Your 101 Guide on How to Organize a Music Festival
It’s no secret that music festivals are loved throughout the globe. From Glastonbury and Coachella to Summerfest and Donauinselfest, rain, hail or shine, music festivals are one of life’s great pleasures.
Planning a music festival is a little different (well very different) to attending one, but there are some great foundations you can put in place to ensure that your event runs smoothly from start to finish and that you’re equipped to tackle any hurdles along the way.
Whether you’re trying to bring together your favourite bands for the community to enjoy or you’re trying to raise some money for a cause close to your heart, running a music festival can be a great way to engage with your community.
With lockdowns and changing restrictions adding an additional layer of complexity, ensuring that you have the right policies and procedures in place to manage your staff, volunteers, talent and attendees is more important than ever. So how do you plan a festival?
We’ve pulled together an in-depth guide to how to organize a music festival (from scratch) and the key things you need to keep in mind to ensure that you get the most out of your event.
Where to start? Festival planning.
Before you even get started there are variables that you need to think about to ensure that organizing a music festival is something you can pursue. We’ve put together a festival checklist to consider before you get started.
1. Time. Music festivals take time (and A LOT of it!). From securing the venue to booking bands, selling tickets and organizing the infrastructure and equipment required to put on a show you need to ensure that you have the time to execute an event of this magnitude.
2. Budget. Key to developing a successful music festival is a good understanding of the budget you have to work with. Music Festivals can be expensive so forecasting a budget by speaking with suppliers, council and artists to better understand the costs involved is really important.
3. Research. Do your research!! If there are already 10 other similar music festivals in your town then maybe this isn’t the right event for you. Speak with members of your community to better understand the appetite for a music festival and which types of artists they’d like (and pay!) to see.
4. Venue. Music Festivals can take up a lot of space so finding a suitable venue/space is key to a successful event. Once you’ve found a suitable venue/space, speak with the council to better understand what is and isn’t permitted including:
- Capacity - How many people can you accommodate? This may be reduced depending on the current COVID social distancing requirements enforced by your local council.
- Space - Music Festivals take up a lot of space! By the time you factor in stages, backstage for talent, car parking, food trucks and space for your guests to enjoy live music you need to ensure that the venue you have selected can accommodate the scale of event you have in mind.
- Cost - there are usually costs associated with hiring a venue/space which you should be clear on before you get started.
- Existing Infrastructure. Is there access to toilets, cafes, restaurants etc.
- Permits. What permits (if any) are required from the council and are there any considerations they may inhibit you running the event (i.e no liquor license, noise restrictions etc.).
- 6. Entertainment. Without artists and entertainment you have no music festival. Have you spoken with artists and agents to better understand their interest and availability?
- 7. Suppliers. From stages, furniture, lighting, security and sound, there are a range of stakeholders that you will need to engage to ensure that your music festival operates smoothly. Have you spoken to suppliers in your community to see what equipment they have available and whether or not it’s within your budget?
Understanding COVID Public Health and Safety Regulations
At a time when public health and safety has never been more paramount, staying on top of the most up to date rules and regulations when it comes to public gatherings and social distancing needs to be at the forefront of your planning. Your event management plan checklist and guide should include the following considerations:
- What permits are required?
- How many people are allowed to attend? This should include artists, managers, contractors, suppliers and ticket holders.
- Are there any specific requirements? Do attendees need to wear masks? Does everyone need to check in? How spaced out do amenities need to be?
- What signage is required to ensure social distancing?
- What happens if new restrictions come into effect?
Step 1: Set your goals. The WHY and the WHAT.
First things first. Why do you want to organize a music festival? And how do you make it a successful festival? Whether you're looking to make money, raise money or drive awareness, understanding WHY you’re delivering a music festival and more importantly WHAT you want to achieve is key to your success.
Try and stick with SMART goals (Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely). We have put together some thought starters to help you get started.
- To sell 2,000 tickets over a six month period to ensure we reach our fundraising target of $50,000. This will be measured through weekly financial reports, highlighting the status of ticket sales.
- To attract and secure 5 x key local artists with a combined social media following of 1million to ensure maximum promotion and marketing of the music festival.
- To secure $100,000 worth of sponsorship or value in kind for the music festival from local suppliers and contractors, necessary to deliver the event.
Understanding why you’re organizing a music festival and what needs to be done in order to achieve this will help you to stay true to your north star throughout the process of planning your festival.
Step 2: Budgets.
While budgets aren’t exactly exciting we can't stress enough the importance of spending time developing your budget. If you don’t know what costs you’re up against, how do you know what to price your tickets at to ensure your music festival is viable?
Do you research and speak with suppliers. Secure multiple quotes and provide as much detail so that they can quote accordingly (i.e sometimes costs are more expensive on a weekend). Some budget considerations should include:
- Infrastructure including marquees, stages, speakers, toilets, furniture
- Security (including during bump in and bump out)
- Car Parking including traffic control
- Staffing - event managers, volunteer managers, volunteers
- Food and beverage
- Lighting and audio equipment
- Generators - consider access to power
- Health and safety including cleaning services to ensure you’re COVID compliant
Once you understand your costs you can determine how many tickets you need to sell and at what price point to ensure that you’re in the positive at the end of the day.
Step 3: Venue.
The venue plays a big role in delivering your music festival. Not only does it serve as the foundation to operationally deliver the event but it also sets the tone for the event type. For instance, if you select a big piece of land, maybe you’re opting for a relaxed vibe with lots of people versus a cool industrial warehouse in the CBD that can only accommodate a certain amount of attendees.
Before selecting a venue, you should consider:
- How much does it cost to secure this venue/space? Remember to factor in the time needed to bump in and out for the music festival and not just your event day.
- What are the capacity restrictions? Remember to factor in your local government guidelines on social distancing.
- Do you need to secure additional permits?
- Are there noise restrictions?
- Does this venue/space hold a liquor license? If not, can I secure one?
- Does this venue/space have access to:
- F&B infrastructure
- If not, what equipment do I need to source?
- Is there room for car parking?
- Is there space for camping?
- Is there accommodation close by? And is it easy to get to?
- Is it accessible to all?
Step 4: Talent.
The biggest drawcard and the most important thing to get right is securing a great lineup of talent. At the end of the day, this is what’s going to help you sell tickets!
The key to a good festival is understanding your audience. Maybe you’re looking to attract a younger crowd, in which case consider bands and artists who will resonate with them. Select artists who will complement each other. You probably don’t want someone singing acoustic followed by a heavy metal band.
Once you have a list of preferred artists and bands you can commence outreach to their managers to see who is available and what their costs are.
Step 6: Build your schedule
Now that you have your venue and artists, it’s time to build out that schedule so that you can start properly planning. Do you require multiple stages? Will there be acts in addition to the artists - maybe you’re keen to include the local school choir?
By understanding your schedule, you’ll know how much of what you require and at what times.
Step 6: Contractors and Suppliers.
Which leads us to contractors and suppliers. Once you’ve secured your talent, you can better understand what equipment you’ll require.
Work with local contractors and suppliers to secure stages, lighting, AV, toilets, security, traffic control and more. Make sure you book in your suppliers ASAP. Without the infrastructure to hold a music festival you don’t have an event so don’t leave this until the last minute and run the risk of things being booked out.
Tip: Work with local organizations to see if they’d like to sponsor your event. In exchange for promotion and signage at your event, you could receive discounts on supplies or even value in kind.
Step 7: Music Festival Project Plan
A great way to ensure that your event’s success is to develop a music festival project plan, which highlights key deliverables for all parties to ensure that everyone is clear on timeline expectations.
Event project planning tools like monday.com and Asana are great places to start!
Step 7: Marketing
So you’ve spent the time planning your event - now it’s time to put in place a plan for marketing to ensure that people know about your event and that you sell tickets!
If you’re not skilled in marketing look for marketing students who might be able to intern with you and assist with things like:
- Social media marketing. Building excitement around your music festival including talent and festival inclusions through Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and SnapChat. Try and get your talent to also promote via their social channels to further your reach!
- PR. Work with local news outlets to have your festival featured in both print and online media.
- Printed collateral. Create flyers and display them around your community.
- Radio. Get in touch with your local radio stations and see whether or not you can be featured to help promote your festival.
- Paid advertising. Depending on your budget, you could look to put some money behind online advertising either via online publications, television, radio or via social media.
Step 7: Ticket Sales
Use a reputable ticket seller (Ticketek, Eventbrite) to ensure that when people are ready to buy tickets to your music festival, they can do so quickly and simply.
Step 8: Staffing and Volunteers
Music Festivals often cover an expansive amount of land, with multiple areas which require man power and assistance. From bump in to the festival itself including check in, way finding and event services to bump out there’s no shortage or roles to be filled.
One of the best ways to staff your festival is by using volunteers, who are a great help operationally and help to reduce your overall costs. Before you start recruiting for your festival, it’s good to consider the following festival checklist items.
- What areas require additional staffing?
- What are the volunteer roles? Do they require any specific skills?
- Develop shifts for volunteer roles including timings.
- Will you incentivise volunteers? You could offer discounts on tickets in exchange for their time.
- Will you provide a uniform? Remember to collect t-shirt sizes during registration and to order these well in advance.
- How will you feed your volunteers? Will you put together breakfast/lunch packs?
- How will you ensure that your volunteers feel safe. Things like masks, hand sanitiser and online check ins are all great options!
- Where can you use volunteers and where will you need to pay staff? For things like security you will need to pay them to ensure that they have the right credentials.
- How will you manage your volunteers? Depending on the scale of your volunteer program it may be worthwhile investing in a volunteer management solution to help automate and streamline processes.
Implementing a quality volunteer management software like Rosterfy is beneficial to streamlining your volunteer management and assisting in your festival planning.
Step 9: Festival Guides and Briefings
From contractors to talent to volunteers, ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to what their role is and when they are required. Key documentation you might want to consider providing developing and sharing:
- Music Festival Schedule
- Contractor and Supplier Runsheet
- Talent Runsheet
- Risk Management Plans
- Traffic management plans
- Contractor Briefings
- Volunteer Briefings
- Site Map
- Contact List
- Contingency Plan
Step 9: Onsite Management
You’ve done most of the hard work, now it’s time for the last hurdle - the music festival! From bump in (which may happen days prior) to event day itself, your role is to make sure that everyone is where they need to be and that the schedule communicated to your ticket holders holds true.
In the instance that things change and challenges present themselves, your job is to remain calm, communicate with your staff and contractors and to work towards a solution.
But most importantly, take the time to stop and appreciate your hard work and admire what you have achieved!
Step 10: Report
Reporting is an important step in how to organize a music festival. Why? Because you need to understand how you performed. Did you stay on budget and meet your financial targets? What was the feedback that you received - both good and bad? What would you do again and what would you do differently?
Reporting is particularly important if you’re planning on making your music festival a recurring event so that you have the intel to grow and improve in subsequent years.
Step 11: Thank You
Don’t forget to thank everyone that helped you! From the talent and their agents through to your contractors, council and of course, your volunteers. It’ll put a smile on their face (and yours!).
We hope you’ve enjoyed your festival planning guide. If you’re interested in learning more about how Rosterfy can help you manage your staff and volunteers for your event, we’d love to hear from you. Talk to one of our friendly team members to learn more.