September 03, 2018

Cashless Rocks – 2000 Trees Goes Fully Cashless with PlayPass

“This is potentially the biggest change to 2000 Trees in its 12-year history,” Andy Rea, co-founder of the independent rock festival, says as Stand Out manages to grab some time with him on day two of the event. We are nestled away from the hustle and bustle, as Stand Out quizzes Rea all about the festival's decision to go cashless, and why now was the right time to take the plunge.
"There were lots of good reasons to do it," explains Rea, "And those good reasons to do it massively outweighed any resistance. We have been planning this for many months and I don't think we left any stone unturned. I was very curious and asked lots of questions, probably more than any other organiser just because I wanted to get this right.” 

Going cashless was something that Rea has been considering for a long time, but several factors, which included convincing the other co-founders that this was the right path to take, meant that it has taken several years for 2000 Trees to implement this change.

"I first spoke to Playpass [the cashless partner at 2000 Trees] about three years ago, he continues, "It has been quite a slow burning conversation, we have been quite resistant to change as a festival. There are six organisers of the event, all with different opinions on this and this was the first time at we really all agreed that this was the right way forward.  

"It’s difficult with the history that this new technology has, to see it as an innovation that will work. I think some of it is organiser resistance, some of it is customer resistance, and then there is an element of stakeholder and trader resistance - I don’t feel like it is universally accepted yet. 

The debacle at Download in 2015, whatever reason, it went horribly wrong and the customers were really pissed off. I think that spawned our own thoughts about this being a potentially difficult thing to implement because we thought there might be customer resistance. There were a lot of positives and benefits that we just needed to spell out to all of the stakeholders, and that sort of underpinned our decision to go for it really.

Everyone has heard the horror stories t about what happens when cashless goes wrong. However, the cashless partner that Rea decided to go with, Playpass, eliminated a lot of these worries with its "failsafe" system. Playpass also joined forces with the Association of Independent Festivals to release The Independent Festival's Guide to Going Cashless - which offers advice and guidance to organisers considering going cashless and highlights the main benefits of doing so.

These benefits include reducing queuing times and improving the customer experience, full control and visibility of money spent on site for organisers, a boost in on-site revenues, multiple cost savings,  reduction of crime rates and the maximisation of operational efficiency. The guide also stresses the need for clear communication between all parties involved; suggesting that visitors should be pre-warned and prepared to go cashless before the event, traders must be advised on working the system during the event and event staff and contractors must understand the system in order to advise eventgoers.

Rea credits a meticulous planning process by the organising team, and Playpass, for the success of the first cashless 2000 Trees Festival.

"Every step of the way, we have had weekly meetings”, reveals Rea, “Every step of the way, we have done a critical pathway analysis, you know the basics of good event management and planning. We have spent a long time planning this, and I suppose it has been quite a lot of work, but at a steady pace."

Communication is key so how did Rea and his team make sure that all festivalgoers were aware of these changes before they arrived at the event, and more importantly how did they react?

"Well, I wrote a comms plan, that's the short version," Rea laughs. Through our social media, our website, all of our marketing channels - it was just about telling people that this was happening and this is how it was going to work. That went all the way back to a good relationship with Playpass and talking to them about how to communicate this because they have got years of experience. We did put a lot of effort in to making sure that we communicated that this was happening, what the benefits were and then we added an incentive as well to help smooth over any potential resistance.

These incentives included offering festivalgoers "free money' if they pre-registered on the cashless system by certain date in June. Other incentives also included offering guests a free £10 if they topped up by £100. Guests could also set their spending preferences ahead of time, meaning that if the balance on their wristband ever got below a certain level it would be automatically topped up from their chosen bank account.

The first time festivalgoers encountered Playpass' system on site was at the gates, where they were given their wristband and marked as "arrived" - giving the 2000 Trees' organising team real-time information about exactly who was on site and where. Guests could also go and top up their wristband balance at dedicated top up stations. The Playpass team were also readily available to help with any issues.

"Overall, we had a really positive reaction to the cashless system," explains Rea. "Traders were universally happy about the system and how things have gone. There were some teething problems of a minor nature like a device taking a while to reboot if it had switched itself off or very small technological things that could easily be fixed, but overall traders were very happy and have embraced it now, as have customers.

So, with a successful first cashless year under its belt, will 2000 Trees always be cashless?

"I think it is a very positive step forward for our festival that we are really proud of. It wasn’t an easy decision because there are strengths and  weaknesses, positives and negatives, pros and cons. It is a double-edged sword and there is no universal acceptance of this technology yet. But we did it, we are proud of how well we did it and we want to do it again," Rea explains further.

This year’s 2000 Trees broke UK records for pre-registration rates for a cashless system. Rea credits the team around him for the success the festival has seen. He concludes: "For me it is all about the crew and everyone that makes it work. It's that small army of people that are there when you need a hug, there when you need a cry, there when you need a laugh, and there to share a beer at the end of it all. We couldn't do it without them and we are so grateful for the amount of work they put in.”  Article from September 2018 issue of Stand Out Magazine -