[-the-] ground experience from start to finish for the fans. So rather than trying to fit 20% more people in the first weekend, we created a second weekend so that everybody who’s attending gets the same experience.”
In the final analysis, the Tixr partnership worked as intended. After going on sale, Sundream’s second weekend quickly sold most of its capacity, and as of Friday (April 7), only a few hundred tickets remain with just over a month to go. That’s good news for Rüfüs Du Sol, allowing the band to remain committed to its DIY path — and maintain a direct connection with its fans.
“Being able to own the transactional data between the fan and the artist is an extremely important thing to us,” says Robson. “Once you take ownership of that, you are then able to control how you communicate with your fans moving forward.”