32 million people attend music festivals each year.  Are you interested in hosting the PERFECT Music Festival?

Is yours on their radar?

Hosting the perfect music festival is not easy. Talent aside, there are monetary, zoning, and scheduling considerations. County Fair USA breaks down what makes the best festivals tick.

Follow each step for an event that can’t be beat!

Step 1) Fund your music festival

Firefly Music Festival in Delaware is nothing less than an underdog success story. Their festival raised $1 million within 24 hours of launch.

Rock Band guitar Player at the PERFECT Music FestivalYes, 24 hours plus 5 years of planning.

You’ve got an idea, but what’s your pitch? A music festival is a pipe dream without money. A sad fact is that profit is the only reason suits would take a shot on an eager upstart.

Bootstrapping will be your primary option until the festival inevitably scales up (Am I being presumptuous? Of course!). Firefly built expertise hosting smaller, niche events.

Investors won’t take a shot on festivals that aim too high. If you’re more an ‘ideas kind of guy/gal’, hire someone that has been down this road.

Crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe let amateurs test the waters. Hell, even experienced planners use crowdfunding to quickly build capital. The premise is simple: Pitch your festival online. People from all over the world can back your project. If there is demand, it will reach appropriate funding before a deadline.

Combine crowdfunding with social media for maximum exposure. Facebook Pages are mandatory! Younger attendees prefer to keep friends in the loop on Facebook and Twitter. Proposition other event managers in your niche. Most local establishments are keen to help entrepreneurs because this opens a cross-promotional avenue.

Don’t be discouraged if your project fails to garner adequate backing. Even festivals boasting world-famous headliners flop. Rock band ‘My Bloody Valentine’ agreed to headline Hop Farm Music Festival in Kent, England. A hostile economic climate killed its momentum.

There could be a number of reasons for an initial failure. Pinpoint costs down to the last toilet paper roll and be prepared to recalculate your budget several times. Don’t be surprised to break even your first time ’round.

Potential backers desire some semblance of structure. Work through the remaining steps on our list before making your pitch.


Step 2) Insure your music festival

Insure your PERFECT Music FestivalYou name it, someone’s insured it. So why not music festivals? Festivals are a profit-making enterprise like any brick-and-mortar business. City/town officials will regard it as such.

Suppose an errant cigarette burns down your stage. Insurance protects your investment. Festival attendance ranges from the hundreds to thousands. An injury can set budding organizers back millions in legal fees. Insurance covers liability.

Bottom line: Seek an agency catering to your setup. Keep in mind that some agencies will not insure festivals serving alcohol. Understand precisely what your insurance covers.


Step 3) Hire adequate security and laborers.

This is a controversial statement but don’t rely (exclusively) on volunteers. Financial sacrifice for the collective good sounds great in theory. Leave it to the Marxists.

An adequately paid employee’s passion will meet your inexperience half-way. People want to know they are valued.

Insuring your venue is not enough. Few agencies will cover your festival without proper security. Gates and entrances require one guard minimum and rotations are prudent. Inspect your perimeter for potential ‘leaks’. 10 or less attendees aren’t an issue – they are likely family or friends.

Kawartha Security firm applies these ratios:

  • 10-50 People: 2-4 Guards
  • 50-250 People: 4-12 Guards
  • 250-1000 People: 12-30 Guards

Our advice? High-ball it!

Outline the exact venue conditions for new hires. Here is a brief, yet no means definite, list of considerations relevant to festival personnel. Please add liberally to our list. You can never be too scrutinous!

1. What forecasts should your staff prepare for?

2.  Where are your staff’s living quarters?

3.  What tools will your staff need to perform their duties? (Hardhats, safety boots, etc.)

4.  Will you personally supply said tools? What should they bring from home?

5. What is the festival’s expected attendance count?

6. When will staff take their breaks?

7. What are your staff’s expected hours?

8. How much will you pay your staff?

9. When will they receive said payment?Is there a dress code.

10. Who will run supplies from point A to B?

Hindsight is 20/20 but nobody said you had one shot. Write down oversights for greater precision next festival.


Step 4) Install restrooms and parking spaces.

Toliet at the PERFECT Music festivalToo few loos are an unforgivable sin. Chantler’s Environmental Services and similar sources consistently put the ratio at 50 patrons/unit. Remember: Total attendance is not necessarily current attendance. Festival staff must have separate facilities.

Alcohol increases the need to urinate by 40%. Thus, add 10% more units where alcohol is served.

There is no set ratio for parking spaces. We defer to your town/city/county/municipality parking regulations. Work with officials to direct traffic.

Hindsight is 20/20 but nobody said you had one shot. Write down oversights for greater precision next festival.



Step 5) Make your music festival accessible.

Accessibility is not limited to wheelchair bound attendees.

Though, certainly, you want options for the physically handicapped. Rental venues will have ramps and wheelchair seating built-in. Outdoor venues are typically built atop level ground which mitigate mobility concerns. Keep barrier-free seating in mind when constructing seating and stages.

Disability parking will have been addressed in step 4.

We’re folk of different stripes and smoking is often overlooked when planning accessibility. Designate a smoker’s section downwind from your attractions.

We recommend having personnel on hand for spontaneous accommodations. Want assurance that you’ll make Santa’s nice list? Release promotional material with/in braille.

As with festival staff, inform attendees which personal belongings should be brought. Some considerations include:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Tent
  • Cooler
  • Refreshments
  • Apparel (ie. Rubber boots, rain gear)

Wheelchairs and damp soil don’t mix. Scout locations with concrete paths for outdoor festival’s expecting rain.



Family at the PERFECT Music FestivalLong lines are a double-edged sword. Good for business, bad for customer satisfaction.

Humans fear uncertainty as much as death. Attendees want to know if they’ll be stuck in line for 50 minutes or 5. Put minds at ease with calculated wait times. Most festivals have an array of booths and wait times are service specific. Work with vendors to ascertain relevant wait times.

We have the technology! Point-of-Sale software records when transactions are at their peak. Use trends to bolster booth staff at above-average intervals. Large rental venues may offer an app that alerts attendees when spots are available.



Step 6) Hire First-Aid responders and stock medical equipment.

Architetto_simbol_medicina at the PERFECT Music FestivalInsurance should not be your only precaution.

The benefit of a first-aid tent goes without saying. Music festival organizers should wear multiple hats. Take a first-aid day course to cover basics or jog your memory. Keep first-aid experience in mind when hiring personnel.

Ready-made kits can be purchased. But what if your patrons suffer heart trauma? No problem! Buy an AED

Ah, but what if they suffer an adverse reaction to food or scent? What if they swallow poisonous material?

Consult your local paramedical service for recommendations. We have yet to see a hard and fast ratio – Boston’s 516,000 square foot convention center has only 1 first-aid room!

Local services can also devise fire evacuation strategies. As a general rule of thumb, you should be no farther than 75 ft. from any fire extinguisher. Confection workers should be no farther than 30 ft. from a fire extinguisher. Which segways into our next step…


Step 7) Serve food and beverages.

Finally, the fun stuff!

Hot Dog with mustard at the PERFECT Music FestivalConfections are a county fair staple in particular. Fair food does not merely satiate hunger, it satiates one’s artistic soul. Festivals are an opportunity to parade your community’s ingenuity. Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger’s are a big hit at The San Diego County Fair. Orange County fair-goers prefer their corn dogs

dipped in chocolate. Deep Fried Butter on a Stick is perfectly permissible at The Iowa State Fair.

Be as wacky or mild as you’d like to be. The creations don’t even have to be edible. Iowans love butter so much they’ve sculpted a life model cow from the stuff.

We recommend featuring state icons. For example, feature corn-based recipes if your state heavily exports corn. There are no limitations and people will surprise you. You can’t go wrong with standard fare: Corn dogs, hot dogs, anything-that-ends-in-dog, burgers, dough bits and candy apples.

If it’s deep fried, you’re halfway there.

Confections help recoup overhead from renting a venue. Divide your venue’s costs by square footage and charge accordingly. Make sure booths have proper canopy for adverse weather. Set up enough tables and seating.


Get properly licensed to serve alcohol.

beermug at the PERFECT Music festivalNothing quite like a cold brew on a hot summer day. Your state may offer one-time permits for serving alcohol

at music festivals. Some states require a designated area for legal age drinking (beer garden). We once again defer you to local law.

Note: It can take several months for states to issue licensing. Inquire about a license as early as possible. Servers will be required to have some alcohol management training. Do not rely only on security to escort intoxicated attendees from the festival. Train servers to recognize intoxication’s symptoms.

Failure to ‘cut off’ patrons can have moral and legal repercussions. 75% of Americans will be involved in a drunk driving related collision in their lifetime. 27 Americans die each day as a result of drunk driving collisions. An attorney can trace alcohol related injuries back to your festival.

Once again, confirm your insurance covers events serving booze.

And for God’s sake, don’t settle for serving domestic brands! Festivals are an opportunity to showcase independent breweries. The State Fair of Texas offered 60+ brews in 2015. Huge corporate breweries were once small operations shown communal support.

Scratch local breweries back and they’ll scratch yours. Businesses will reciprocate your support through free advertising.


Step 8) Invite musicians to perform.

Nowplaying at the PERFECT Music FestivalA perfect music festival’s meat and potatoes!

When bands know you’re sincere, support will grow. That can only be built from the ground up. Treat your festival like a business yet remember bands have their own aspirations. In as much as you’ve invested in your patrons’ satisfaction, invest in your lineup’s success.

A standard club deal is to split entrance fees after paying sound people (if any). Given the music festival’s format, it’s easier to pay a flat rate. Negotiate performance fees before launching your Kickstarter. Bands are more likely to commit when they see money on the table.

Anything less than $100 per member per show is highway robbery.

You may invite whoever you would like yet its good PR to invite some local acts.

Maintain a congenial atmosphere during the festival’s run. Respect their privacy and equipment. Ask for permission if you need to make technical adjustments. Discuss stage effects well in advance. Certain effects (pyrotechnics) can be an insurance risk.

Bands may approach you about playing a festival. Even small festivals receive hundreds of submissions after getting their foot in the door. Live audio samples weed out amateurs. Serious performers hire professional photographers.

While beggars can’t always be choosers, you still want performers with a proven track record.

Focus on a theme. The world’s greatest EDM artist has no place at a country music showcase. Avoid being too rigid during the selection process. Many genres can overlap (ie. Bluegrass, country).


Step 9) Do it all again next year.

Rock Musician at the PERFECT Music FestivalBigger, better.

That’s assuming you’re not too tired, of course. People are counting on you to get started immediately. Prepare for hotter acts, wackier food, and increased capacity after word-of-mouth.

Or, just crack a beer and rest on your laurels.



In Conclusion

Organizing a perfect music festival demands next-level focus and passion. If you pull it off, congratulations, you’ve managed to reach an oft untapped demographic.

Millennials are vocal about causes and events. TomorrowWorld became America’s fastest growing after targeting younger audiences.

Follow our 9 steps and your music festival is a guaranteed slam dunk. Good luck in your endeavor to best Coachella.




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