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How to organise and sellout a small music festival – in 9 steps

Whatever your reasons for wanting to plan your own small music festival, you’ll need to be armed with knowledge before you get started.

a person raising his arms in a crowd

Live music, light nights, open skies and feel-good vibes – not much can rival the atmosphere of a summertime music festival. 

If you’re a serial Glasto-goer or are obsessed with your local music scene, you might be thinking about organising your own. Go for it, we say! Whether it’s to sell lots of tickets and turn a profit, or simply put on an amazing event for your mates, planning a mini music festival can be a thrilling experience. It’s also a great way to start building up a portfolio if you’re looking to get into event planning as a career. Festivals can be fantastic as fundraisers, too, giving you the chance to sell tickets and raise money for a good cause while having a whole lot of fun. 

Whatever your reasons for wanting to plan your own small music festival, you’ll need to be armed with knowledge before you get started. 

Kick things off by reading our quick how-to guide👇

How do you set up a small festival?

To set up a small festival, you’ll need a clear vision, a stellar lineup, some good suppliers, and a solid event registration and promotional strategy. Follow these 10 steps, and you’ll be good to go:

Set out a clear goal for what you want to achieve

Before you start planning, it’s important to clearly define your festival goals so you’ve got something to work towards. Try to keep things concise but as accurate as possible. For example, your overarching goal might look like one of these:

  • To raise at least X amount of money for a certain charity
  • To prove you have event coordination, talent booking, and event promotion skills for a job application 
  • To generate enough profit to run a bigger festival next year

It’s also helpful to pin down what your ultimate vision is for your festival at this stage. Do you want to showcase a certain genre of music? Shine the spotlight on local talent in your area? Or maybe you’re passionate about giving female artists the chance to perform? Either way, you’ll want to define this early on to give your festival a sense of purpose. 

If you don’t, your festival might end up feeling a little confused – which could cause problems when it comes to selling tickets. Without a clear identity, people might not be totally sure if your festival is their ‘vibe’, which could put them off attending.

a person standing in front of a crowd of people

Set a budget for your event

Even if you’re running a casual mini festival that’s mainly for friends, it’s still crucial to set out a budget before you get started. Costs can soon rack up with festival planning, so you’ll always want to have a clear idea of how much you're spending – and how much more you can feasibly outlay before you blow your budget. This is even more important if you’re planning on turning a profit from your festival. Without a budget, you’ll struggle to determine how much to price your tickets at, and it’ll be hard to work out how much profit you’ve made, if any.

On that note – you might find this guide to pricing events useful.

Choose a location for your festival

When it comes to choosing a location for your festival, you have a few options:

  • You can choose a public space, like a park – you’ll need to get permission from the local council (bear in mind they might not give it, or it might take them a while – so give yourself plenty of time).
  • You can choose a private space, like a farmer-owned field or pub garden you’ll likely need to pay the owner.
  • You can host it on your own or a friend’s land – you’ll need to think about the noise implications of your festival. If you plan on playing loud music past 11pm, you might get complaints which can be investigated by the council. 

Secure your festival lineup

Next, it’s time to secure some great acts for your festival. To do so, you’ll need to:

  • Contact the artists, bands or DJs you’d like to play.
  • Negotiate a fee with them – some undiscovered artists might be happy to play for the exposure alone.
  • Book in the date with them.

It’s a good idea to have a couple of back-ups in case you get any cancellations, too.

a group of people throwing colorful powder

Find the perfect festival suppliers 

Write out a list of all the suppliers you’ll need, and tackle them one by one. You’ll need to think about:

  • Food and drink – are you going to go for trendy street food vibes, or keep it casual with a couple of burger vans? How many bars do you think you’ll need, and what kinds of drinks do you want to serve?
  • Equipment – you’ll need to rent equipment for things like lighting and sound, and your actual stage or stages.
  • Marquees and tents – are you going to set up any cool little chillout nooks where people can grab a drink and get out of the sun? Or will you want an atmospheric DJ tent to take our attendees into the late-night hours? 
  • Staff – you’ll probably need to hire (or enlist the help of) some extra hands to take care of things like checking tickets and clearing up rubbish.

There are some handy sites out there that can help with your hunt for suppliers. For example, Feast It lets you easily search for food & drink suppliers, marquees and tents, staff, and photo and video services. 

Plan your festival ‘decor’ 

This is where your vision really comes to life. Whether you want to go for bright-coloured bunting and hay bales, edgy industrial vibes, or something totally niche – there’s a lot of fun to be had when planning your festival’s ‘look’. 

Of course, it’s unlikely you’ll have a Glasto-sized budget to play with here. But even a few strategically placed sets of festoon lights and rustic wooden pallets can go a long way towards giving your festival some personality. 

Start selling your tickets online

Whether you plan on selling tickets to turn a profit or giving attendees free entry, you’ll need to get set up with a reliable event ticketing platform (like Ticket Tailor). 

Doing so means you can:

  • Sell tickets easily
  • Monitor attendance numbers
  • Communicate with attendees with automated emails in the run-up to your event

(Sidenote – Ticket Tailor offers affordable and easy-to-use festival ticketing, perfect for first-time event planners 😉. Also, we won’t cost you a penny if your tickets are free!)

a person with her arm raised in the air

Plan the logistical stuff 

Even a very small festival needs practical stuff like toilets and rubbish disposal. So be sure to plan out these logistical bits well in advance of your event taking place. You’ll need to think about:

  • Toilets – hiring portable portaloos is your best bet. Aim for about three to four toilets for every 50 people.
  • Rubbish – you’ll need to hire bins and make sure you have a clear recycling policy.
  • Security – unless your festival is just for family and friends, it’s a good idea to hire security staff.
  • Temporary Events Notice (TEN) – you might need to apply for a TEN from your local council. You can find out more about that here. 
  • Safety – you should definitely have a first aid kit on-site, and you should make sure your festival can be easily accessed by emergency services.
  • Insurance – it can be a good idea to have some insurance protections in place in case you need to cancel your event at the last minute, or someone gets injured at your festival. Read our article to find out more: Everything you need to know about event insurance.

Get the word out that tickets are on sale!

Last but definitely not least – it’s time to get the word out about your festival! Check out our event marketing guides for all you need to know:

Planning a mini festival will take hard work and dedication. But when the amps fire up and the music begins to play – we’re sure you’ll think it was worth every bit of effort. Enjoy!

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