How To Create A Festival


Julia Thistleton-Smith from Headstock Festival gives you tips on how to create a festival.

Want to know the most important thing you’ll need?  Nerves of steel.  Seriously, the festival industry has been compared to pure gambling and with an exceptionally crowded market place and a customer base with less money due to the tough economic climate it’s tough out there.

If you’re determined it can be done.  Here at Newstead we put on our first commercial festival in 10 weeks last year and it got rave reviews and was short-listed for Best New Festival at the UK Festival Awards.  The community in Newstead had put on a free community festival Treefest for ten years so we did know a little bit what we were getting ourselves in for.

After the nerves you’re going to need a strong idea of you’re identity.  What kind of music you want, what other activities you want to put on, what will make people come to your festival rather than the one down the road on the same day.  Everyone has different opinions on music so it’s a good idea to not have too many people deciding your line up.  Think about your target customer and what they like and then go after them.

Once you’ve got your identity and your budget and business plan you’re going to need money.  Banks aren’t that keen to lend to festivals given the fact that they are high risk and often take five years to break even (Headstock made a loss in it’s first year which is pretty standard) so you’re best bet may be to find individuals who are prepared to invest in the business to get returns in the medium to long term.  You absolutely can make a profit but it might take you a while to get there.

Marketing is essential.  You need to make sure as many people know about you as possible.  Speak to all the journalists in your area as soon as you know what you’re doing to get the word out there.  Advertise but pick media titles that you’re audience will be reading and in the current climate you can negotiate hard for some deals.  Use every social networking opportunity available and flyer every event you possibly can – ideally from at least 3-6 months before your event starts.

I’ve probably made it sound pretty scary.  It is.  However, the pay off can be amazing.  When it’s the end of an amazing event and you’ve got 300 people writing glowing feedback on your Facebook page and the media are saying you’re dong great things the buzz is amazing.  And if you can make it work and love music it’s a great job.

The second Headstock Festival will take place in the Newstead and Annesley Country Park from September 9th-11th 2011.  Echo & the Bunnymen will be headlining and will be joined by a host of national and regional talent including Swimming, African Head Charge, Tunng, Chris Liberator, Craig Charles, the Herbaliser Band, Royal Gala, the Lightning Seeds, CW Stoneking, THePETEBOX and Glastonbury sensations Treetop Flyers.  For full details and tickets visit

Posted on 07 September 2011
Featured author: melissa.gueneau

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