Marketing Win? Stern Grove Lineup Announced via Public Transportation

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Liz Phair, who according to a MUNI ad posted Friday on Reddit is a headliner at this year's 2022 Stern Grove Festival, performs in Portland in 2016.
Liz Phair, who according to a MUNI ad posted Friday on Reddit is a headliner at this year's 2022 Stern Grove Festival, performs in Portland in 2016.  (Natalie Behring/Getty Images)

Update, May 3: Stern Grove Festival has officially announced its lineup. It's the same slate of artists that appeared to have been accidentally revealed through a Muni ad in April.

Original post: 

The 2022 Stern Grove Festival lineup was announced Friday in a small masterwork of accidental marketing genius: placing an ad on a Muni bus and letting the public do the rest.

The lineup features Tower of Power and Too Short (June 12), Toro y Moi and Hello Yello (June 19), Liz Phair and Madi Diaz (June 26), Cold War Kids and Geographer (July 3), Old Crow Medicine Show and Molly Tuttle (July 10), Cat Power and Spellling (July 17), LeAnn Rimes and Amythyst Kiah (July 24), San Francisco Symphony (July 31), Taj Mahal and Monophonics (Aug. 7) and the Big Picnic with Phil Lesh & Friends and Midnight North (Aug. 14), according to the Muni ad.

A screenshot of the Reddit posting from Friday, April 22, showing an advertisement for Stern Grove's 2022 lineup with Too Short, Cat Power, Liz Phair, Phil Lesh and others.
A screenshot of the Reddit posting from Friday, April 22, showing an advertisement for Stern Grove's 2022 lineup with Too Short, Cat Power, Liz Phair, Phil Lesh and others. (via Reddit / u/normalizevictory)

The ad in question, first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, notes that all performances for the festival's 85th season will still be free. Advance reservations for entry, added in in recent years, will again be required.

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KQED reached out to festival representatives to confirm the lineup in the Muni bus ad. The response neither confirmed nor denied the lineup, and directed us to this tweet.

Photos of the ad surfaced on Reddit and other social media on Friday, giving organizers at the Stern Grove Festival either a) extreme frustration at the leaked lineup, not planned for release until May 3, or b) a scramble to try and put a positive spin on the situation.

Let us help with that positive spin: In an age when festival lineup announcements are tightly controlled and embargoed, this type of covert leaked announcement basically reflects a competent understanding of marketing and communications in the social media age. Namely, how word-of-mouth online carries far more human impact than any branded content, and how clueing the public in on a "secret" is worth far more social clout than a formal press release spread across all media outlets.

For example: remarked one Reddit user, echoing others, "Dude, better lineup than Outside Lands."

What's more, giving the honors of quietly announcing the lineup to Muni shows a laudable support of city services at a time when public transportation has suffered, and been further devalued, in San Francisco. Ridership on Muni and BART fell drastically during the COVID pandemic, and ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft continue their attempts to take over the city streets by supplanting traditional public transit.

In other words: Didn't take the bus on Friday? You missed out on the inside scoop.

The Stern Grove Festival's official website, which promises that a lineup announcement is coming on May 3, is here.