Schools Training

How to Plan a Music Festival

12 MAR 2013
Career Path : Audio Engineering

If you love live music and dream of creating your own music festival, know that it can be done but it will take a lot of planning and more than a little luck. It is actually a lot like running any small business: taking care of the back end, managing cash flow, lots of planning and then hoping for the best. Festivals have come a long way since Woodstock but at their core they are still about bringing many people together to share a transcendent experience.

Build your team

It starts with what you know and who you know. Surround yourself with people experienced in putting on shows, asking around to find the best booker or production manager in town. Choose reliable people that have specific competencies in areas essential for the event to work. Host brainstorming sessions to determine the particular niche that will make your festival unique. Keeping your ideas realistically achievable will allow the festival room to grow – it’s okay to get started in a local park or backyard the first year. The feasible size it will take will depend on how much money you can raise, perhaps through a crowd funding website like Kickstarter. Many festivals get designated as a non-profit to help with donations, sponsorships and licencing. Small fundraisers leading up to the event will build awareness along with financing.

Create a business plan

It’s important to research how other festivals succeed when you become an event planner. Choose a location that appeals both to the bands and audience. It will need sufficient space for stages and food and drink vendors. City council and residential approval are a must but since festivals can create tourism dollars for the community it may be possible to use an outdoor space for free. Understanding bureaucratic restrictions will make the process smoother and earn your reputation for future years.

If you book, they will come 

Make a wish list of artists you’d like to see and get your pitch ready with what you can offer. It is easier to fill out the bill after confirming some bigger names – some may play for free in exchange for the opportunity of merchandise sales. Be specific in communicating expectations for set times and stay in touch. Ask a local retailer if they can donate back line drums and amps in exchange for prime sponsorship or else try to share responsibility among the bands. Build buzz with a website, social marketing and developing a snappy logo.

Setting up

Plan early to build stages; rent sound equipment, tents, tables and Porta Potties; and confirm a light crew, electrician and security. Ask at an audio engineering college for help with the live sound. Contact local restaurants to set up tables and get the proper permits if you’re selling alcohol. Keep the audience in mind when scheduling acts and reach out to volunteers to staff the event. Be environmentally conscious and leave the place cleaner than when you arrived after the crowds have dispersed with smiling faces.


Visit Trebas Institute for more information on event management, music production or film school in Toronto.