For a lot of entrepreneurs, creativity and business tend to not go hand in hand, but when you’re running a music festival, creativity needs to be at the forefront of every decision you make, from the layout of the site to the acts themselves. While there are so many festivals that have become household names, from American ones like Bonnaroo to Glastonbury in the UK, there are also many others who ended up going bankrupt and causing ructions for everyone involved, like the recent Pemberton Music Festival fiasco . Suffice to say, it’s not just a creative spirit you need for a music festival to fly, but also the business sense behind it too. The perfect music festival isn’t just a place for people to go and get out of their heads; it is an experience, suitable for young and old and everyone in between, which means you need to take the following into consideration.
Where Are You Going To Have It?
The location is crucial for a brand new festival. Are you planning to have it in a field, a million miles away from civilization? Or is it going to be urban, inner-city? The scale of your festival will determine your location, and as a result, your marketing will have to match it. The difficulty in getting a festival together for the first time is that you will be relying on word of mouth to get the message out there, for it’s the punters that will bring in any sense of profit (if at all) to your festival. The first thing to address is your budget because you will know how much you are playing with financially and then you can make the most of your choice of acts and your space.
It’s very tempting to get a smallish space for your money so you can spend more on the acts. But the issue with this is that if you had four stages, all within a small space, the sound bleed from each stage would really annoy the public because it will make for a very muddled experience. And the performers themselves will be annoyed because it will affect their performance, and so you’ve got a problem on your hands. If your vision is a vast collection of acts, then give them some respect and make sure that the land is big enough for your roster of talent.
Once you’ve decided on your location, you need to think about security, and the main thing for a ticketed event is to have a suitable perimeter around the site to stop the wrong type of people coming in, such as drug dealers. While you need a suitable security setup, this doesn’t mean the site has to be “ugly.” You can take inspiration from the Fuji Rock Festival and add some nice decorative touches. A music festival is all about the atmosphere, and you can even make a sterile, secure setup have its little pieces of charm with the right branding and imagery.
Booking The Talent
For your average punter, the lineup is what will pique their interest. For a seasoned festival goer, you want to provide a veritable mix of acts that are well-known and others that aren’t. The real gems in a music festival are ones that audience members might not have heard of. They may be going to a festival for the big names, but it’s the surprise acts that will stay with them and the ones they will talk about down the line. Booking a mix of acts is really important because if you were charging a lot for a ticket and you only have a roster of acts that aren’t really well-known, you won’t build up any anticipation for the event. So if your budget only stretches to performers that are popular on the local scene rather than on a mass scale, you’d better make sure that your ticket price reflects the quality. Glastonbury, as a very popular example, has the highest caliber of acts and while the ticket price is over £238 ($305 approximately) which is a lot, the sheer scale of the event and the variety of acts (not to mention the theater, cabaret, exhibitions, children’s play areas and so on), justify the cost. So when you book your talent, alter the ticket price accordingly. Based on the talent you book, you will have to put in additional security. Big names have their own security firms and a big entourage, so be prepared to face a lot of external pressure. For those big names, it inevitably means that they may want to go around the festival and explore so this can be a headache when it comes to security, but if you have a system in place, such as wristbands and specific access passes, it helps add that extra secure layer. Prepare your security systems well in advance of the festival and do test runs of potential incidents, so your staff knows what to prepare for.
Organization is the key to ensuring that there are suitable layers of security, and you can never be too organized in this respect. It makes life easier all round to have a coloUred or specific VIP pass system to make sure that the right people are in the appropriate areas. You can hire a company to make VIP passes. The VIP passes by Lanyards Factory are a brand that are used to making passes for all sorts of live events. And by having passes specific to your event that have a unique branding and scan code on them, you will be making sure that the event is secure and the safety of your acts are maintained.
Stewards And Security
A vital component for the public as well as the acts, you need to invest in your security and staff members, not rely on volunteers. The staff is the hub of your event, and so make sure you get the best quality you can, seasoned professionals who know the meaning of a safe and secure music festival. In addition, based on the festival you’re running, you will need to have security that is savvy enough to know the difference between moshing and fighting. If you’re running a metal festival, moshing is par for the course, and so you will need eagle-eyed staff members to step in should something get violent. Of course, in such a large-scale event you want your staff members to be trained in every aspect of first aid, knowledge of security points, and what to do in case of any type of emergency, from a cut finger to a full-scale riot. Over the years, the gaping holes in security have been shown up in near-disasters, such as the riots that took place in Woodstock ’99, and the sheer amount of people that turn up to a festival can go into the thousands, which is why the next point needs to be a massive priority…
Yes, this is something you will overlook at your peril! Everyone will get the call from nature at some point, and so the least you can do for everyone is to provide hygienic portable toilets, but also provide lots of them! The way a local authority will gauge if you’re over-capacity is by how long your toilet queues are, so make sure you have plenty to keep those queues down. Running water, toilet paper, soap, and hand sanitizer aren’t things that should be paid for at a festival, so have them in abundance!
The Food & Drink
If you’ve been to a festival before, you know how overpriced the food and drink can be, and so you can work with local suppliers and niche businesses to justify the cost and sell wholesome, tasty food, or you can go for the lowest common denominator and sell processed food in bulk that is cheaper but will sour your punters’ experience. It’s a very big thing for people, and there are festivals that allow people to bring their own food and drink in, which is a plus, but you will also need to provide a wide variety of food for the festival goers. The food is always a big talking point, either the beer is too warm, or the food is too cold (which is a big deal!) so if you take the time to address these small issues, you could make the whole experience a better one for your crowd.
As a business venture, it can be really thrilling to see your event come to life. But as running any type of festival, be it music, or arts, or even a homely carnival, the balance in getting the atmosphere perfect for customers combined with the administration duties is a hard one to get right. Many festival organizers see the crowds of people and immediately think of the money rolling in. This is not the best way to approach a festival, and it is a sure-fire way to make sure that you have no substance. A music festival is all about the atmosphere, the crowds, and, of course, the music. So make it a great one.