Festival Production, producing a festival

Producing a Festival in Today’s World

  • Robert M. Brecht, PhD.
  • August 18, 2020
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These are incredibly challenging times for anyone producing a festival or any type of live music event. Not only do you need to deal with the many tasks normally involved with producing a music festival, but now you need to do it safely in a pandemic environment. All music events draw fans who want to engage with the performers. This natural tendency makes the production of any live music event a real challenge

Preparation Is More Critical Than Ever in Producing a Festival

A festival business and promotion plan have always been a critical factor in producing a successful fair or festival. Most larger festivals also have a formal Safety Plan that considers weather incidents, active shooter events, accidents, etc. and how best to handle them.  For the foreseeable future, the Event Safety Plan will also need to include how to mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus as well.

Producing a festival concert involves handling all aspects of the event, from planning to execution. It’s a big job and festivals and fairs rely on a lot of volunteers to help in the planning and execution of festivals. There are four groups of people that any plan should address. They include performers, vendors, patrons, and workers/volunteers.

Site issues are paramount in planning for virus mitigation. Configuring the site plan to position the audience, amenities, services, and vendors around the festival site to achieve safe crowd spacing.  Foot traffic patterns and spacing for ingress, egress as well as movement within the event venue are now part of the safety plan.

Producing a Concert is quite different than providing local production. Handling local production typically means providing staging, sound, and lighting for a concert.

What Goes in to Producing a Festival Concert? Preparation!

It should be noted that many of the following steps can overlap each other.

    1. Hiring a Reputable Festival Concert Production Company: Unless you are experienced at producing a festival concert, you should have a partner that is. As you consider a partner, remember that producing a festival or concert is quite different than providing local production for the event. Local production typically means providing the staging, sound, and lighting for a concert. You want a concert production company that has experience in handling all aspects of an event from porta-potties to vendor placement. In this time of a pandemic, it is also important to have a partner that knows how to implement a pandemic plan as part of their duties.
    2. Budget: A comprehensive approach to budget development is important to determining where funds go both during and after the event. Separate income and expense budget worksheets can be created for those functions that generate income and expenses, but they should all be part of a comprehensive overall budget. An experienced production company can help with identifying the various components of any budget as wells as determining reasonable budgets for specific line items.
    3. Matching Venue to Performers and Audience: Let’s use the Kerrville River Festival, produced by TSE Entertainment as an example of what exactly goes into producing a great concert. The first thing is to make sure the concert venue fits the needs of the anticipated performers and expected audience. This is even more important as festival concerts are typically outdoor events and might take place in a pasture, park or some other location.

For this event, TSE made site visits to the site where the city wanted to hold the event. The first planning meeting involved visiting the site with the client to learn firsthand what their thoughts and plans were for the event. We logged any issues and made notes as to how the concert experience should be executed for a great experience for both artists and the audience.

    1. Developing a Site Plan: After surveying the site, TSE put together a site plan using photos from our drone and measurements we took as part of the site survey. Using a drone makes the process much easier and the plan much more realistic. Because the area selected for the event was an area of the park without amenities, the site plan had to account for everything. Except to access to electricity in one area, the venue would be like putting on a concert in a field.
    2. Booking the Entertainers: The Kerrville River Festival is a non-ticketed event, so TSE used flat guarantees to book the bands; in this case four of them. The Entertainment budget was determined by working backward from the budget for the whole event. The Entertainer budget was arrived at after getting client input on the type and caliber of entertainment desired and matching those wants with the available funds for the whole event. TSE experience in knowing performance fees for many artists, helped in this process.
    3. Branding: For a first of what is meant to be an annual event, establishing a name and brand is important. Things like logo, color scheme, and other branding elements needed to be decided. While this was not TSE’s responsibility under the Agreement, TSE offered its help as a company that works with branding issues.
    4. Sponsorships: The city wanted to create sponsorship opportunities for businesses and civic organizations. If sponsorships are needed for the event to take place, developing a sponsorship package is critical. Sponsorship development should be done early in the process. TSE offered suggestions for sponsor perks, but the Parks and Recreation Department handled this effort. Given the timelines involved, they did a great job of finding sponsors. Had they wanted, Kerrville could of also availed themselves of sponsor sales resources vetted by TSE for its clients.
    5. Promotion: No event is going to draw people without an active promotion campaign. For this event the promotion was a joint effort. TSE designed the posters used by Kerrville for their street team to distribute them to business establishments in Kerrville and surround communities. TSE also bought advertising on radio stations in the Texas Hill Country for the event. TSE handled social media promotion and worked with the entertainers to promote their participation in the festival.
    6. Decide What’s Needed: Based on the venue, the projected crowd size and expected entertainment needs, TSE created a comprehensive list of needed services and equipment. These items are put into a budget spreadsheet to track expenses as the event develops.
    7. Local Participating Vendors: This is the responsibility of the festival concert producer working with the client to identify local vendors who might participate. In this event TSE helped to also identify food and novelty vendors that could be on site for the event and worked with them on getting the necessary health or fire department permits for the events.
    8. Checklist: I don’t care how many times you may have produced a show, checklists should be part of your tools. You may have multiple layers of checklists. For example, you might have an “expendables” checklist that is one item in the more comprehensive checklist for the event.
    9. Get Festival Vendor Quotes and Settle on Vendors: Lots of emails and phone calls are required to get quotes on staging, sound, lights, fencing, tents, RV for Green Room, generators, portable toilets, trash services, etc. All this is on top of advancing the show for hospitality and technical needs of the bands performing. Often budget line items are adjusted as quotes are received and contracts issues for the various vendors needed for the festival It’s up to the concert producer to make decisions with the client to bring the budget into line, if necessary.
    10. Create Timeline for Event: A comprehensive timeline of all the activities involved with the event is an essential piece of producing a festival concert. Everyone involved should have a copy of the timeline, so they know exactly what occurs when. The overall timeline deals with all the activities running up to the event and is in terms of weeks or event months. The second timeline is the “run-of-show” timeline. It deals in the days leading up to the concert event. It includes all of the activities needed to make the concert happen from security meetings, stage arrival, road closures, load in, sound check, performance times, load out, etc. In this case the “Run-of-Show” timeline ran from Thursday to Monday with the concert taking place on Saturday.
    11. Developing a Pandemic Mitigation Plan as Part of a Plan to Keep Everyone Safe: We recommend that one person with proper background be designated at the Infection Mitigation Coordinator to coordinate with, communicate and help implement public health guideline. That person should be responsible to making sure that the event safety plans are in compliance with the latest public health guidance and that those safety plans are fully implemented prior and during the event.The Plan should address protecting patron, performers, vendors, workers, and volunteers. Educating those who will be attending the event in any capacity prior to the event is important They should know what to expect and the steps being taken to protect them during the festival.

TSE has developed its own Pandemic Plan for Festivals based upon a number of different documents available from the Event Safety Alliance, CDC, Festival & Fair Trade Associations and Public Health authorities. You can find that plan here: Festival Production Pandemic Plan

Festival Production Pandemic Plan

What Goes in to Producing a Festival Concert? People!

The key to producing a successful festival or concert is having the right team of people. TSE typically uses four teams overseen by the festival producer as its approach to festival production.

Below are the overall duties for each team assigned to work a concert festival

Overall Concert Producer: The Concert Producer works through all stages of the planning process. If he or she has done the necessary things in advance, there should not be much to do once the event begins. For a Weekend festival he or she will arrive on site Thursday morning to mark placements for all activities, including stage, FOH, fencing, vendors, etc. This also provides time for client meetings and last-minute details that may need addressing. After the festival, the Producer will submit a report of how future events can be improved is part of his or her duties as defined by TSE.

Promotion Team: The promotions team’s work is completed at the time of the show except for evaluation the promotion campaign after the event. Its duties included:

    • Create Promotion Plan and budget for out of town promotion
    • Select appropriate promotions channels
    • Oversee advertising spend
    • Make changes as needed
    • Work with Bands to obtain promotion materials
    • Create promotional materials as needed
    • Work with festival sponsor on promotion-related issues
    • Carry out promotion plan.

Site Team: Arrives on Friday morning.  Work with festival director and volunteers on issues:

Friday:

    • Oversee site set up working with festival sponsor.
    • Assist vendors as needed, including major vendor tent set up.
    • RV pickup and set up, including generator provided by sponsor
    • Assure that rigid fencing is in place with the ability to let RV and band vehicles access secure site.
    • Set up Children’s play area with limited access
    • Set up VIP viewing area
    • Assist workers and volunteers with table and chairs set up.
    • Assure that Beer tent is set up where needed
    • Put up TSE-provided 10 X 10 tents (4 total) for the following:
      • Monitor Mix
      • FOH with one or two side panels
      • Merchandise sales (2, side by side with one side panel for each
    • Install/assist with logo banners placement on rigid fencing and other areas
    • Install banner on merchandise tents
    • Assure that Porta Potties are placed according to site plan.
    • Make sure trash bins are distributed around venue
    • Work with volunteers to assure site is ready, including dealing with drainage issues if rain is expected.
    • Provide additional security for items on site.

Saturday:

    • Oversee food/novelty vendor placement with those without generators being nearest to stage (see site plot)
    • Set out cardboard trash and recycle bins around event site.
    • Assist vendors with any issues they might have
    • Assist with signs and caution tape installation and monitor that shade canopies are behind indicated site line.
    • Create “No Shade Canopies Beyond This point line with grass paint.
    • Be available to assist with items that might arise.
    • Assist bands and stage team for load in and load out as necessary
    • Assist with stage access security

Sunday:

    • Take down and pack pop up tents.
    • Assist with taking down banners/signage.
    • Return generator
    • Return RV trailer
    • Oversee site clean up

Hospitality Team: Arrives Saturday morning:

    • Local Hospitality for bands and VIP/Sponsors
    • Provide Green Room catering needs for bands
    • Provide local transportation for band members and crew for hotel and meal runs
    • Act as band liaison for all activities except performance-related issues.
    • Be responsible for Sponsorship/VIP area and refreshments (if provided)
    • Coordinate Meet and Greet for VIP/Sponsors with headliner
    • Pack up extra food and drinks and assure Green Room RV is ready to move.

Concert Stage Team: Arrives Saturday morning:

    • Oversee backstage area
    • Make sure artist adhere to schedule for
      • Arrival
      • Load In
      • Sound/line check
      • Perform according to scheduled time
      • Load out
    • Work with sound and light vendors to make sure artists technical/production needs are met
      • Stage set up to stage plot
      • Input list
      • Oversee sound check and monitor mix is right
      • Help bands take down and set up for next set.
    • Get introductions from bands and work with Emcee to make sure he has info needed from bands
    • See that bands perform according to schedule
    • Provide any announcements that need to be made to Emcee
    • Act to provide stage security
    • Assist as stagehands for band load-in, change over and load out.

TSE team with Bart Crow

As you can easily see, producing a festival concert takes both a lot of preparation and a great team of people. The Kerrville River Festival went off without a hitch because the Kerrville Parks & Recreation Department and TSE Entertainment had both done the preparation needed and had great people involved with it. TSE will be producing future Kerrville River Festivals because the Kerrville Parks and Recreation Department was impressed how smoothly their first big festival took place.

It all comes back to preparation and people!

 

Related Posts:

Different Ideas for Festival Entertainment

25 Years of Festival Entertainment Booking for Independence Day

Concert Promotion: 6 Best Practices Using Facebook and Instagram

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