Music festivals are some of the most challenging events to produce. You have to coordinate not just one but many performances across multiple stages, sometimes over multiple days. And at any moment your careful planning can be derailed by uncooperative weather, glitchy A/V equipment, or unruly crowds.
But when things go right, music festivals are some of the most fun events to attend and some of the most gratifying to host. Follow these seven tips to make sure your festival is a success.
1. Make a Good First Impression
We're not talking about looks, here. Your first interaction with attendees is at your music festival's front gate. How smooth or rocky your admission process is will set the tone for the rest of their experience inside your event.
Everyone has shown up to a venue at some point and felt their heart sink when they saw a line around the block to get in. Don't be that venue. It's miserable for your guests, and it's overwhelming for your staff, too.
Make sure your ticketing software is one that can handle festival crowds and is easy for your team to use. There are plenty of ticketing software options out there, but not all of them might be right for your event.
We designed Passage with features made for music festivals. Our lightning-fast scanning validates tickets in .25 seconds FLAT. You can literally scan hundreds of guests in just a few minutes.
Another reason to choose Passage as your event ticketing provider? Offline mode. Hosting a festival often means spotty wifi or temporarily losing your mobile signal. But with offline mode, your scanning won't miss a beat; the app will automatically sync every time it senses a signal.
If you want to learn more, check out our blog on how to speed up check-ins at your event.
The takeaway: A smooth check-in process will make your guests happier and your staff less stressed. The right ticketing software makes all the difference.
2. Find the Right Sponsor
Getting amazing event sponsors can be key for your festival’s success; they bring more revenue to your event while boosting attendees’ engagement.
A few years ago the MO POP Music Festival featured sponsors such as Quicken Loans, Fender, and Sprout. The true hero, however, was KIND, who generously gave away an endless amount of free goodies to guests. From protein and snack bars to sunglasses and sweatbands, this event sponsor was a true crowd favorite. People love free stuff, especially when it is practical, useful, or edible. Kind nailed it in all three categories and fans couldn’t get enough of their sweet and savory treats.
This sponsor choice was not only great for the event producers’ pocketbooks, but it was also for attendees with dietary restrictions, as some of the bars were dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegetarian. Apart from the focus on dietary restrictions and allergies, you might want to consider the quality and ideals behind the food you’re bringing in. The largest generation in the United States is millennials, who definitely read labels and tend to feel strong about labels like non-GMO and organic.
The takeaway: Be conscious of the wants and needs of your target audience. If your music festival’s goal is to gather the largest number of Gen Zers possible, it’s important to take dietary restrictions into consideration.
If you want to learn how to get event sponsors, check our blog here.
3. Fill Their Bellies
If guests are going to be dancing for hours, they’ll surely get hungry and thirsty. And yes, food plays an important role in making your music festival a success. Hungry guests are typically not happy guests.
Why should you keep event vendors in mind? Picture hungry attendees, tired, in need to desperately recharge their batteries, and all there is to eat is flavorless hot dogs without ketchup. That would be a disaster.
If the KIND bars at MO POP got a base hit with snacking, the event vendors hit a home run. Food Truck Alley was host to a diverse range of food carts such as Slows Barbeque, Rolling Stone Wood Fired Pizza, and Treat Dreams. One could enjoy a cheesy, noodle masterpiece at Mac Shack or indulge in a gourmet hot dog at The Mean Weenie. Vegetarians and vegans were thrilled to order from the Shimmy Shack, whose menu included a variety of exciting meatless and dairy-free options.
Apart from the food, the drinks at Riverside Biergarten were cold, flavorful, and the perfect cure for any sunburn. There was a drink for every taste bud. From Blake’s Hard Cider to Magic Hat and Not Your Father’s Root Beer – there was a little something for everybody.
The takeaway: Although it’s nice to have lots of great event vendors, be selective in choosing ones that will provide the best options for your target audience. Remember that eating habits have been changing, so try to provide options for everybody, from meat-eaters to vegans.
4. Create an Unforgettable Event Brand
Creating a strong event brand can be hard, but we can assure you that it pays off.
At the MO POP, the lineup, the setting, everything was fun, energetic, and unique. From the website to the logo and branded merchandise, all of it transmitted the vibe of the entire music festival. Just by looking at it, one could get a feel for what to expect. By glancing at the MO POP brand, one could guess the types of bands that would be there.
The takeaway: Your event branding should reflect the energy and theme of your music festival while appealing to your target audience.
Not only did their signage for MO POP complement the setting and the band lineup, it actually enhanced the look and feel of the event. Their logo was stamped on everything. And this is a good strategy for event producers for three main reasons:
People can easily recognize your event thanks to your logo.
Attendees will definitely take pictures at your music festival. If your logo is everywhere, it’ll easily end up being posted on social media (and for free).
Giving away branded merchandise and seeing guests wearing a t-shirt or hoodie with your logo stamped on will surely make them feel a part of the festival.
You don’t have to give all your merch away for free. If your products are well designed with a strong event brand, guests will be excited to purchase them, too. If you choose Passage as your event ticketing partner, we make it simple to sell your merchandise and festival tickets all on one platform. When guests are buying their tickets online, you can encourage product sales as an upsell right in the checkout process. The best thing about this is that attendees get the chance to receive your merch before your music festival, so they get to wear it the day of the event.
The key point here is that MO POP’s event branding acted as a constant reminder to guests that the festival was awesome and they’ll need to buy tickets for next year to experience it all over again. By doing this, you’re not just giving away a guitar pick; you’re giving away a story, a belief.
The takeaway: People love feeling like they are a part of something, and they love feeling special. Connecting your guests to a belief, as opposed to a trinket or a toy is a great strategy that will ensure repeat attendees.
5. Mind Your Location
Finding the perfect location for your music festival doesn’t always mean finding the most stunning place on earth. The important thing here is finding a place that matches your event’s vibe and, of course, your audience.
Yes, the surrounding environment and the venue capacity matter. But to make your music festival a success, you need to think about what your audience would like or need. Are you organizing a folk festival? You might want to consider hosting it on a farm or field instead of on a cement parking lot. Will heavy metal and rock bands be playing? Do your research and study your target audience and their desires.
The takeaway: You want your guests to feel a sense of home and belonging, so consider an environment and venue that vibe with the “scene” of your attendees.
While finding the right venue for your music festival can be a challenge, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for experimentation. MO POP spent its first two years at Freedom Hill Amphitheater before landing at the 20-acre green oasis known as Detroit’s Riverfront Park. Sometimes, you’re going to have to take what is available and make the best of it. However, view this as a learning opportunity that can benefit you in the future. Take notes: What did you like about your first venue attempt? Was there anything that affected the guest experience? Were there flaws that made your life as an event producer a nightmare?
The takeaway: Don’t be afraid to switch up your venue if your first attempt was an epic fail. People will drive, fly, or walk near and far to see their favorite bands, and won’t forget all about your music festival just because next year’s event is scheduled in a new setting.
6. Pay Attention to Hygiene
The days of standing in long lines to use a dingy porta potty are over. All 2022 music festivals should pay attention to this.
Basic hygiene is a non-negotiable for today's music festivals. That means having plenty of wash stations for guests to clean or sanitize their hands and plenty of clean restrooms.
Having simple amenities like properly attached toilet seats, fully stocked toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and even a nice mirror, can go a long way in creating a comfortable experience for your attendees. It might seem silly, but if you want your guests to buy lots of water and booze, you should be prepared for a constant need for...well, toilets. This doesn’t just mean that quality is important; it means that quantity is also essential.
When calculating the number of toilets you’ll need, ask yourself the following questions:
– Will there be alcohol at the event?
– Will there be an estimated higher percentage of women to men?
– How many days/hours will my festival last?
– What is the maximum number of attendees I will need to accommodate?
The takeaway: Don’t be stingy when it comes to your festival’s bathroom situation. No matter how awesome the view from the bathroom line might be, if your guests have to stand in line for long periods, they will either buy fewer refreshments from your vendors or end up missing their favorite band due to wait time. Either way, no one is happy and you will be viewed as not being prepared.
7. Be Sustainable
It’s no news that millennials and Gen Zers care about sustainability. They were the first ones to incorporate green habits into their daily lives and that also applies to the events they attend. So, if you want to make your guests happy, consider making your music festival a sustainable event.
Here are some ideas for you:
Put recycling bins all around your venue and encourage recycling among guests. Remind them to pick up their waste.
Eliminate plastic waste: avoid the massive sale of plastic bottles and the use of plastic cups. Encourage your attendees to bring their own bottles (or even sell branded ones), and include water or other beverage refill stations.
Work with event vendors that have a reputation for caring about their social and environmental impact.
Consider using recycled materials for your branded merchandise or its packaging.
Encourage public transportation among guests. For example, Coachella started the “Carpoolchella Initiative”.
With Passage, your festival tickets can be digital, which means you’ll be reducing the use of paper.
The takeaway: Try going green. You’ll be meeting your guests’ wants, but also helping our planet.
Those are our seven tips to host an amazing music festival! Don’t focus on trying to make things perfect the first time around. There are always going to be aspects of the event that will need further tweaking. Learn from your mistakes and do better next time.
When making important decisions, consider the scale of your festival and everything that comes along with it. Ask yourself the right questions to find the answers that will help you appear prepared and professional to your guests. And remember, there’s always room for a little improvisation.
Want to start your event right away? Create your event for free or schedule a demo with a member of our team for more information.
If you need more tips & tricks for planning your next music festival, download our free Event Organization Checklist: