Recently a shift has taken place in the festival industry where festival mobile apps have become an expectation of festival goers, so much so that they’ve now almost become a full blown aspect of ‘festival culture’.
Because of this upward trend, a growing concern for festival producers is the functionality of these apps. Is the app just a “sparkly gimmick”, or does it actually offer real usefulness and enhance the overall experience of the festival goer? These questions are not only important to festival planners when considering their event’s overall integrity, but also because they’ve opened organizers up to a whole new level of scrutiny as fans tweet about their displeasure with the app’s functionality, or express concerns over the many programming errors that they’ve discovered while attempting to utilize it.
Due to these potentially disastrous (and common) social outcries, it’s become increasingly important for festival organizers to deliver a fantastically crafted mobile app that is dedicated to enhancing the experience of their ticket buyers, displaying useful information, supplying extra content, and allowing fans to really get the most out of the festival.
As the festival app industry continues to evolve, Marcato is dedicated to providing the most reliable integrations with top mobile app providers in the space, in order to ensure their clients can continue to produce the highest quality of mobile app, with the most ease-of-use.
What they do on their own:
Festival Management Software:
At their core, festival management softwares are designed to maximize efficiency in the festival and entertainment industry by providing specialized management tools exclusively needed in the festival planning field.
Marcato is recognized as the leading provider in the space, providing their clients a one-stop-shop solution for every aspect of event administration, whether it be managing talent, schedules, vendors, assets, credentials, logistics, or any other aspect of an event’s back-end management.
Festival Mobile App Providers:
Festival mobile app providers are companies who specialize in the design and development of specialized mobile apps, uniquely built with each individual client in mind.
They provide an outlet for festival planners to communicate with festival goers about all the information that’s needed to properly experience their event, including a full lineup and schedule of the event, social media integrations, and much more.
Often, these companies will even consult with their clients to ensure the festival’s branding is consistent across all communication platforms.
What they can do together:
When successfully implemented, Marcato is designed to become your organization’s official one-stop-shop for administrative collaboration, while hosting all the information you need to plan your event. This data can be anything from the staff’s daily activities, projects, and communications, to your talent’s contract information, hospitality arrangements, and biographical content. Essentially, every bit of information you create or gather for your event can be stored and worked with inside Marcato.
In light of that, one of Marcato’s greatest advantages is that the platform doesn’t just store information for your organization, but it makes that data actually start working for you. Each component of information stored in the system is transferable, whether it be the detailed itineraries of your artists, or the full lineup schedule of your event broken down into specific showtimes and participants.
This is where integrating with a mobile app provider gets really cool!
To break things down a little better, lets review examples from two of our favourite mobile app providers: Aloompa and GreenCopper.
CMA’s mobile app, powered by Aloompa, provides a ton of fantastic resources to their users, including: social media integrations, a personal user account, a map of the grounds, and, most importantly, a full line-up of all the artists playing and a schedule of when they’re hitting the stage!
The exciting bit is that every piece of artist information displayed in the app, including the lineup, the schedule, and the location of each act, actually comes right from CMA’s Marcato account — even the artist’s bios and social media links come from Marcato! All of that data then floats over to Aloompa’s platform, via XML feeds, and is sorted into the appropriate slots.
Even more cool is how all that data is dynamic… Meaning if the schedule is changed slightly, or a name is misspelled, or an artists drops out – as soon as the adjustment is made in Marcato, Aloompa’s platform recognizes the change and updates the mobile app, automatically.
When thinking over the major benefits of Marcato, including the built-in Aloompa integration, CMA’s Digital Project Manager, Scott Frans, noted:
[Our Festival] has so many moving pieces that require attention from multiple departments and production teams. Marcato allows us to simplify the intake, management, and execution of all these elements in a way that was previously thought impossible. Because of Marcato [and other software platforms, like Aloompa] our team can now spend more time creating the best experience possible for our fans and partners!
Osheaga’s mobile app, powered by Greencopper, is another fantastic example to look at. The app has some great functionality, such as: RFID wristband tie-ins, a map of the grounds, a multimedia centre, a resources centre (hosting great information about how to best enjoy your experience at Osheaga), other social media integrations, and some incredible music discovery functionality, all of which is collected on a personal user account that synchronizes across multiple platforms, including Facebook and the festival’s official website. Of course, all of this would be useless without a full line-up of all the artists playing and a schedule of when they’re hitting the stage, which Greencopper also delivers seamlessly.
Just like in the previous example, every piece of artist information displayed in the app comes right from Osheaga’s Marcato web-based account. All that data then floats over to Greencopper’s platform, via XML feeds, and is sorted into the right spots.
Just as it was in the previous example, the data shared between Marcato and Greencopper is dynamic, making it even easier for festival organizers to update their mobile app. Because of this functionality, administrators only need to make their changes once, from within their Marcato account, and they’ll then see those updates reflected automatically on their mobile app! Greencopper also offers alternative services, like web-calendars and Facebook itegrations, which can also be integrated with Marcato.
What this means for you:
Greencopper’s CEO, Gwenaël Le Bodic, couldn’t say it any better:
What we’ve learned is that festival organizers really don’t like entering the exact same data into so many different places, over and over again.
It’s because of this redundant workflow Marcato teamed up with amazing mobile app providers like Aloompa and Greencopper. With these integrations in place, festival organizers can streamline their entire mobile app setup & also do any maintenance that’s required, all from within one system – eliminating the headaches of going back and forth, countless times, for every little change you make and getting you back to doing what you do best: hosting incredible events!
To talk to a representative today about setting up your mobile app integration with Marcato, click here.
“Our festival isn’t big enough to warrant a system like that.”
“We already have some great internal processes in-place and I don’t really think we need to adopt anything that extreme.”
“We don’t have it in the budget and I doubt we ever will.”
Each objection is completely understandable, however, after reviewing a sample of festival management software users (see infographic below), we’ve discovered that there is actually a wide variety of festivals using the software and, more importantly, it has now become a huge part of their daily workflows! Some festivals even go as far as saying it’s become an imperative ingredient of their event’s success.
Users Responding To The Objections:
When reflecting over his decision to adopt the festival management software system, Marcato, Freelance Festival Director, Luke Schroder, said:
I don’t think I could ever plan another festival without it!
Jonny Stevens, the past Executive Director & current Board Member of Halifax Pop Explosion, a small festival on the East Coast of Canada, validates Schroder’s point by explaining:
I would recommend Marcato to any small, medium or large festival. First, it saves me money (and lots of it); second, it allows me to collaborate and manage my staff effectively; and third, it allows my staff to manage the artists that perform our festival each year. Get off the spreadsheets and whiteboards and get onto Marcato.
Lastly, the Arts and Culture Manager of the Toronto Pride Festival, TK Gesner, addresses the price of festival management software by explaining how it’s literally saved him an entire salary’s worth of cash in his budget:
Thanks to Marcato, I didn’t need to hire an assistant to stay on top of things!
A Deeper Look Into Who Really Uses Festival Management Software:
To really figure this thing out, request a meeting with one of Marcato’s product specialists today and find out if festival management software might be a fit for you!
Generic Event Software vs. Festival Management Software
When it comes to finding a software solution that can properly assist production teams with the behemoth task of organizing and staging large festivals, generic event software just doesn’t cut it. This kind of software is inadequate because it too often fails to provide solutions for the many unique workflows and challenges of the festival planning space, especially in the following 4 areas:
Extremely detailed talent management needs,
Festival’s application-heavy processes,
Special data publishing requirements, &
Elaborate credential/asset management needs.
1. Extremely Detailed Talent Management Needs
One of Marcato’s most popular features has become it’s ability to manage a festival’s talent in an extremely detailed way. Before Marcato, festivals had to keep track of an artist’s biographical content, their song samples, full contact information (including the band and crews’ information), hospitality arrangements (including flight itineraries, hotel accommodations, and travel arrangements), running orders and stage itineraries, using multiple management systems and softwares, each with their own confusing platform and workflow. On top of all that, festival planners would also have to ensure that there were no scheduling conflicts or contractual disagreements when their talent arrived. Marcato eliminates all of this chaos and streamlines the entire artist management process into one coherent system, which can easily keep track of all that information. It also allows festival directors to convert to paperless contracting, including any painful negotiations or amendments. Managing your talent from within one system like this eliminates much of the confusion and protects against any pending conflicts. Moreover, it is also greatly beneficial when there are any last-minute schedule changes that need to be made, or one of your artists drops out suddenly, because your performing talent can easily check their up-to-date itineraries online. To learn more about Marcato’s artist management functionalities, read our full blog about it here.
2. Festival’s Application-Heavy Processes
Before you can even have an artist step on stage, many festivals go through a very long and grueling application process, where artists submit their information and song samples to the festival in hopes that they will be selected to play. It isn’t just artists that go through this application process, either! Vendors, volunteers, and press often have to apply to participate. Generic software can go a long way when accepting applications by hosting forms on your website or by email. However, once the data is collected you’re left on your own to manage the information and then eventually transfer it into useful formats, like a lineup on your website or mobile app. When utilizing Marcato, all of this is sorted within one system, allowing you to accept, judge, advance or reject applications, and seamlessly push all the information to the appropriate sources. Marcato can even notify applicants of their status with bulk email blasts delivering the good (or bad) news. To learn more about how Marcato can help you streamline your festival’s application process, click here.
3. Special Data Publishing Requirements
Once your festival’s participants are chosen, including volunteers, vendors, or talent, much of that information will need to be pushed to additional sources, like email blasts that can notify volunteers of their schedules and vendors of their site requirements, or websites and mobiles apps that can announce your festival’s headlining acts and complete lineup schedule. There are some great generic softwares that allow for much of this to be done, like mass emailing apps and event scheduling apps, but no one application is capable of doing all that needs to be done while also providing the necessary integrations, except Marcato. At best you would have to employ many different services to properly manage the elaborate task of pushing your data to the right sources, each with their own confusing platform. Marcato was not only built to provide a top quality solution for each of these challenges, but we also partner with all the major mobile app providers in the space and have developed an easy-to-use plugin for wordpress managed websites and XML feeds for all other websites. All of this ensures your information gets to where it needs to be, when it needs to be there! To learn more about how Marcato makes managing festival websites and mobile apps easier, click here.
4. Elaborate Credential/Asset Management Needs
By the time you’ve pushed your festival’s information to the appropriate sources, your fans will have purchased their tickets (after seeing your epic lineup), your vendors will be eagerly preparing for the date, volunteers will have been notified about their schedules, and everything will seem ready for production. As a festival planner, however, you must now direct your attention to site requirements, like credential requests and approvals, asset management and tracking, sponsorship fulfilment, special access areas, and a million other day-of-production things that must be managed. There are practically no generic software services that will assist with such tasks, perhaps with the exception of some handy communication tools and barcode technologies. But alas, Marcato does not abandon the festival planner on the last sprint of the race — in fact, an entire enterprise solution has been developed for events in need of advanced asset and credential management tools, RFID integrations, catering management services, and advanced permission tools. We believe this enterprise solution offers the most executive collection of functionality ever brought together for festival planners and accounts for all imaginable requirements needed to successfully stage an event of any size. Ultimately, we aim to give event planners the ability to oversee and hold the keys to their entire operation, but also allow them the flexibility to lend those keys out, with detailed permissions, to whomever they need to. To learn more about our enterprise solution, read our full blog about it here.
Why Generic Event Software Doesn’t Cut It For Festivals:
In conclusion, there are many event software services that can be effectively used by festival planners to help organize their productions; whether it be for a certain participant’s application process, or general event scheduling, or other internal and external communication needs. However, the pain of convincing your team to buy into each of the softwares needed for all of these tasks would be enough of a headache to stray away from using any of them at all! Even if you are able to get past all of that, there would still be some huge gaps of functionality in your solution. This is why Marcato came together and developed an all-in-one festival management software solution that is very easy to use and supported by an entire team of experts, which covers all aspects of your festival’s planning. With it, your entire team can enjoy the benefits of web-based collaboration and specialized organizational tools, while also gaining the most executive control you’ve ever been capable of.
To talk to a representative today about setting up your Marcato festival management software account, click here.
Remember program guides? Glossy paper, 40 pages thick, chock-full of useful information: a centerfold map of the grounds, a full time schedule of what was happening and where you should look for it, and anything else you would need to know for the event. The days of printed program guides might be a thing of the past, but the industry standard of events and festivals having to provide their attendees detailed resources hasn’t gone anywhere. The web revolutionized the way we present this information, with the use of festival mobile apps and websites , but the pain of creating them still exists today.
How to Streamline Festival Websites and Mobile Apps:
Since our genesis in 2008, Marcato has been on the frontline of protecting the valuable time of festival and event managers. We’ve built a rock solid solution to help with every administrative task required to stage a great production, including a great process that helps festival organizers streamline the creation and maintenance of websites and mobile apps, using a combination of our XML web-feed technology and the partnerships we’ve created with all the major service providers in the space.
Usually the most cumbersome thing about creating material like this is the pure nature of the content and how quickly it can change. Let’s first review why creating and maintaining festival websites & mobile apps is so darn troublesome and then move on to how Marcato addresses the solution.
Using the example of a large music festival, festival organizers are expected to publish their artist lineup, complete with a schedule of the showtimes, on their official website and mobile app, a few months prior to the event. As a standard, most festivals also provide all of their artists’ biographies, photos of the band, links to their official websites and social media, video material, and everything else in between. Many festivals will even go the extra mile and display the exact location and time each band is hitting the stage.
The real pain for festival organizers is when something changes… an artist drops out, someone misses their flight, the band changes it’s name (think Snoop Dogg vs. Snoop Lion), or a combination of a million other things that could go wrong/need updating during the production. Even a simple typo can cause hours of filtering through your website and mobile app, fixing the mistake.
Because of issues like these, the whole website and mobile app process is very time consuming and just a nuisance to manage. But, it’s a part of the gig and there’s nothing you can do about it, right?
There is a better way:
When successfully implemented, Marcato’s web-based festival management software is designed to become your organization’s official one-stop-shop for administrative collaboration, while hosting all of the information you need to plan out an elaborate event. This data can be anything from your staff’s daily activities, projects, and communication, to your talent’s contract information, hospitality arrangements, or biographical content. Essentially, every bit of information created or gathered for your event can be stored and worked with inside Marcato.
In light of that, one of Marcato’s greatest advantages is that the platform doesn’t just store information for your organization, it starts making that data work for you! Information stored in the system is transferable via our XML web-feeds, whether it be the biographies of your artists or the full lineup schedule of your event broken down into specific showtimes and performances.
The tech in action:
To shed some light on the implications of this functionality, let’s review a real example of Marcato’s XML web feeds in action; the Country Music Association’s Fanfest mobile app is a great case study.
CMA’s mobile app, powered by Aloompa, provides a ton of fantastic resources to their users, including social media integrations, a personal user account, a map of the grounds, and, most importantly, a full line-up of all the artists playing the festival and a schedule of when they’re hitting the stage!
Here’s the exciting bit: every piece of artist information displayed in the app, including the lineup, the schedule, and the location of each act originally comes right from the Country Music Association’s Marcato account. All of that data then floats over to Aloompa’s platform, via XML feeds, and is sorted into the appropriate slots.
Even more cool is how all that data is dynamic… Meaning if the schedule is changed slightly, or a name is misspelled, or an artists drops out – as soon as the adjustment is made in Marcato, Aloompa’s platform recognizes the change and updates the mobile app, automatically.
Internationally acclaimed festival Iceland Airwaves’ website, powered by Greencopper (who also power their mobile app), is another great example. This time instead of just powering a mobile app, Iceland Airwaves also uses Marcato to power most of their website’s content via an XML integration with Greencopper, including their photos, videos, social media links, and bios of all the artists playing the festival!
In the same way that all the mobile app data in the previous example was dynamic, all of the data feeding Iceland Airwaves’ website (and mobile app) is, as well. If a change or adjustment needs be made, the festival’s administration need only make that update once within Marcato and, within a matter of minutes, Greencopper’s platform will pick up on the change and push it to the right source, whether it be the website or mobile app, automatically.
* Marcato also offers a free plugin for festivals who use WordPress to power their website, which allows for much of the same functionality mentioned above.
Data entry isn’t something anyone should really have to deal with nowadays; we all have way too many other things to do. With XML integrations like this in place, you eliminate all the headaches of having to go back and forth, countless times, between multiple platforms, for every little change you have to make to your program. Keep in mind, it’s not just talent’s information you can publish to your website or mobile app, but any kind of information you have gathered inside Marcato; whether you chose to publish a list of all your craft vendors and the links to their online stores, or a schedule of when your volunteers are expected to be on site – the beauty of this technology is you get to pick what’s gets published to your integrated platforms. Typically event organizers only publish information like the artists’ bios and showtimes, but ultimately the sky’s the limit!
As an added bonus, Marcato already partners with most major mobile app providers in the festival space and we also offer a free WP plugin that works with any WordPress managed site — making it even easier to get started right away!
To talk to a representative today about setting up your Marcato account, click here.
Performing artists and talent are the bread and butter for most festivals out there. In many cases, festival lineups can consist of over 100 artists, each one bringing along their own individual band members, crew, and equipment. It would be an understatement to say artist management takes up a lot of a festival’s administrative resources.
The issue is talent management can overwhelm festival organizers, sometimes leaving them blind to other areas of need. Because of this problem, Marcato developed a solution that protects festival planners from being swamped by the task of “artist management.” Our Artist Management module allows organizers the ability to take on this task without any fear of the workflow!
Festival Organizers use Marcato’s Artist Management module to:
Accept artist applications/submissions online (You can read our full blog about accepting artist submissions here)
Easily advance artists right from within the app (You can also read our blog about this here)
Keep track of all their artists’ travel & accommodations, backline requirements, stage plots, tech riders, and crew information
Manage applicable financial details, such as artist fees, deposits, final payments, and contract statuses.
Many festivals also choose to utilize our paperless contracting plugin to manage all of their artist contract negotiations within Marcato.
Needless to say, Marcato was designed so that festivals wouldn’t have any need to switch between platforms in order to manage their artists efficiently — Marcato is their one-stop shop!
“Now that we’re using Marcato, it’s great to have every aspect of an artist laid down in one spot. It makes it very clear to see what information is still needed!”
In this testimonial, Allen touches on a very crucial painpoint for festivals when it comes to artist management. From start to finish, artist management is a complex ordeal, from the first few steps of reaching out to an artist about performing (or accepting their application to play), to the final steps of issuing their last payment and fulfilling any remaining rider requirements. With so many things in play all the time, having a centralized management HQ is absolutely essential for festival directors, and since Marcato is a web-based software, it means not a single member of your team is ever out of touch.
Every festival director has at least one “backstage horror story” resembling a scenario where an artist has refused to take the stage due to some contradiction regarding either their rider or contract, meanwhile you have thousands of screaming fans eagerly awaiting their arrival… We’ve all been there one time or another. Having detailed artist information on hand when push comes to shove can be a huge advantage and its in exactly these kinds of situations where Marcato can become your stronghold, allowing you to pull up the artists’ signed contract, or the amended rider, via a laptop or tablet, quickly proving your case with enough time to get the band on stage on time!
Festivals who don’t use Marcato and have to deal with this kind of artist management usually end up relying on Excel-type programs, or at best Google Sheets, to manage their artists. This kind of management system doesn’t effectively offer the functionality needed to solve the complicated requirements that come with the territory, nor do they allow for the flexibility needed when managing events this complex. Marcato gets you off the spreadsheets and on to a highly specialized solution designed with your exact needs in mind.
To talk to a representative today about setting up your Marcato account, click here.
Before an artist even steps on stage at many festivals, they’ve already gone through a long and grueling festival application process to get there, having to submit their band’s information and song samples to the festival’s headquarters months prior to the event, in hopes that they will be selected to play. It isn’t just artists who go through this festival application process either! Often vendors, volunteers, and press will have to apply to participate as well – using the exact same method.
Festivals that choose their line-up this way are often called ‘showcase festivals’, while festivals who exclusively seek out bands and ask them to play are referred to as ‘curated festivals’. That being said, most festivals out there use a mix of both methods to finalize their lineup. This blog is written for those event organizers who might be interested in exploring how to accept festival applications, even if it’s only for some of your artists, but if you only curate your festival and don’t accept any applications, you might be more interested in our blog that explores “how to advance an artist”, if so click here to read that!
The Old Model:
Back in the good ol’ days, before digital music or email was a thing, production companies use to receive & process thousands of applications by hand. Attached to each application was a mixtape and a huge sense of anticipation. If you were lucky, unpaid interns would sort through the first bulk of applications, weeding out any obvious rejections, and then they would hand the rest over to the you, the festival director, for evaluation.
The New Model (That still isn’t great):
Much of this workflow still exists in the modern world, but it has come a long way with the use of emails and mp3s. However, even in this day and age, once your festival’s applications are successfully collected (most commonly done via email), there is still a lot of work to do. You’re left on your own to manage a massive amount of information that is usually scattered across multiple excel documents and missing emails. The applications then need to be rejected or accepted, and ultimately transferred into useful formats, like a website or mobile app-ready lineup, complete with bios, photos, and social media links… all of which still feels very cumbersome and (let’s be honest) is still a huge pain in the ass.
At Marcato, we understand your pain…
The Future Is Now Model (AKA The Marcato Model):
We’ve developed a very specialized festival management software solution that is designed to assist you and your team with every administrative task required to stage a great festival. One of Marcato’s most popular functionalities is the way our software allows you to accept, judge, and advance (or reject) all of your festival’s applications within one easy-to-use system. Marcato even helps you notify your applicants of their status with bulk email blasts delivering the good (or bad) news. That’s right, no more overflowing inboxes, just one click and you’re done! When you’ve finished processing all of your festival applications, Marcato then assists you with the final step of seamlessly publishing your accepted applicants’ information to your website or mobile app, via XML web feeds, in the form of an artist lineup, vendor listing, volunteer schedule, or participating media list!
Check out our infographic on festival applications!
Congratulations to one of our newest clients, the X Games, on pulling off a very successful event!
This past week, January 22-25th, 2015, the ESPN X Games played host to their annual winter games in Aspen, CO. Since 1997, fans attending the extreme sports competition have come to expect history in the making, year after year. With a record-breaking crowd of 115,000 attendees watching, and athletes from all over the globe pushing the limits to perform, the X Games lived up to their reputation.
The X Games host two signature events every year; a winter event in Aspen, Colorado, and a summer event, which take place in Austin, Texas.
We were very excited to be a part of the 2015 Winter X Games and, after a very successful week on the slopes, we want to officially welcome this legendary establishment to the Marcato family!
From all of us here at Marcato, we wish you and your family a very happy holiday season!
Our offices will be closed from December 24th – January 2nd, however if you need assistance with anything please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and someone will be in touch as soon as possible.
Game-changing NEW SOFTWARE For Festivals & Events – Marcato Enterprise!
Let’s be straight – there comes a point in festival planning when the event has become so amazing, so elaborate, and so intricate that maintaining full control over the entire production is nearly impossible, if not completely out of reach!
For the past 6 years Marcato has been working with festivals around the world to provide a solution to properly address this issue. In 2010, our festival management software, Marcato Festival, was proudly launched and is now being used by some of the world’s greatest festivals to manage performances, complex contracts, production requirements, credentials and overall event logistics. It allows organizers, artists, volunteers and other stakeholders access to information to work efficiently and make pivotal decisions quickly. Marcato saves festival organizers money, time, and stress by supporting efficient workflows for team members and providing deep insight into operations.
As the festival producing game continues to evolve, no one in the business has been surprised by the fact that the events have become more complex beasts to manage. In turn, our clients have been challenging us to deliver an offering that has all the kick-ass features of our Marcato Festival software plus additional tools for supporting complex needs for things like credential and asset management and protecting sensitive information; they’ve asked us to build integration points so that our software will link up with other platforms essential to staging their events; they’ve asked us to add the additional technological horsepower to do all of these things and… we’ve delivered it!
The new software’s name is Marcato Enterprise. It includes all the functionality that our Marcato Festival offering has plus powerful tools for:
Credential, Parking & Catering Management: Request, approve and issue credentials for your guests, VIPs, production staff, vendors, media, and volunteers.
Asset Management: Allocate and track your event’s assets in detail, including the asset’s location and the person responsible for it at any given time.
Integrating with other Event Support Systems: Share data directly from Marcato’s powerful Credential Management Module to Access Control systems such as RFID via a Credentials API.
Comprehensive Permission Controls: Granular level permission controls allow you to share relevant information with team members and keep your confidential data secure
On-Site Changes and Requests: Mobile-friendly request & authorization tools give you the power of key Marcato functionality from your smartphone or tablet while on-site.
As well as a long list of other helpful features, including: Custom reporting, asset monetization, and onsite services.
Marcato Enterprise is our response to all the feedback over the years that started with “wouldn’t it be cool if,” or ended with, “I really wish the system could to that.”
It’s exciting times here at Marcato. Our team is ready to hear more about the challenges event organizers face and we’re pumped to deliver solutions that support organizers in their quest to deliver great events and great times
If you’d like to lower the stress in your life and reduce your workload, if you’d like to work with a software and a team that can help you plan smarter, collaborate anywhere, and executive faster…. You should click GET STARTED and book your demonstration today!
When learning how to plan a festival, it’s important to remember that there are hundreds of festivals being put on every year and each of these festivals are planning their own amazing events that will reflect the unique cultures and energies of their individual visions.
Because of these unique factors, no one festival will plan for their event in the exact same way. However, while working with over 125 festivals spread across the globe on a day-to-day basis at Marcato, we’ve learned that although there are many granular, unique aspects of how to plan a festival, there are also seven key first-steps that every festival must follow in order to succeed.
Working through these broad steps will ensure you follow in the footsteps of many successful festivals before you, all of which had their own unique failings, challenges, and obstacles, but ultimately learned enough festival planning skills to blaze their own trails of success.
Ok, now that we’ve covered that, let’s get to the fun stuff!
How to Plan a Festival:
Step #1. Pick Your Scope
Picking the scope of your festival is the first important step of how to plan your festival. Your festival’s scope will affect every important decision you make from here on out, from how many volunteers you need for your event to how many porta-potties you need to have on site. Questions to ask yourself that will help define your scope are:
How big do I want my event to be / how many people do I want attending the festival?
Be sure to be realistic about this number, but also be sure not to sell yourself short.
With that festival size in mind, what grounds/venue could host my festival?
Will it be an indoor festival, a club festival, or a field festival? Each of these festivals have their own styles and legacies behind them and therefore it is very important to get this defined quickly. A few other important things to consider when choosing your festival grounds are: how you’re going to handle ‘security’ and how your venue might make that initiative a nightmare or a walk in the park; how you’re going to provide toilet facilities to your front and back of house guests; and how you’re going to ‘fence off’ your site and maintain your access controlled facilities.
What kind of permits do I need to apply for before my project can be given the green light?
This is a very important step that many new festivals never get past, often planning too far ahead without obtaining the permissions or resources needed to host their event. Be sure to look up your provincial or state bylaws, city bylaws, etc., for any special requirements. Also, be sure to meet your local government officials and get them on board with your vision – without them, your event will never take place.
How much start-up cash will I be able to raise?
Think capital funds, sponsorship, and fundraising. Most festivals’ budgets incorporate a mix of these sources of cash, and the percentages then depends on the structure of your festival. *See Step #2 for what this might look like.
What do I want this festival to look like in 5 years?
This question is often overlooked by many festivals (and many new businesses in general). Have a 5 year plan mapped out, including both growth opportunities and challenges. If in five years you think you can double your festival attendance, maybe it’s time to think of a location legacy and whether the consistency of your site is something that matters to you.
Step #2. Pick Your Structure
Now that you’ve a good handle on what you want the scope of your festival to look like, the next step of planning your festival is deciding your organization’s structure, ie: whether you want to be a for-profit or a not-for-profit organization. This decision is pretty important seeing as it will change the funding structure of your event since certain capital opportunities are only available to one or the other.
This is also the step where you would make the decision of whether you want to plan the festival by yourself, or if you would rather hire a production company to orchestrate most of the event for you. This is certainly the easiest way to plan a festival, but it comes with a hefty price tag – that being said, if you can afford it, production companies can be a fantastic way to facilitate the planning of a festival.
Step #3. Pick Your Team
Now that you know your scope and your structure (and have hopefully started to get a good handle on your available resources and start-up funds), it’s now time to pick your team. Depending on the festival, staff sizes can vary due to many variables like how much volunteer support you can raise (some festivals are 100% volunteer driven), how much funding you’ve acquired, and what kind of profit margin you’re hoping to maintain. In most cases, regardless of your staff size, it’s very common to see festival team members ‘wearing many hats’ on a day-to-day basis, working in and out of marketing, talent procurement, IT, and anything else in between. In light of this, festival directors should always seek out staff members who know how to do things they don’t – hiring folks just like you might be a fun way to form a staff, but when a complex task needs to be completed (which happens a lot) and the skill sets for the job aren’t available in-house, things get tricky!
Step #4. Pick Your Partners
Now that your in-house team is in order, it’s time to decide what other companies you want to work with in order to pull off your event.
Areas that you’ll mostly likely need to hire outside companies for are:
Who you would like to design your website (keep in mind this is the ‘marketplace’ of your festival);
Who you would like handling your ticketing initiatives (there are a lot of great options for this out there);
The festival industry is full of top notch companies that will work hard for your business and in the process of working with you teach you many new things about the space! Just like picking your staffing team, picking good partners is also extremely important. Do your research and choose companies you feel great working with!
Step #5. Pick Your Participants
This is the really fun bit! The step where you begin recruiting who you wish to participate in your festival – in essence, the entertainment your festival goers are showing up for. Whether you’re a music festival, a food festival, a science festival, fringe festival, digital festival, or anything else in between, your entertainment and vendors are the reason people come to your event and very often a key component of ticket prices and sales.
When recruiting participants festival planners typically choose from two different techniques, or use a mixture of both approaches, to find their talent. The first technique is to ‘scout’ for talent (or vendors) using talent buyers who travel around the globe attending showcase festivals¹ or concerts looking for unique artists and headliners to play at their own festivals. The second approach is to accept artist / vendor applications by actively advertising (through social media and the festival’s website) an opportunity to play at the festival if artists/vendors fill out an application form and submit it to the festival. Usually this type of form will include all the applicant’s contact information and ask for a portfolio of their work. A reviewing process is then set in motion where festival executives sort through their applications and send invitations to a groomed list of potential participants.²
Step #6. Market, Market, Market
Alright, step #6. This is where the rubber really has to hit the road if it hasn’t already. Once your festival’s framework is in place – your venue is set, your headliners are decided, your ticketing system is in place – it’s time to get the word out to as many people as possible, through as many channels as possible promoting your festival and encouraging your fans to buy their tickets as soon as possible. This may seem like an obvious point, but early ticket sales are a critical component to ensuring your festival is successful. There are many good techniques of how to market festivals, some of which explored before on our blog, but the important thing to be aware of how is much noise you’re making among potential ticket buyers. Connect with all applicable media, collaborate with other events, and get social! In a recent webinar called ‘The Future of Festivals’ industry professionals discussed the power of social media buying habits, particularly within the festival space, and they say that for every 2.6 organic tweets or Facebook shares your festival gets, it translates to one incremental ticket sold. If that’s not motivation to market the heck out of your festival and get people excited about it, I don’t know what is. That being said, social media isn’t the be all and end all – you must market your festival through every stream possible in the first few years.
Step #7. Hold On For Dear Life / Expect It to Be a Crazy Ride.
The last note, and maybe the most sobering of all, ‘Hold on for dear life and expect it to be a crazy ride.’ Festival planning is not for the faint hearted; they can be wild beasts and often unpredictable due to the volume of variables. In most cases, festival don’t even make a profit the first 3 years or so, sometimes even longer, just like any other business start-up. So, hold on! Expect delays, speedbumps, and hard choices. Festivals can be an amazing accomplishment once they’ve gone off without a hitch and can often be incredibly profitable (regardless of whether you’re in it for charity or for gain), but one thing they are not is an ‘easy ride’. Pulling one of these things off takes an incredible amount of hard work and skill, an accomplished festival planning team, and some excellent festival management tools. All that being said, if you’re willing to put everything you’ve got into these amazing parties, they are often just as generous in return.
Beyond the first seven steps, once things get closer to production week there will be many more granular steps of how to plan a festival that you’ll need to take care of. However, if you’ve made it through these first few steps, you’ll quickly learn how to deal with the more granular aspects without issue. Plus, Marcato will continue to post useful quick tips and tricks on our blog from time to time for you to reference. Also, be sure to stay tuned for a part two of ‘How to Plan a Festival,’ where we hear from the festival directors themselves about the lessons they learned over the years when planning their own awesome events!
At the end of the day, keep in mind that these 7 steps are in no way a comprehensive guide of how to plan a festival. Festivals, like any new business, are a very unique and your own festival will will have many individual needs that other festivals just won’t be able to relate to. All you need to do is keep a keen eye on the prize and move forward with the conviction of hosting the best damn event out there!
¹Showcase festivals are festivals that typically do not highlight or rely heavily on major headliners to sell tickets, but purposely book a high volume of talent not only to sell their event’s tickets, but also to showcase their many artists in front of important music industry executives who are interested in the talent for a number of professional reasons; the executives can be booking agents, music label representatives, festival talent buyers, and everyone else in between who is actively invested in the industry. Some leaders in this festival category are: SXSW,Eurosonic Noorderslag, Canadian Music Week, Reeperbahn, ℅ Pop, WOMEX, and IMFCON.
²To learn more about how to accept vendor applications to your festival, click here to read a blog on it.
About us: Marcato Festival is the world’s leading festival management software, designed to help you streamline your festival’s management. Take a look around our website and explore our features. If you’re interested in booking a customized demonstration of Marcato, click below to get started today!