Music Festivals: It’s All About … Planning

music & arts: Entry 3 of 3 in Music Festival Event Planning

MUSICAL FESTIVAL PLANNING

Erie Art Museums Blue and Jazz Festival

One of Tammy’s Successful Events
Click to see the Erie Art Museums Event Page

This post is the third and final in a series of 3. I have been exploring the planning of music festivals through the insights of one of Erie PA’s best event planners, Tammy Roche. Check out the first article “Music Festival: It’s All About Creation” and the second “Music Festival: It’s All About the Music.”

TIME TO MAKE IT HAPPEN

So far we have talked about planning committees, music selections and event strategy…all that is left is to make it happen. The final installment of Music Festival planning focuses on some of the logistical issues that are faced when planning and implementing a music festival.

WHO IS GOING TO PAY FOR IT?

There are a couple possibilities for revenue streams to fund a festival:

  • sponsorship
  • donations
  • Ticket Sales (if you choose to charge)
  • Internal Festival Business such as concessions, merchandise, or alcohol sales (with a valid liquor license!)

The utilization of any or all of these possible fund raising entities is dependent on the community you are offering the event to, the overall goal of the festival, the atmospheric context of the festival, and the available resources your team can utilize.

TICKET SALES

Tammy talked about ticked sales briefly, she said to think of it in terms of “What are the attendees getting?” If the festival is adding value to the community, the attendees should recognize this. The event is not a burden but an enrichment, and maybe a $5 or $10 wristband for two isn’t going to break the bank to enjoy multiple musical acts over the course of a weekend.However sometimes a community has some generous sponsors that are willing to provide part of the necessary funds. Both of or a combination of these options should be seriously considered and thought out.

INTERNAL FESTIVAL REVENUE

As for internal revenue streams such as concessions or festival branded vendors, Tammy alluded to an event a few years ago, “Celebrate Erie,” an event that bring upwards of 50,000 people.  In order to raise funds, the festival planning committee acquired a temporary liquor license and became the exclusive alcohol provided for the entire event. The operation relied heavily on volunteers to man the stations, but in the end, it brought in approximately $13,000 to the festival. A testament to creative options of fundraising within the confines of your festival planning teams and volunteers.

PRODUCTION = PREPARATION

A Raven Sound Change Over

Stage Change at the Blues and Jazz Festival
click to enlarge

When planning small events the most forgotten or neglected item of planning is production.  Sometimes this can be thrown together at the last minute for small bar shows, but not for large scale festivals. Planning production can be done a few ways, but Tammy utilizes a hired production manager for a flat fee. By doing this all the lighting, sound, and staging is ideally taken care of. The production manager will hire, communicate, and coordinate all the production personnel before and during the event.  He or she will also act a liaison to the bands, their managers, and their personal traveling technical personal (i.e. their “sound guy”). I cannot stress this particular communication enough.  Having the band information ahead of time does wonders for sound engineers that are trying to coordinate multiple days of fast paced stage changes with people they have never worked with before. It is important to remember that a festival is not a well oiled touring act. Typically the musicians and production personnel don’t know each other, and they need to come together to set up the stage, sound check and play within a matter of 10 – 15 minutes. When the crew has input lists, stage plots, monitor assignments and any other pertinent performance information ahead of time, it makes the day much smoother and enjoyable for everyone.

MORE LOGISTICS – DEALING WITH THE DAY

Backstage at Erie Art Museum's Blue and Jazz Festival

View from Backstage
click to enlarge

One of Tammy’s keys to succeeding on game day is being and early and being ready.  Anyone who has worked in any live situation whether it is event planning or performance knows STUFF GOES WRONG! The measure of a planner or a performance engineer isn’t how you act when everything goes to plan, it is how you step up when things go wrong. Tammy gave a few pieces of advice to deal with the multitude of issues before they arise.

1. The Binder- Tammy keeps a binder with her at all times and a copy at the event    headquarters that is packed with information. Every contact and contract including vendors, utilities, artists, performers, emergency, volunteers, suppliers, sponsors, etc since the beginning stages of planning is with Tammy all throughout the event. At any given time a contract can be pulled for verification or supplier can be notified for an emergency order.
2. Start Early- Arrive with your team as early as possible, check and double check.  The earlier you show up, the quicker you switch those butterflies to adrenaline because you are making it happen.
3. Lead- You have your committees and volunteers in place. Let them do their jobs and help them help themselves.
4. Keep as calm as possible- No doubt easier said than done, but when problems arise, dwelling on what is not in place or not working does nothing to solve the problem at hand. Experience and personality type is often an important indicator with how to deal with stressful situations, but cool heads will be the savior of any crisis situation.
Tammy says her personality lends itself out to dealing with high amounts of situational stress. Over time you learn to call upon your resources, experience, and creativity to deal with stress. There will definitely be breakdowns along the way, but remember the people you have around you and try to remember what you still got working when it seems like everything is breaking.

BEING A LEADER, THE TOUGH PARTS

As leaders in business, making those hard decisions provide some of the most difficult and stinging lessons, but they are necessary.

As an event planner, sometimes you need to make the call. Deciding on shutting something down because of a unruly crowd or stopping the show because of unsafe weather may not be the most attractive idea to a lot of people, but remember that you are thinking about many more variables such as safety and well-being. No one has fun when situations are dangerous. Be as accommodating as possible, but remember to act when necessary, even when it may seem unfavorable, in the end you did what had to be done.

A SPECIAL THANK YOU

I would like to thank Tammy Roche for providing a great interview and some fantastic insights. There is no doubt I have learned more about event planning and my craft as a sound engineer through writing this series of posts and talking with Tammy.

Check out the Erie Art Museum’s Website

The Blues and Jazz Festival is one of Nick’s favorite gigs at Raven Sound. Not only is it amazing to experience the atmosphere and music, it is just as great to be apart of it. His experiences in festival situations have illuminated the importance of preparation and quick thinking when working on stage. Lessons he no doubt owes to his fellow engineers and mentors at Raven.

Work Hard, Take It Easy

Nick Corsi

Follow Me on Twitter: NickCorsi

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2 Responses to “Music Festivals: It’s All About … Planning”

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