Sunday, May 12, 2013

Music Festivals: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

In today’s economy, with consumer dollars being fought over by everyone in the music industry, putting together the ultimate music lover’s festival is more lucrative and chancier than ever. Music fans with less disposable income are less likely to spend money on concert tickets unless they can get a true value. It is with this thought in mind that we look at what goes into planning a music festival, and what it will take to get those tickets sold. Planning and executing a successful music festival is a lesson in time-management and organization.

For a new music fest being built from the ground up, it is best to start planning a full year before the actual event. This will allow for enough time to have all the necessary pre-production planning in place, along with securing the venue, promoter and all the talent. This initial planning period should be used to determine the size of the festival, how many stages and the duration of it. Ideally, the promoter, leaving the details to the production side, would bring any festival idea to the production company. ProSoundWeb’s Teri Hogan in his article, “One StopShopping: Captain, What Does It Mean, This Term Full Production”, says that, “Particularly for large, multi-stage festivals, hiring a single source to handle all the entertainment elements of the event is almost a necessity. The event director has too many other things to handle to have to worry about the details of his entertainment.” This means that after the event director has brought you, the production company on board, the responsibility for the overall execution of the fest is then in your hands.

First step in the planning is to determine the best location for the fest, how long it will last (one day or multiple), how many stages, and how many bands that need to be booked for the duration of it. Festivals with a theme, catering to a specific genre are generally easier to plan and book, to cross over and have multiple appeal, more thought and planning must go into booking and scheduling the talent to ensure the right mix of musical styles and crowds. Securing the bands is usually left up to the promoter, while making sure the riders are satisfied or reasonably accommodated is the job for the production company. Also, according to Hogan, one of the key elements to a successful fest is to hire, “the best technical person on staff must be in charge of production management. Even with the best preparations, all kinds of little things can go wrong, especially at multiple stages. One person not involved in production at any one stage has to be free to fight the fires, and this person should be well versed in technical knowledge as well as diplomacy.”

Be sure to list and verify all permitting that must be secured along with verifying all local and state laws are observed. Arrange for all safety inspections of the venue’s stages to take place as early as possible in the planning making certain that everything current for electrical and fire coding. Once the stages are in place and the equipment has been loaded in and set up, plan on a final safety inspection prior to opening the gates. Check the layout of the venue and how it will factor into ferrying the artists across the festival grounds and to the stage. In order to allow the stages to run as smoothly as possible with minimal set change times, full backline must be provided at all the stages and artists should be discouraged from bringing anything other than their basic instruments. Hiring the right amount of crew and techs for the show will also prove vital to its success or failure. There is never such a thing as too much help for large-scale music events, so make sure to utilize all personnel as needed. Each stage needs a qualified stage manager to ensure smooth transitions between sets, and enforce adherence to the strict festival schedule. Allowing an act to run over their allotted timeframe will cause interference with the other stages close by.

Vendors of all types are expected to be a part of the festival experience. In the eHow article, “How To Organize A Music Festival”, it advises to, “Make sure you contact the top restaurants and food emporiums in your area. It's not all about the music. People have to eat and drink as well, so you might as well make sure they are not hungry or thirsty.” This also gives a great opportunity for festival organizers to coordinate with vendors for the purpose of sponsorship of the event, and to determine what additional use of the venue grounds will need to be portioned off to accommodate the vendor area, and to what degree space for each will be allotted.

Another issue or major concern is to make certain that all insurance policies are in place for the duration of the fest. Coverage will be needed for the event itself, protecting all those involved and also against sever weather conditions that might cause a delay or outright cancellation of the event. In addition to coverage for the festival and attendees, there also needs to be additional Workman’s Comp coverage purchased to cover all workers and volunteers in case of injury. Consulting with a legal and insurance team for the promoter or venue will prevent any issues, as the day of show gets closer. Security is another important issue to a successful festival experience for all involved. Making sure there is adequate personnel to provide security for the event, from the front gates to the front of the stage will help to ensure everyone involved has a safe and fun experience.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Betsy,
    This is great information in regards to what happens behind the scenes in preparation for a music festival. You make some very interesting points such as the amount of time it takes to plan, who is accountable for the various aspects of the event, and making sure the artists are all within the same music genre. Clearly, the most important factor is location, location, and location! I also really appreciate your guidance on having a final safety check prior to the start of the music festival. Because these stages are sometimes temporary structures, safety should be a concern. You did a great job of noting other things that are very important to a music festival, including the food and beverages.

    Finally, I agree that security is an essential part of any event. I would also add that an emergency medical team should be onsite. Being fully prepared for all situations is difficult. But creating contingency plans with the right personnel on staff will help mitigate high-risk issues. Music festivals are very difficult to plan, but anyone reading your article is off to a great start!