Music Festival

How to organize a music festival

We’re well and truly in festival season.

All over the world, successful festivals are becoming brands in their own right. In a music industry where success is far from guaranteed, a well-done music festival can be amazing for everyone involved.

Done badly, it can be catastrophic.

Scary stories like the Fyre Festival (also known as “The biggest party ever”) can act as cautionary tales. In fact, we have drawn valuable lessons from the Fyre Festival before.

So how do you make sure that your music festival runs smoothly?

Identify who your music festival is for

This is all part of building a brand for your festival. Festivals don’t usually sell in one headline. In fact, they are sold as a place to discover new bands and a shared space for musicians of a similar genre or targeting the same audience.

To better understand this level of branding, find out who your audience is. Are you targeting electronic or metal music enthusiasts? Your target audience will greatly influence all your subsequent decisions.

Take the Download Festival as an example. They have had the benefit of over 15 years of history. Back then, advertising configurations and strategies were based on people who liked heavy music. For this reason, people buy tickets for the festival even before the announcement of who is going to play.

There are a number of methods to fine-tune the target audience for your event:


You can send surveys to your existing mailing list to find out what kind of bands you listen to, where they find concerts and what they would like to see at your festival.

People attending.

Create an attendee profile for your “ideal” festival fan. What is their age range? What are their interests? What music do they listen to?

Research the competition.

Pay close attention to what your competitors and similar festivals are doing.

Decide if it’s better indoors or outdoors.

Organizers planning a festival often have glamorous images of 80,000 people coming to see their artists in a huge field. Images of Woodstock or Glastonbury come to mind.

But the outdoors is not always the best. Before you book the venue for your event, you should consider the pros and cons of indoor and outdoor spaces.

Outdoor festivals.

Outdoor festivals are great, but they contain many potential pitfalls. There are unique issues to consider that come with the outdoors. You may need to obtain or consider different equipment.

Often, the field or outdoor space you choose will not have been designed for musical events. This means that you basically need to set up your own place in advance. All this in the face of the possibility that it might end up raining.

Pros of an outdoor festival.

  • More space and the possibility of setting up multiple stages.
  • More space for vendors.
  • Space for people to camp if your plan is a weekend festival.

Against an open-air festival.

  • The weather can have an impact, no matter how much you prepare.
  • Equipment for an outdoor festival can be difficult to obtain and manage.
  • You need to create barriers and control entrances to make sure no one gets in.
  • You will not have the help of a venue and its staff.

Indoor festivals.

Starting indoors means you’ll be more ready beforehand. The venue staff is used to concerts.

You won’t have to set limits, and security will probably be easier. The best venues include equipment, door staff, technical staff and more. That leaves less to worry about.

Pros of an indoor festival.

  • You can use the facilities and contacts of the place you choose.
  • There is no risk of weather problems.
  • The equipment is probably already installed.

Against an indoor festival.

  • Space is more limited.
  • It’s very difficult to put up multiple stages.
  • Less space for other vendors and activities.

Don’t be afraid to start small.

Unless you have a big budget, it is unlikely that your first festival will be massive. Starting small is a good idea, anyway.

Climbing slowly.

This growth in capacity, over 300% in three years, is not something that should be replicated. If you start with a capacity of 1,000-2,000 to make it manageable, an increase from 33% to 50% per year is more sustainable.

One scenario at a time.

Don’t start with multiple scenarios. Instead, start with one, get it right, and then scale up and replicate. This can be a way to gradually build capacity and gain experience in how to manage one scenario before trying a second one.

Get the right tools.

Tools like Billetto (for tickets) and Festivalpro (for programming and vendor management) can make even small festivals thrive from the start.

Hopefully, your festival will be one that grows. However, this growth needs to be managed. Make sure you have a plan for additional staff, additional musicians and a larger number of attendees. Don’t end up like one of the cautionary tales.

Take a business approach.

People who start music festivals usually do so because they love music.

You may not be the best entrepreneur, but you’ll have to learn fast. If you want your festival to be an annual event, or if you are risking money, you need to get the business side right.


Calculate the minimum possible budget you will need to hold the festival safely. You can follow this 9-step approach to building an event budget.

Ignoring what you are spending, or forgetting some of the expenses, may mean that you lose money on the festival.


The marketing strategy for your festival will be a natural extension of finding out who your target audience is (See No. 1).

Find out where they are, both online and offline, and follow our advice to market accordingly.


As confident as I am, there’s no need to do it alone. The creation of partnerships is vital to music festivals.

Get funding.

This can mean finding sponsors, which can be a big financial help. Create a sponsorship package for the music festival to attract potential financial sponsors.

Get help.

Partnerships can also mean hiring outside vendors for food and beverages, partnering with security companies, health companies, and more. Delegation can be expensive, but it will also mean much less to worry about.