FestForums Gives a Behind-The-Scenes Look At How to Plan a Festival

FestForums Gives a Behind-The-Scenes Look At How to Plan a Festival

Last week I was privileged to attend FestForums, a 2-day conference on the logistics of planning music, film and food festivals. As a music festival goer myself, and one who loves thinking about the finer details of how festivals are run, FestForums truly allowed me to geek out.

The many panels at the conference were staffed with representatives from all over the festival spectrum. There were organizers from some of our favorite festivals including Camp Bisco, Bonnaroo, SnowGlobe, Ultra, and more. There were reps from ticketing companies such as Eventbrite and Ticketfly, as well as from the media and other festival vendors. It was truly a meeting of the minds for anyone involved in the festival industry.

Listening to the speakers made me truly appreciate how much work goes into the planning of any major (or even not-so-major) fest. In the “The Smartest Thing I Ever Did (With Technology)” panel, I heard about how when technology is implemented well, we as attendees often don’t even notice. For instance, when you have a seamless experience purchasing a ticket or loading money onto your wristband for cashless purchases, do you think about it later? Of course not; it only stays with you when there’s a problem to be resolved. Yet every minute detail of every transaction or interaction you have with a festival is thought through, evaluated, and often is on its second, third, or twentieth iteration after having been tested many times.

Parts of FestForums allowed me to learn more about parts of festivals that I don’t get to see. The “Backstage Pass: Creating an Optimal Experience for Talent at Your Festival” panel allowed me to hear from both artists and festival producers on how to curate an experience that will make the talent – in our case, musicians – want to return year after year. It’s not enough to just ask an artist to show up and play some music. You want to make them feel comfortable, feed them, and give them something to do with all the downtime they have between soundcheck and their set time. I learned that Camp Bisco has a backstage music room where artists can jam out with their friends in a casual setting, and any recordings made are sold with the proceeds going to charity. How cool!

In addition to interesting insights, there were some smaller highlights as well. One speaker’s job title was “Manager of Festival Success,” which seems both ambitious and just flat out amazing. I heard about how people who volunteer at music festivals are more likely to volunteer elsewhere the rest of the year, a fact I will continue to share in order to encourage a little bit more good in the world.

Basically, this experience was 2 days of being around people who are experts in one of my biggest passions. While it was an eye-opening experience for me as a festival enthusiast, I can only imagine the limitless networking and learning potential for anyone who works on festivals for a living. If you missed out on this opportunity but happen to live on the west coast, you’re in luck! FestForums Santa Barbara is coming this November, and the agenda is sure to be just as packed and exciting.

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