For live-music aficionados, nothing quite beats the thrill of watching a revered band or DJ perform as the sun sets over atmospheric festival scenes. If this sounds like you, and you also happen to have exceptional organisational skills plus a passion for bringing people together – a career in music festival planning could be a smart move.
How do you get into the music festival industry?
How you get into the music festival industry will depend on your qualifications, past work experience and your general skill set. The good news is that there are lots of different avenues into the sector, and a vast array of roles you can do within it. From marketing to talent buying; bar work to volunteering and internship opportunities – there’s sure to be an area that suits your skills and current experience level.
One way to get into the sector is to study a relevant course at university, like event management, through which you should be able to secure work placements at festivals that appeal to you. Alternatively, you could try a volunteering role, or an internship in the sector.
Even if your plan is to eventually run your own festivals, working in the industry can give you invaluable experience that can be put towards this longer-term career goal.
Do music festivals make money?
Music festivals have the potential to be very profitable, and make most of their money through ticket sales and sponsorship deals, alongside other things like selling merchandise, and providing paid-for phone-charging at festivals.
How much you earn as a festival organiser will, of course, depend on the scale of your operation. But if you take it seriously as a career, there’s no reason you can’t make a decent salary from it. And, as with any business venture, the earning potential can be vast if you’ve got a knack for expanding and growing your operation.
How to build a festival-planning career
Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to starting a career as a music festival planner.
Get experience – and lots of it
All festival organisers need to have a thorough understanding of the complexities of the sector – including everything from safety legislation and public liability considerations through to talent buying and employee HR. Even if you’ve done a relevant degree or educational course, it’s still a good idea to gain some actual hands-on experience with this kind of stuff.
For this reason, a great starting point for anyone looking to eventually run their own festival is to work for a larger festival planning organisation first. Whether that’s in a marketing role, a role related to production, or something else will depend on where your skill set lies. But any and all experience of getting professionally involved with festivals will be invaluable when it comes to planning your own.
Consider going down the education route
If you’re serious about starting a festival planning career, you might want to consider doing an educational degree or course related to the sector. This isn’t essential by any means – loads of festival planners get into the industry without any related educational strings to their bow. But if you’re struggling to get a foot in the door of the sector, or to know where to start, an educational course could be just the ticket.
Doing a degree or course in event management or a hospitality-related subject could lead to you getting a placement at a festival you love – which in turn, might just open the doors you need to eventually plan your own.
Learn what goes into planning a festival
Whether you’ve got qualifications in the events industry or not, you’ll need to get very familiar with what specifically goes into music festival planning before organising your own. To gain as much knowledge as you can, go far and wide with your research techniques.
Alongside scouring internet articles, forums and books, try to actively seek out connections who work in the industry so you can pick their brains about their real-life experiences. And (this is the fun bit) try to attend as many festivals as you can to really ramp up your knowledge of what works, and what doesn’t work so well. Pay special attention to how well organised festivals are, and what goes into making this happen (what ticketing system do they use? How many people are working on the bars? How are the acts scheduled? What food and drink vendors are they using?).
Start trialling mini-events
With something as complex as festival-planning, you definitely don’t want to attempt to run before you can walk.
Test-running skills is an essential part of any festival-planner's career – which can be done via smaller events, or even online events. Whether you put on a mini-festival for your mate’s birthday or organise a live-streamed Zoom gig, you’ll get a feel for things like social media event promotion, ticket-selling, and lots of the other smaller factors that go into putting on a larger operation.
Get familiar with writing business plans
Festivals need financing – fact. And unless you’ve got tens of thousands in the bank to play with, this will probably need to come from some sort of loan or investment.
A business plan is a detailed account of how you plan to make your business work, which you can then show to banks to try and get a loan.
They need to include hard figures about the costs associated with your operation (and how you plan on turning a profit), as well as more abstract information about why you personally are capable of making the business thrive. You’ll need to be able to demonstrate relevant experience in your business plan, and show that you’ve carefully considered all aspects of the venture – including what you’ll do if things goes wrong.
Luckily, there are loads of great resources online to help with business plan writing – try to use guides from reputable sources, like government sites or government-backed organisations.
Start networking, recruiting talent, and planning your first big gig
Finally, it’s time to start building up your industry contacts and putting the feelers out for your first big gig. Tap any resource you can think of – from musicians in your own friendship group, through to successful festival professionals that you’ve met through your education or work experience. Through amping up your networking, you’ll be in a better position to start making those crucial contacts who will eventually be a part of bringing your festival vision to life.
Music festival planning can be a lucrative, exciting and highly-gratifying career. If you’re hard-working, self-starting and driven by a passion for great events and music, there’s no reason it can’t be the right one for you.