Producing a successful festival is a task with many moving parts.
As actor, director and producer Brian Posen explains, “to have a successful festival, a producer needs a solid year of planning. After each one of my festivals, we immediately crunch all the numbers and the have an extensive debriefing in the few weeks that follows the festival. Then, we start up for the next year.”
When producing a festival, it is necessary to understand the process of planning and executing related tasks. Brian Posen gives 10 tips to help inexperienced festival organizers make the most of their events and learn from his success.
Make Sure Finances are Solid
If your festival does not have sufficient financial backing, it should not go forward. Everyone has heard the horror stories of what happens when financial backing is not secured. The organizers can lose their reputation and be charged with fraud. Corporate sponsorships, personal funding, and bank funding are all options to be considered. When festival organizers are sure that they can pay their bills, they will avoid serious problems.
Choose a Site with Care
Make sure that your site is adequate for your needs. Brian notes that choosing a site is much more complex than it may first appear. “Don’t get me wrong, we are chill and playful and know how to do this with ease now. But the first 5 years, we would have weeks and weeks discussions and debates on figuring out so many little details. For example…Traffic patterns to get 500 patrons in and out of the theaters within 7 minutes. How to move talent in and out. Where to hold talent. Budgets. How many seats to hold for patrons with passes, industry, board members, and sponsors. And the list was endless.”
Make sure that it has enough stage space, backstage space, technical equipment, and audience space. It is also vital to make sure that there are services in place for your festivalgoers, including bathrooms, food concessions, and parking. If you have a small festival that is just getting established, you can probably get away with fewer of these accommodations, but you will need to make sure that you are doing the best you can.
Choose Acts Wisely
When producing a festival, it is tempting to give spots only to your friends and colleagues. This will restrict your festival and cut down on creativity. Auditioning plays, musicians, and other types of entertainment will help you ensure that you are producing a balanced slate to keep your festival-goers happy.
As per Brian and how he has been successful, “I have a team of producers that actively help the PR team get the word out to talent. They divide and conquer. We hit up all the comedy institutions and theaters across the country and across the sea. Get the word out to Colleges and high schools. Cross promoting with other festivals. Doing our due diligence by researching what groups played at other festivals that would be a good match at our fest. Call our contacts in the comedy world. Reach out to celebrities in the field. Invite the best and inform the up and coming.”
Avoid Price Gouging
As much as possible, avoid the practice of price gouging. Many festivals sell food and drinks that are vastly overpriced. This creates resentment among festival attendees. Try to make your money in a different way, such as through ticket sales. Festivalgoers would rather pay more to get in and less while they are enjoying the event. Six-dollar bottles of water are not a good idea.
Make Sure that Your Acts Work Together
It is fun and rewarding to make sure that your various acts collaborate with each other. This provides a unique experience for the viewers and sets your festival apart from the competition. It is also important to make sure that everyone gets along backstage. Setting their backstage space apart from each other can be helpful, as it gives all of the acts space to recuperate without being in each other’s faces.
Budget Carefully for Acts
You may have your heart set on a particular act, but they may be too expensive for your budget. Don’t sacrifice your budget in order to get that one dream act unless you have it covered in other areas. Having one act which is too expensive can eat up all of the profits from the festival. While you may have put on a superior experience, festival organizers need to make money somehow.
Give Enough Lead Time
To run a successful festival, you need to plan at least a year in advance. A rushed planning process will mean that you will have to cut corners, and any weakness can ruin your festival. “Sponsorship usually takes a year for the bigger sponsors. We must also start off by researching any competing festivals that might run their festivals at the same time. If we run our fest concurrently with another festival, we then would have to fight for talent, sponsors, patrons, etc.”
You may want to sell tickets early and depend on their revenue to run your festival, but in the case the festival needs to be canceled or rescheduled, you may lose this money.
Carry Plenty of Insurance
Insurance is one of the most crucial aspects of running a festival. You should be insured for property damage, personal injury, and cancellation, at a minimum. If you do not have enough insurance, you may find yourself paying astronomically high settlements later on.
Make Sure You Have Permits
The permitting process is another crucial part of planning a festival. You will need to make sure that you have all of the required state and local permits. It may also help to look into noise ordinances at your local city hall.
Safety and Security Issues
Hire private security for your event. Security personnel can deal with such varied issues as patrons who have had too much to drink and unruly crowds. Some of the other problems that may occur are bee stings, lost children, and slippery walkways. It is a good idea to have a first aid tent available on the premises.
Putting Your Festival Together
This list of 10 tips on how to make your festival run smoothly may be intimidating. If you are going to run a festival, you need to be prepared with all 10 of these items and possibly more. If you find that you can’t realistically run the festival, put it off for a year and spend all the time you need getting ready. Brian Posen encourages everyone who wants to run a festival to take these 10 tips to heart.