How to organise a festival

How to organise a festival

Are you eager to dive into the exciting process of creating your own festival? As a prospective first-time festival organiser, you're probably filled with a mix of anticipation and apprehension about where to begin and what it takes to set up a festival successfully

We've put together this guide on how to organise a festival so that you can explore an exciting new chapter in creating unforgettable events.

Table of contents

  1. What is a festival?
  2. Why start a festival?
  3. Steps to organising a festival
  4. Festival ideas

At a glance: organising festivals

  • How you can become a festival organiser.
  • What makes a festival successful.
  • Key steps are in starting a festival.

What is a festival?

It might seem like an obvious question, but what actually makes a festival a festival? In truth, there's no hard-and-fast rule! A festival can be indoors or outdoors, at one location or spread across many, take place on one day or across several days, and be held at any time of year: spring, summer, autumn or winter.

The best way to describe a festival is a curated event which brings people together in one place to celebrate and experience a shared passion (music, food, film, culture). When it comes to music festivals, this generally means showcasing more acts across a longer period of time (and often on more than one stage) with added entertainment or attractions to set the event apart from a normal concert or club night.

Why start your own festival?

If you're an event organiser already running club nights, gigs, raves or day parties, starting a festival is an exciting opportunity to take your event offering to the next level and reach an even wider audience.

There's no guarantee of success, but there's a lot of fun to be had in becoming a festival organiser and putting together an event which fits your vision and offers unforgettable experiences for your fans.

Key factors in organising a successful festival

When it comes to planning a festival there are plenty of things to keep in mind. Here are some of the most important things you need to think about.

1. Defining your festival concept

Organising a festival all starts with a clear vision and concept. What is your festival idea? Why do you want to start a festival? What makes your festival unique or special? These are all important questions to consider at the earliest opportunity so that you can decide what type of experience you want to create for attendees.

Consider factors like location, target audience, and unique selling points to set your event apart.

2. Setting a realistic budget and goals

It’s no secret that planning a festival can become an expensive business. Make a clear financial plan so that you know what is realistic. Not everyone can create the next Glastonbury!

Think about how many attendees you're aiming for, and how much revenue that will generate through ticket sales. Will that be boosted by food and drink sales, sponsorships, or other revenue streams?

Set achievable targets and goals, and be willing to be flexible so that you can adapt if necessary.

3. Finding a festival venue

You’ve already decided what type of festival you want to create, so now you need to find the right festival venue to match your vision.

Maybe you have somewhere specific in mind; an established multi-room warehouse for your indoor day festival, a local park or woodland for an outdoor festival, or an unusual location you think would be perfect for creating a unique festival experience.

There’s lots to think about - capacity, accessibility, infrastructure, amenities, availability, legality, safety and overall ambience.

Ensure you can secure any necessary permits with the relevant stakeholders where necessary, and think carefully about how the venue or location will impact the festival experience for your attendees (getting there, on-site safety, space, layout, toilets, bars, food stalls, and more).

4. Booking a festival lineup

Building the right lineup for your festival has a big role to play in attracting attendees, but it's also one the most fun parts of organising a festival!

Curate an exciting programme that fits your festival’s identity and audience. Are you looking to provide a platform for local talent? Are there specific acts that you’d love to have at your events? And are they realistic bookings?

Be prepared for acts to say no, and have more names that you can reach out to when they do. You should already have an idea of how many acts you need to fill your schedule. Negotiate contracts, confirm bookings, and coordinate logistics to ensure things run smoothly on the day of the event.

5. Creating festival branding and marketing

Festival branding is made up of many different elements: logos, imagery, themes, marketing materials, websites, apps and more. These should give your audience an indication of what they can expect from your festival.

For example, if you have a woodland theme, the videos, images, and messaging you use to promote the event should convey this, as well as the on-site branding, decoration, and physical elements.

When it comes to promoting the event, your marketing is essential for generating buzz, driving ticket sales, and attracting festival attendees. Use a mix of online and offline channels, including social media, email, influencers, brand ambassadors or reps, posters and flyers. Whatever best suits your target audience.

6. Selling tickets

Have you thought about where you should sell your tickets? Make it as simple as possible for your audience to purchase tickets for your festival. Offer a quick and simple checkout experience that is fully integrated into your festival website if you have one, or on an easy-to-use ticketing platform if you don't.

Avoid the unnecessary hassle of physical tickets and guestlists with a fully digital ticketing solution; one which can give you clear insights into your ticket sales, audience and marketing activities.

Reducing queues and ensuring you have a steady flow of attendees is a vital part of the planning, playing a major role in improving the event experience for your attendees. Use a ticketing provider that can offer rapid ticket scanning and seamless entry.

Read more: How FIXR solved the problem of queues for Beckenham Fireworks

7. Nailing festival logistics

Attention to detail is key if you want to nail the logistical and operational aspects of planning a festival.

Research all the aspects that might be unique to your festival. Develop clear plans for transportation, security, medical services, waste management, food and drink vendors, ticket scanning, and on-site amenities to ensure you can deliver a seamless experience for everyone.

Assign roles and responsibilities to a dedicated team of staff and volunteers, and organise rehearsals and walkthroughs to identify any potential issues before the event.

8. Prioristing attendee safety

The most important thing of all when it comes to organising a successful festival is ensuring that your attendees have an amazing experience and that their safety is the priority.

If you've chosen the right venue, sold the right amount of tickets for the capacity, sorted a ticketing platform that can support your access control, and thoroughly planned the logistics, then you're on the right path.

Just make sure you've carried out the right risk assessments, put in place the relevant safety precautions and procedures, and thought about all aspects of attendee safety (water, first aid, crowd management, staff communications).

Festival ideas and inspiration

Better Days Festival

Festival decoration, lighting, disco ball and crowd at Better Days Festical
Photo credit: Better Days Festival

Utilising several areas of an established and well-loved venue in the heart of their hometown, the organisers of this festival use their experience from running club nights to elevate the experience and create an immersive experience, complete with decoration, entertainers, funfair rides, street food and a carnival atmosphere.

Bournemouth 7s Festival

Festival crowd, flags, food stalls, and stages at Bournemouth 7s Festival
Photo credit: Bournemouth 7s Festival

Tapping into a huge audience of student sports clubs and their members, Bournemouth 7s Festival has developed a way to take things beyond a classic sports tournament and roll it into a massive musical festival experience. Sport is still at the heart of what they do, but it's only one part of the overall experience that has made the event so popular.

Run To The Sun

Crowd at outdoor classic car and music festival Run To The Sun
Photo credit: Run To The Sun

Another event which combines the party spirit of a music festival with a shared passion among its attendees. In this case, it's a celebration of custom motors and campervans which is equal parts classic car rally and start-of-summer party.

Thinking about organising a festival? See how FIXR can help you reach more ticket buyers and sell festival tickets online.