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SEG’S COMPLETE STEP-BY-STEP FESTIVAL PLANNING GUIDE

Organizing a festival is no small feat. There are a lot of moving parts and details to keep track of. This step-by-step guide will walk you through everything you need to do to plan a successful festival.

WHO IS THIS FESTIVAL PLANNING GUIDE FOR?

Let us help you plan the perfect festival and create a memorable experience for everyone involved. We have tools and tips for venue operators, entertainment managers, event planners, and the following:

  1. City officials
  2. Government executives
  3. County representatives
  4. Festival planners
  5. Tribal casinos 
  6. Private event planners
  7. Non-profits 
  8. Convention centers
  9. State fairs

We can help you with any type of festival, whether it’s a music festival, food festival, art festival, or any other type of event.

WHEN SHOULD I START PLANNING A CITY FESTIVAL

Ideally, you should start planning your festival at least 8-18 months in advance. This will give you enough time to secure a venue, book talent, and promote your event.

To be honest, the best time to do anything is right now.. So let’s get started.

FESTIVAL PLANNING CHECKLIST

1) CHOOSE A FESTIVAL THEME AND DATE

The first step in planning a festival is to choose a theme and date. This will help you narrow down your options for venues, activities, and vendors. Once you have a theme and date in mind, start reaching out to potential venues. 

Cool festival theme ideas:

  1. Frost – A winter Christmas something or other
  2. Block party – Because, well, everyone loves a good block party
  3. TOGA – What, let me finish – The Toga is optional
  4. LUNAR – When the stars align, everything is possible
  5. VIRUS – The sickest festival in town 

I get it though, maybe these aren’t as cool as Rolling Loud or Oobie Dooby, but that’s ok. We are here to stimulate ideas and hopefully inspire you to take the next step in your plan, not to compare ourselves.

Let’s keep going.

How do you choose a date for your festival?

When choosing a date for your festival, you should consider the weather, holidays, and other events that might be happening in your area. You’ll also want to make sure you give yourself enough time to plan and promote your event.

2) BOOK THE VENUE AND TALENT

The next step is to book your venue and talent. This is usually done through a festival promoter or booking agent. If you decide to tackle this step alone, make sure to get everything in writing. Including but not limited to the entertainer’s as well as the venue’s contract terms/rider requirements. Try to remember to redline the rider and do a little negotiating before signing a contract too. 

How do I find a venue?

The venue is one of the most important aspects of your festival. It will determine the size and scope of your event, so it’s important to choose wisely. When looking for a venue, keep your budget, audience, and theme in mind. You should also consider the location, parking, and amenities that are available. Remember, Google Earth is your friend.

Before selecting the right venue, consider the following:

  • Parking – How many potential parking spots are nearby
  • Ingress & egress – Are there traffic obstacles or challenging roads leading to the venue?
  • Noise ordinances – Are you limited by time or DB level?
  • Stage location – Can the artist and band access the stage safely, where will their green room be, are the fans optimally positioned, etc?

How do I find and book talent?

The process of finding and booking festival talent can be daunting, but we leverage our knowledge to help you make the process easier. There are thousands of talent agencies and only so many hours in a day. The process requires research, a lot of paperwork, and first-hand industry knowledge. Knowing the right person to contact can cost or save you thousands of dollars.

Always remember to “read the room”. Venue operators who work for the city or county often end up deciding which celebrity performer will headline. For reference or ideas, check out our celebrity price list. If you are a municipal government or city employee, be mindful of the type of celebrity or celebrities you are hiring. Understanding demographics is important but so is psychographics when analyzing your potential concert-goer. Our price list might just help you narrow down your ideas.

3) START PROMOTING THE FESTIVAL

With the venue and talent booked, it’s time to start promoting the festival. There are a number of creative marketing techniques that could be used to promote your festival. To start try leveraging social media, print ads, or word-of-mouth. Get creative and make sure people know about your event! Just DO NOT stick flyers on anyone’s window. At least, we wouldn’t recommend it.

What ticket platform should I use for my festival?

It is important to keep track of who is coming to your event so you can plan accordingly. Before you start promoting the festival, you’ll need to be ready to sell tickets. This can be done through a ticketing platform or through your own website by way of a WordPress plug-in.

There are a number of ticket platforms that you can use for your festival. Some popular options include Eventbrite, Brown Paper Tickets, and Ticketmaster.

If you’re using a ticketing platform, make sure you’re familiar with their fees and policies. Hidden fees and delivery charges need to be factored into your settlement. You’ll also want to keep an eye on ticket sales so you can adjust your marketing efforts accordingly. WordPress Plug-ins can be just as useful and they are somewhere around $100 a year per site whereas a platform like Ticketmaster will charge you thousands.

4) SECURE SPONSORSHIPS AND VENDORS

In order to offset the costs of putting on a festival, you’ll need to secure sponsorships and vendors. This can be done by reaching out to local businesses and organizations. Offer them promotional opportunities in exchange for their support.

How do I find sponsorships?

There are a few ways to find sponsorships for your festival. The best way is to reach out to local businesses and offer them promotional opportunities in exchange for their support. You can also look for grant opportunities or apply for sponsorship through corporate programs.

Remember to email us to receive your downloadable and customizable free event sponsorship proposal template. We also have a free festival vendor FAQ template.

5) CREATE A MUSIC FESTIVAL BUDGET

A key part of planning any event is creating a budget. This will help you keep track of your expenses and make sure you don’t overspend. Make sure to include the cost of your venue, talent, advertising, and sponsorships in your budget.

There are 3 financial parts to every festival or concert are below:

  1. Proforma
  2. Settlement
  3. Executive summary or post-event analysis

What is an event proforma?

A proforma is an estimation of revenue and expenses for a future event. It is used to create a budget and track actual costs.

What is an event settlement?

An event settlement is the final accounting of revenue and expenses for an event. This is used to compare the actual results to the original budget.

What is an executive summary and/or post-event analysis?

An executive summary is a brief report that summarizes the key points of an event. A post-event analysis is a more detailed report that includes information on revenue, expenses, attendance, and feedback.

WHAT KIND OF STAGE SHOULD I USE FOR MY MUSIC FESTIVAL?

The type of stage you use for your music festival will depend on a number of factors, including the size of your event, the type of music you’re featuring, and the budget. Some common types of stages include outdoor stages, portable stages, and truss stages.

Outdoor stages are typically used for larger events. They are sturdier and can accommodate more weight than portable stages. Portable stages are typically used for smaller events but are growing in popularity due to convenience. They are easy to set up and take down, and they are less expensive than outdoor stages. Truss stages are typically used for events that require a lot of equipment. They are strong and durable, but they can be more expensive than other types of stages. These are more standard for large festivals whereas a local or smaller festival stage may only require an SL320 or similar mobile stage.

Some of the most common types and sizes of mobile stages are in the table below:

Some of the most important considerations for deciding what stage to use for your event are below:

  1. Accessibility – How easy can you access, build, or assemble the stage in the event space?
  2. Cost – How much can you not afford to spend?
  3. Type of performer – Are you hiring an acoustic or small band, or will the national act require more rigging capabilities and playing space?
  4. Availability – Where is your stage coming from? Is the size you need available within an affordable range?

Remember, the size of the venue may require delay towers. These structures can take up to 8 hours to assemble, especially if there are multiple spot baskets.

6) PLAN YOUR FESTIVAL LOGISTICS

There are a lot of logistical details that need to be taken care of when planning a festival. This includes things like transportation, security, and power. Make sure you have a plan in place for all of these details before the festival starts.

The resources from SEG PRO below can be used to help venue operators manage their concert and festival logistics:

  1. Special event permit template/beer & wine operating plan creation
  2. Transportation manifests
  3. Advance worksheets
  4. Digital merchandise settlement tool (no recurring membership required)
  5. Tech packet templates
  6. COVID performance addendum template
  7. Vendor packet template with registration outlines and Q & A
  8. Free sponsorship proposal template
  9. Day of show sheet for scheduling and managing labor, vendors, and more

Some of the most common festival logistics questions are below:

How do I plan for transportation?

Planning for transportation can be tricky, but it’s important to consider all of your options. You should look into shuttle services, limo-sharing, and local private town car services. Make sure you have a plan in place for getting people to and from the festival site.

How do I create a day-of schedule?

Creating a day-of schedule is a crucial part of event planning. You’ll need to consider the order of events, set times, and breaks. Make sure to include all of the relevant information in your schedule.

How do I plan for festival security?

Security is a key concern when planning any event. You should reach out to local law enforcement and security companies to get a plan in place. Make sure you have a clear understanding of your needs and the capabilities of the security team.

The amount and type of festival security you need will vary. Festival security should be based on the following event elements:

  1. Duration of festival
  2. Type of entertainer
  3. Day of year
  4. Time of day or night
  5. Geographical and topographical location
  6. Seating arrangement (assigned or not?)

HOW DO I PLAN FOR FESTIVAL POWER

Power is another important consideration when planning a festival. You’ll need to make sure you have enough generators to power all of the food trucks, lights, and sound equipment. You should also have a backup plan in case of a power outage.

The size of the generator you’ll need will depend on the number of food trucks, lights, and sound equipment you have. After you know your estimated wattage needed, the generator size is easier to determine. Whatever number you come up with, select a generator with a capacity that is at least 10-20% larger than your load requirement. This will provide some leeway should you end up needing more power as a result of an upgraded piece of gear. It will also help you manage “de-rating”.

A common concern with temp power is that there will be a lot of wires. Avoid this hazard by sourcing cable ramps AKA “yellowjackets” to cover wires and decrease liability.

Here are some benefits of erring on the side of a generator that’s too powerful, as opposed to too deciding to use one that is too weak:

  • Consistent performance
  • Increased personnel safety
  • Increased usable life of the generator
  • Limited incidence of capacity overloads
  • Limited incidence of unexpected system failures
  • Reduced likelihood of asset damage
  • Reduction in frequency and cost of maintenance
  • Increased ease and speed of maintenance
  • Decreased risk of overheating and electrical fires

WHAT KIND OF POWER DO I USE FOR MY FESTIVAL AUDIO EQUIPMENT?

For festival audio, you need to use AC power. This is the type of power that comes from your wall outlet at home. The voltage will be either 110 volts or 220 volts. You can use a generator to supply AC power, but it must be rated for the amount of equipment you’re using. For example, if you’re using a 4,000-watt amplifier, you’ll need a generator that can supply at least 5,500 watts.

DO I NEED THREE-PHASE POWER FOR MY CONCERT?

Not always, if you’re using a lot of high-powered equipment, it’s a good idea to have a three-phase generator on hand. This will provide more power and will be less likely to overload the system.

How do I choose the right festival generator?

When choosing a generator, you need to consider the following factors:

Size: The size of the generator you need will depend on the amount of equipment you’re using. Production add-ons such as moving lights, hazers, spotlights, and amplifiers are all important considerations when determining what size festival generator you need.

Type: There are two types of generators: portable and standby. Portable generators are less expensive, but they’re not as reliable. Standby generators are more expensive, but they’re a better investment if you’re using a lot of equipment.

Fuel: Generators can run on gas, diesel, or propane. Gas is the most common type of fuel, but it’s also the most expensive. Diesel is less expensive, but it’s not as available in all areas. Propane is the least expensive, but it’s not as reliable.

How do I get my generator to the festival site?

If you’re using a portable generator, you can transport it in a truck or SUV. If you’re using a standby generator, you’ll need to have it delivered and installed by a professional.

How do I connect my equipment to the festival generator?

Most generators have multiple outlets that you can use to plug in your equipment. If you’re using a lot of equipment, you may need to use extension cords. When using extension cords, make sure they’re rated for the amount of power you’re using.

How do I know how much power my festival equipment uses?

The amount of power your equipment uses is measured in watts. To find the wattage of your equipment, look for the following information on the label:

Watts (W)

Amps (A)

Volts (V)

You can also use an online power calculator to determine the wattage of your festival equipment.

How do I keep my generators safe?

When using generators, it’s important to follow safety guidelines to avoid fires and injuries. Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Never use a generator indoors. Generators produce carbon monoxide, which can be deadly.
  • Always refuel generators outside. Gasoline is highly flammable, so it’s important to avoid spillage.
  • Keep generators away from windows and doors.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Pro Tip: Always consult a professional in the city or county of your event before you use or pay for your festival generator. You may need a permit or ground rod. The fines for skipping this step can be substantial and your event may be shut down or simply not happen at all.

By following these safety tips, you can help ensure a safe and fun festival for everyone involved. 

7) HAVE A FESTIVAL CONTINGENCY PLAN

No matter how well you plan, there’s always a chance something could go wrong. That’s why it’s important to have a contingency plan in place. This could include things like having backup generators or extra security on hand.

By following these steps, you can be sure that your festival will be a success! Just remember to stay organized and have fun.

8) GET CREATIVE WITH FESTIVAL FOOD AND DRINKS!

Just because your festival is outdoors doesn’t mean the food and drinks have to be boring. Get creative and offer attendees something they’ll remember. Here are some ideas:

1) Offer local craft beer and wine. This is a great way to support local businesses and give attendees something unique to try.

2) Have a food truck or two on hand. This is a great way to offer festival-goers a variety of food options.

3) Set up a DIY cocktail bar. This is a fun way to let attendees create their own signature drinks.

4) Offer healthy food options. This is important for people who are health-conscious or have dietary restrictions.

5) Have a dessert bar. This is a great way to end the night on a sweet note!

By offering a variety of food and drink options, you can be sure that there’s something for everyone at your festival. Just remember to get creative and have fun!

9) Don’t forget waste management

How do I plan for waste management?

Waste management is an important consideration when planning any event. You should have a plan in place for how to deal with the waste generated by the festival. This could include things like recycling, composting, or working with a waste management company to supply port-o-potties.

Flex your creativity and use community resources to preserve the festival site. Or try to eliminate solo-cup waste in your venue with waste management resources like the re-usable cups you see around Seattle concert venues.

ADDRESSING COVID-19 PUBLIC HEALTH & SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS FOR FESTIVAL PLANNERS

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the event landscape significantly, and festival planners have had to adapt. Here are some things to keep in mind as you plan your next event:

1) Make sure your venue is compliant with all local health and safety guidelines. This could include things like capacity limits and social distancing requirements.

2) Have a plan in place for how you will keep attendees safe. This could include things like providing hand sanitizer stations and enforcing mask-wearing.

3) Be prepared to make changes to your event at the last minute. This could include things like canceling or postponing your event if local health guidelines change.

4) Have a contingency plan in place in case something goes wrong. This could include things like having insurance in case your event is canceled due to COVID-19.

5) Keep your attendees informed about all changes to your event. This could include sending out updates via email or social media.

By following these tips, you can help ensure that your festival is safe and compliant with all local health guidelines. Just remember to stay flexible and be prepared for anything!

BONUS: HOW SEG PRO CAN SIMPLIFY FESTIVAL PLANNING

If you’re looking for a festival planning solution that will make your life easier, look no further than SEG PRO. Our tools help venue operators manage all aspects of the event, from load-in to load-out.

We’ll even provide you with a list of potential sponsors and vendors. Plus, our tools are easy to use and can be accessed from anywhere.

Let us help you plan a successful, profitable, and unforgettable entertainment experience with the right tools. All of our clients receive instant access to SEG PRO – a customizable bundle of venue management tools that helps venue operators and tribal casinos.

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