No.1 with a Bullet: The logistics of planning a festival
It’s really hard for me to attend a concert without analyzing the logistics and production of it.
With the festival season in full effect, I thought maybe you’d be interested in analyzing their insides with me.
On March 5, Alternative Press published an online feature called “Festivals for the Rest of Us: An Industry Roundtable about Festival Life,” which consists of a Q&A with Mike Ziemer (South by So What?!), Nate Dorough (Bled Fest), Kevin Lyman (Warped Tour), Gary Spivak, and Joe Litvag (Rock on the Range).
One of the first questions they were asked was how far in advance they begin planning their respective festivals.
The common answer given was around October or November.
Why start planning a summer festival in the fall?
It’s around this time when bands are formulating their spring tours, and what the bands usually do is take all of their offers and accept them based on how easily they can travel between shows, among other factors.
Now, let’s say you’re at a stop of the Warped Tour and you see all these stages, bands, and vendors, and you paid $35 for your ticket. When asked what goes into finding out where you’re going to have the festival, Lyman responded, “A lot of it comes down to how to make the deals … The interesting thing with Warped Tour we figured out: Warped Tour is only profitable on about six to eight shows a summer—the rest of it is subsidized by sponsorship. If you’re coming to a show, your ticket price is being subsidized by sponsors and we need, like, 13 or 14,000 people a show to break even on the day.”
You need 13-14,000 people to pay $35 each just to break even?
Well, Ziemer will tell you what kinds of costs go into festivals that you might not be aware of: “I think a lot of people think you pay for the band and the venue and that’s it.
They don’t understand that a venue is just a room—you then have to fill that room.
You have to build the stage, pay- for the sound, the labor, feed all those people—every single security guard, volunteer, sound person—every single fence and barricade that doesn’t belong there you have to pay for, and every bit of promotional material and advertising.”
To go even more in-depth, these are some of the costs that Lyman lists off: first aid [tent], security, fences, toilets, clean-up, local taxes, stage hands, runner vehicles, box office staff, advertising, artist production, artist marketing, catering, electricians, forklift rentals, ground transportation, generators, production managers, telephones. Even down to towels you use for the day.
The fan experience of a concert or festival is so different from the manager or coordinator’s experience. Next time you attend a show, you don’t have to overanalyze it like I do, but maybe take a second to appreciate all the hard work that went in to it.