5 Steps to Create a Music Festival

Imagine creating a music festival with your friends.

It would be legendary. An annual gathering of your tribe, a weekend of connection and creativity, a party transcended. You can capture the music-festival-magic and distil it in your own backyard. It’s your festival. This is how you make it.

The first step is to get your friends stoked.

Pitch the idea to your closest and most resourceful friends. These guys and gals will spearhead support for the event and become your de-facto crew. Once the dream is alive in their minds, the rest will follow. If you’re not sold yourself, read on!

Brand your festival just like a proper one. Pick something memorable that your friends can relate to. Remember, this is your event, and you can make it whatever you want! Our festival is called Final Fest.

Brainstorm with your crew about what music and workshops you want at the festival. This will feature on the poster, your most important piece of hype. You’re going to fill the poster with headliners, so it’s time to get creative. I use a mix of our made-up-DJ names, fun activities and jokes. Maybe your friends are in a band, maybe you love karaoke, maybe you have lightsabers. The more creative you get, the more hyped they’ll get!

Your facebook event will be the big reveal. Create the event on facebook, upload your poster, include your pitch and invite a small group of guests. Keep the invitations conservative – you can always invite more people as you get more organized.

Headliner posters

Once you’ve got serious interest, it’s time to get everyone talking. As festival veterans, your friends will know what to expect from a quality event: music, food, art and workshops. Get them suggesting ideas for a venue, DJ/live sets, meals, decorations and activities. Simply asking their favorite DJ mixes or recipes will get the ball rolling.

Pick a venue for you the festival. You need a space with a good dance floor and sizable kitchen to accommodate your group. Additionally, you want privacy and a healthy dose of nature. If no one in your network can provide the space, check out rentals on Airbnb. There are plenty of cabins and vacation homes available outside of the city for a reasonable price. Encourage your friends to camp so that the indoor space can be used communally.

Delegate responsibilities and recruit recruit recruit! You’ve already built the hype so it should be no problem to find volunteers. Ask for help to

•Plan activities

•Teach Workshops

•DJ / make paylists

•Plan communal meals

•Budget and collect money

•Rent sound equipment

•Rent lighting equipment

•Cleanup (tip: hire a cleaner, no one likes cleaning hungover)

•Think about the details!

Create a schedule to help you imagine the weekend. It will get everyone even more excited and make your volunteers feel committed. Once you’ve got some good ideas from your crew, combine them with your vision and lay it all out. It doesn’t matter if you change it or completely disregard the schedule later; what’s important is that your friends see all the fun you have planned for them. I start my schedule in excel and then spice it up in photoshop. We also use a whiteboard for ongoing changes and additions during the weekend.

Schedule evolution

The little details will make the event feel more like a festival and less like a party. Brainstorm all things festival and try to incorporate them into the weekend. Its up to you guys to transform the space completely, so fully commit! Some ideas:

DJ Name

•Make festival wristbands

•Teach workshops during the day

•Create DJ names for yourselves

•Name locations at the venue

•Create festival merch like stickers, pins or t-shirts

•Have an opening ceremony

•Create volunteer or crew t-shirts

•Bring facepaint and crafts

•Bring all your festival clothing

•Create a theme for the event

•Host a jam / bring instruments

•Create signs for the venue

•Make inviting spaces around the venue

•Allow for spontaneity and unplanned activities

Once you’ve fleshed out the details, update your facebook event with all your new ideas. Upload the schedule and solicit feedback. Now would be a good time to roll out more invites. Newcomers will see a highly ambitious, mostly organized vision for something magnificent.

Rent Speakers. You’re going to need a loud sound system for your stage, and the more bass the better. Luckily, decent audio equipment can be rented affordably from your local music shop. Ask them for advice if you are lost. If you don’t have anyone with DJ skills, just get an AUX input so you can play mixes and playlists. If you do know a DJ, put them in charge of sound! This shouldn’t cost more than $400.

Early Morning Setup & Jazz Brunch in The Kitchen

Rent Lights. Simple lights can transform your living room into the ultimate rave. Look for UV and colored bulbs that you can screw into your existing fixtures and bedside-table-lamps. Stage lighting with built in microphones will cue lights to your music without any management. Again, talk to your local rental shop to get advice if you’re lost. Rent a laser and smoke machine if you’re feeling extravagant. This shouldn’t cost more than $200.

Set the stage. It’s time to transform your getaway cabin into a festival stage. Bring out the tapestries, colorful pillows, psychedelic posters and party decorations. Encourage your friends to bring all their favorite camp accessories. Having an open space for dancing in front of the speakers as well as a comfortable space for sitting down and relaxing nearby will help keep everybody happy and near to the action.

Camping spots, sleeping spaces, activity areas, quiet zones, meal prep, fridge space and a bar area are some other venue-related things to consider.

Estimate your budget. After investigating rental and venue costs, you’ll have a good idea of the big expenditures. Consider budgeting for party supplies, decorations, a few treats and a cleaner. I ask attendees to contribute food, alcohol and whatever-else themselves to keep costs down. By now you should have a good idea of attendee numbers and be able to gauge “ticket” prices.

Two of Final Fest’s Stages

Your primary concern is everyone’s safety, and having good times. Gather the group together at the beginning of the weekend and go over safety basics. Who has first aide? Who knows where a fire extinguisher is? What’s the lay-of-the-land? How many people can go in the hot tub? 

Consider the possible disturbance of the neighbours. This is not only respectful, but prudent. Be an ambassador. Make a good impression before things get wild. Buy them a bottle of wine (with the party funds) and ask them to call you if they have any problems.

When everybody’s effed, be mostly on top of shit. Maybe that means you BBQ lunch instead of dropping acid, or hang around on Monday to help clean up. Your friends will thank you and it will be worth it.

Next year, it will be even better.