How the Greatest Get Together You've Never Heard Of Is Pioneering The Festival Ticketing Scene
Thirty miles West of the hustle and bustle of Austin's Sixth Street lies Luck, Texas. Luck looks like it has been frozen in time - and in some ways it is. Once a movie set for Red Headed Stranger (1986), the tiny Western town quietly resides on the property of Country music star, Willie Nelson. Most of the year Luck is home to Willie's rescue horses and only sees the occasional visitor; however in March it awakens from its slumber, becoming a playground for 4,000 festival goers trading a day of SXSW for a once in a lifetime experience.
Much like its name suggests, the festival's inception was kismet. "[Luck] grew from a party into an accidental festival," says Luck Reunion co-founder, Matt Bizer. "I don't think any of us meant to do it."
What was originally the best kept secret in Texas is now one of the most anticipated events of the year. For the last five years straight, Luck Reunion has sold out within minutes. Luck's success can be attributed to the heavy-hitting lineup (performing on stages in churches and on the steps of barns), the chance to spend time in Willie Nelson's backyard, and the intimate nature of the festival.
Capped at 4,000, including artists, sponsors and staff, Luck Reunion is one of the hardest tickets on the market--hopeful buyers have only a 1 in 100 chance of getting a ticket. Despite its ability to sellout in seconds, Luck Reunion remains one of the few, if not the only festival, that puts a premium of putting tickets directly into the fan and shutting out scalpers.
"We have always had the game of trying to create a fair environment where fans had a chance, and where the biggest fans had the best chance," says Bizer. "We try to create a format that keeps the ticket in the hands of the fans who really want it the most--the ones who are really paying attention to what is happening at the event versus the people the first person to click or who has the most money."
This game includes a multi-tier ticketing system including a traditional on-sale, flash sales, and most recently introduced, a lottery system dubbed 'The Lucky Draw', built by Ryin Jones and his team at Amplifan. Buyers submit their name and email, then the system randomly selects winners and generates a code with the ability to purchase. Should the winner not use the code within 72 hours, they lose their place in the queue and the code is regenerated for another participant. The Luck Reunion team decided to make a night of the third Lucky Draw, hosting a live event complete with local bands in Austin, TX.
The Lucky Draw challenges fans while maintaining the sense that anything can happen--and at Luck Reunion, anything could. Curated down to the last drop of the complimentary beverages, Luck is an experience to behold. This year there are five stages, including the first ever Honor Stage, honoring Mavis Staples. The Source Stage, themed 'Stronger', is curated around Staples' career and features an all-female lineup throughout the day. As is tradition, Willie Nelson will join his family on stage to close out the festivities.
"[Willie] is the godfather of our event," says Bizer. "His family is a part of it, and we are preserving the legacy of their family ranch. We want to continue to keep Luck alive as a creative and collaborative space, so that it doesn't become a museum at any time. We see the something that stays a living and breathing organism that is contributing to the music community."
Community remains an underlying theme at Luck Reunion. Whether it is the fans making their yearly pilgrimage, the inclusion of Austin food vendors and Texas-based sponsors, or the festival's dedication to rewarding real fans, Luck Reunion's cowboy mentality has pioneered a new space in ticketing and festival culture.