Planning A Successful Music Festival

Planning A Successful Music Festival

How To : Plan A Music Festival

South Africa is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. We’re blessed with great weather, magnificent scenery, and diverse, characterful, fascinating people. These are just some of the reasons why music festivals in our awesome country are becoming more and more popular. Every year, iconic festivals such as Lush Festival, Splashy Fen, Rocking The Daisies and Oppikoppi, draw tens of thousands of free-spirited fans, ready for a long weekend of camping, friends, music and fun.

For many people, these festivals are viewed with an almost religious reverence, and attending them is something akin to an annual pilgrimage. Music festivals are places to let your individuality shine, and express yourself through the way you dance and the clothes you wear. Reconnect with old friends and make new ones, and revel in the privilege of listening to awesome live music in a magnificent natural setting.

More Than Just Music

But have you ever thought about creating your own music festival? Most fans take for granted the fact that whatever festival they attend will be well run and well organised. They don’t really have an appreciation for the months (and months) of hard work that goes into planning and executing a successful festival. Many think it’s simply a case of finding a venue, booking a few bands and selling some tickets.

Any festival organiser will tell you this is simply – and sadly – not the case! Music festivals take a massive amount of planning and hard work for a long period of time before the gates open, fans flock in, and artists step out onto the stage. Planning can start up to a year in advance – pretty much as soon as the previous festival is over!

So let’s take a few moments to learn more about what goes into the planning of this type of event. Let’s celebrate the, ahem, unsung heroes of music festivals: the planners and organisers who make the music miracles happen. Those wonderful magicians who make it possible for us to enjoy world-class bands in magnificent surroundings year after year.

1. The Planning Requirements

From a purely logistical point of view, you probably need an absolute minimum of two months to put on an event of this nature. That’s approximately how long it takes to apply for all the permits and licenses you need, such as a temporary liquor license, JOC (Joint Operations Committee) applications and any approval needed from the relevant councils. The length of time this approval takes depends a lot on the size of your event.

However, because such a huge part of the success of your event is how it’s marketed, you should really allow for a minimum of between three and four months. This gives you enough time to promote your event properly.

2. Your Team

In the lead up to the event, you’ll need to hire additional people to help you with all the more last minute, nitty-gritty details. But right from the start, you should have a core team made up of the following key people:

  • checkMarketing/Social Media Manager – to manage all your social media and online marketing campaigns, as well as your print media formats.
  • checkPR Manager to engage with the correct media channels and online influencers. This ensures the right people are not only made aware of your event but are also actively engaged in it.
  • checkSponsorship Liaison –responsible for getting the right brands to buy into the concept and support your event.
  • checkProduction Manager – a critical position! This person is essentially responsible for managing the entire event. From logistics to budgeting and everything in between. They also have to make sure the event complies with all the necessary health and safety laws and regulations. The ability to problem solve is a very necessary skill for this role.
  • checkAccounts Manager/accountant – You can’t spend money you don’t have, so this person has to manage the cash flow and make sure the money is spent in the right way. They are also responsible for creating a realistic budget and sticking to it. Don’t fall into the trap of making a budget work for you.

3.Licencing For Your Outdoor Event

This can be quite an arduous process! You can do it on your own, but you might find it easier to source safety companies to make the applications on your behalf. This significantly smooths out the process. You can check out the full list of Joint Operations Committee (JOC) requirements, but here are some of the most important ones:

  • checkFloor plans, site plans, gas plan/roadmaps
  • checkSecurity plan, parking plan and medical plan
  • checkDisaster management and evacuation plan
  • checkA programme of the event, and a list of VIPs attending.
  • checkWaste management plan
  • checkSAPS and ward councillor confirmation letters
  • checkCertificates of Approval for temporary structures

4. The Layout And Stage

Unfortunately, there isn’t a cookie cutter template you can use to help you with this, as every event is different. Organisers have different ideas of what they want to achieve in terms of the numbers of people they want to attract, and the demographics of those people. Your stage size, too, is dependent on the size of your event. Having the world’s largest stage may look great, but if you don’t have the audience numbers to justify the expense, it won’t help your bottom line.

From a layout point of view, you have to consider the flow of movement of your venue. You want people to move freely and easily between all the offerings you’ve provided for them. Entrance points are critical – getting people into a venue quickly and smoothly is always a great way to start an event.

5. The Facilities

This is again dependent on the numbers of people attending. There are recommended Health and Safety guidelines to follow in terms of the ratio of people to toilets, for example. Some of the most important facilities to include at a music festival include:

  • checkToilets and ablution facilities
  • checkWaste disposal points and bins
  • checkWater points where patrons can access clean drinking water

6. Sponsorships

Music festivals are virtually impossible to put on without Sponsorships. When approaching a company for sponsorship, you need to make sure the content on offer at your festival is relevant to their brand. Do your homework first!

7. Food And Drink

Any food and beverages on offer at a music festival should be the responsibility of the organisers. That can mean providing in-house catering options or leasing space to food truck vendors. In this way, you can ensure that the necessary health and safety regulations are adhered to. You can, of course, source companies to take care of these functions, as long as they are overseen by the organisers.

In terms of paying for food and drinks, cashless systems are awesome, but make sure you read all the relevant fine print and make sure the company has efficient, well-trained staff using the equipment.

8. Contingency Plans

This boils down to risk management, proper budgeting and planning. Make sure you have everything you need in place to launch an event. Give yourself enough time so that you’re not under pressure. Time is your friend and your enemy. If you have everything in order when you launch, then you will have time to sort anything that comes up unexpectedly.

9. Booking Acts

Choosing which acts you want depends on the type of music festival you’re hosting. You need to have a clear idea of what you’re trying to sell and who you’re selling it to. Once you’ve decided on the entertainment you want, contacting them is usually as easy as picking up the phone or dropping them an email. Most of their contact information is readily available online. Bands usually have a set fee, so if you want to know what this is beforehand, just chat to someone who’s dealt with them before. Most bands are negotiable up to a point.

10. Physical Work

With music festivals, your stages take the longest to build. In the days leading up to the event, those should be the first things to get sorted. Your production manager and site manager are crucial at this point to make sure everything gets done on time.

11. Additional Staff On The Day

It’s always best to get people that you trust and are experienced in the role. With so many things happening on the day you don’t want to have to chase people and micromanage. A lot of hands are great, but too many people can clutter up roles or end up just being a waste. One really good person can do the work of five average people.

You need a production schedule that specifies tasks and roles of who’s in charge of what. This also gives you a better idea of timelines and deadlines – time goes by very fast in the week leading up to an event! Clear roles mean problems get solved as soon as possible. Problem-solving is what it’s all about at the end of the day.

12. Post-Event Maintenance

The first thing is obviously to make sure the site is completely cleared and that any issues experienced during the event are addressed. Feedback to all involved is very important – especially to anyone who had a grievance with some issue of the event. The sponsors need feedback reports to show them what they go for their investment.

I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted just reading all that, never mind actually organising a music festival! So next time you head to a festival, take time out of your dancing and partying to appreciate all the behind the scenes work that goes into making everything such a huge success.

There you have it, now go live out your music festival dreams!

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