I've wanted to promote a fest, but never really had the seed money to get going. Now, I have potential access to a camp ground, and facility willing to sell food and refreshments. Making the even free, and lodging being the responsibility of those attending, allows for a huge area for a festival. I'm not even looking to make money from a festival, I just don't want to be at a loss. I have a bit over a year to plan, too, because South Texas is far too hot for an outdoor festival until late October (the current tentative event month).
If you don't know what you are doing, get in someone or get advice from who DOES know what they are doing at all stages for the event preparation.
I've run events from pub gigs, indoor weekend music events such as the UK Cigar Box Guitar Fest through to open air events with around 3000 people and 10 bands, so I've got a little experience. I've also been to a fair number of festivals as a vendor and a performer, from small events in my local park up to Glastonbury with 200 000 people, so I've seen both sides of the situation.
It's not my day job to run music events, it is just part of what I do. Take this seriously - you need to prepare for the best and worst of what can happen. You need to minimise the risks, but ensure that you are covered legally and financially in the event of things going wrong.
Whether the event is for 100, 1000 or 10 000 people, you need a lot of heavy-duty boring stuff to be sorted out. It's plenty easy to come unstuck and loose money on an event for only 100 people, let alone anything bigger, so be realistic and don't try and avoid facing up to all the legal and technical stuff that has to be done. Bear in mind I'm in the UK, so things like legal permits and consents, health and safety regulations etc will be different, but in principle these things cannot be avoided, and as the USA is far more litigatious than Europe, you need to make sure you are totally covered
A free event is good way of making sure that you will loose money.
Keep all the financial risks as low as low as possible. Be modest with your first time effort.
Check what permissions and legal agreements will be necessary from the site owner - get it in writing.
Check what permits/consents/licences will be needed from the authorities (city, county, state, national, police etc).
You will need Public Liability insurance.
Your vendors and partners will need Public Liability and Employers insurances.
You will need a Health and Safety Risk Assessment, as will all your vendors.
Staffing - how will you cope with the general organisation, set-up of stage, parking, camping, security etc? Can you put together team of volunteers, or will you have to hire in help?
Put together a REALISTIC profit and loss forecast. If you have never done an event before this is going to be difficult, as you will need some predictions on number of attendees, number of potential vendors, costs and overheads for sound equipment hire, stage construction, lighting, temporary toilets, electricity supply/generators, security and safety fencing.
Put together a publicity strategy.
Sponsorship is very difficult to get as you need to have a sure-fire hot ticket event that you can sell to potentional sponsors. By all means go for it but don't bank on it until the agreement is signed.
Think about how you will deal with extremes of weather conditions.
Check the dates to avoid being in competition with any other events in the locality.
You can charge more money from food vendors than from other stall holders, BUT they will need a forecast of the potential number of attendees. Some events charge a straight fee (usually based on the pitch area), but others also want a split of the takings.
That's just the main points you need to look at, and there is lots more to think about. As you are asking about costs for vendors etc at this stage, then maybe you've got all this covered already. Good luck, it can be done, but there's a lot of hard work ahead of you!
Hi Chickenbonejohn, that's a great informative rundown.........enough to put me off.
That’s a great list, thank you! A lot of i’s to dot and t’s to cross!
If you can get permission from a bar/ restaurant to host it , many of your legal issues will / can be covered or shared by them, some already included in their license . not to mention food / drink / bathroom / capacity / fire /safety / etc etc .. Same with community halls / wedding reception rental halls etc .. many of which already have these in-place . (Expect some extended fees tho .)
Local fairgrounds / buildings are another place to look . many will have a fee list already made up for rentals. (including Artist Usage fees (live music of covered songs ) etc …
Piggy backing another "blues" fest etc is another option .
Other folks experienced in the topic to talk to on here . who have hosted fests ; :
Downtown Vinnie https://www.cigarboxnation.com/profile/CigarBoxJoker
To name a few .
I suggest start out small , let it grow as your experience does .You can do it cheaper and easier that way .Don’t intimidate yourself by expecting to start your own “WOODSTOCK” off the bat ;-) Let it build from there . or stay small , it’s better than not doing it at all ;-)
Good luck ;-)
PS ..First thing i would do is to see if there is enough interest in your general area to hold one or if you can draw enough folks in . If it's not looking too promising . maybe start with meet ups ,, that can evolve to fests .. and you have built in support . ;-)
It's a good suggestion to make use of an existing venue in terms of it having all the necessary legal and tech stuff in place, likewise latching onto an existing event...anything to make life easier for you. Be ruthlessly honest with yourself over costings...I've been to plenty of events which were great, but I know that the organiser had lost thousands running it...and don't let the bands run up a bar tab! One case of beer, one of cola, plenty of water..that's all!
Go online and find conventions in your area. Talk to the people who run them. They usually have meetings with other convention staff. To share ideas and tell horror stories. I've learned that if you have an event that lasts more than one day you will have horror stories. And I'm not on staff. But have been part of event security. So planning a one day event for your first time out would be your best bet.
Both ChickenboneJohn and the anonymous pick have good advice. Before I start any project, I outline my goals. I research thoroughly and step back several times to evaluate the information. My festival began with a mission statement and it has taken rigor & discipline to adhere to it. That statement was to create a festival that serves the needs of all the builders and enthusiast in our area. I had my partner Gary Herget from the start and we learned to collaborate and define what we set out to accomplish. Best thing we did was form an alliance with owner of a food and drink establishment who also was a good collaborator. Under the umbrella of his license we had most of the legal concerns covered. We wrote up a document for vendors to agree to that held them responsible for their part. We've kept the event free and charge vendors a minimal fee which rolls back into our club fund. The first couple events will have many learning curves, there is just no way to avoid it. Have a follow up meeting and learn from your mistakes. PR work is at the top of things to do, flyers draw very little but good posters sell well as souvenirs. Radio, magazines and local TV are a must and that's where half your homework is, find out how to get in. Your demographics will dictate prices and traffic. Don't over extend yourself if you are organizing this on your own, it's hectic enough when working with two others. Remember, it's a show, it's supposed to be fun, would you take your friends and family there? Have fun doing it and other will to!