What do you need to know when planning a festival event? From approaching vendors and sponsors, to pricing your tickets, and even articulating your value through promotions and press, there are plenty of aspects to consider. Planning a festival is more than just having fun – there are a huge amount of safety elements to consider and that’s just the stuff that’s invisible! Never mind finding attendees, working out budgets and ensuring you have licenses covered.

When planning a festival it’s important to first put together a business plan. A solid plan helps you focus on your event’s purpose and goals, determine its financial viability and potential, and map out the resources required to deliver it.

Here’s how to write a festival business plan from scratch:

  1. Write an executive summary

The executive summary is a thorough yet succinct overview of your event and acts as an introduction to both your festival and you, the event creator. It should be a minimum of one page (but no more than 10% of your whole document) and covers:

  • What your event is and where/when it’ll take place
  • Why you’re planning a festival
  • Your festival’s mission and objectives
  • How it benefits the local community
  • Your estimated income and expenditure
  1. Add background and history

This section provides you with the opportunity to go more in-depth about your event’s history and your own background, including past experience and event successes. Why do you want to plan a festival? What will it add to, not just your bank balance, but the people attending, the event sponsors and the local community? Planning a festival is not for the faint-hearted and this is your chance to show why you’re fully committed and won’t drop out at the first hurdle.

If you’ve worked on any festivals in the past include information, images and testimonials. You should also use this section to position your festival in the market. What is it you’re bringing to the table that no one else has covered?

  1. Write an event overview

Here, you’ll want to break down your festival’s mission, objectives, target market, and stakeholder involvement. You can also describe the event in more detail and get into your theme and the type of feeling you wish to evoke in your attendees.

Once written, this forms the introduction of your festival which you can send to everyone from sponsors, to stakeholders. This will save you answering the same questions over and over again. It also ensures your festival looks professional.

You could create the event overview in a Google document, so that it can be edited and updated later. This is handy if the same question keeps cropping up that you hadn’t already covered when planning your event.

  1. Plan your festival’s requirements

One aspect you shouldn’t underestimate is what it takes to create a festival, in an outdoor environment. Here are some of the aspects to consider when planning your festival outdoors:

  • Obtain the correct licenses

When you organise an event in a purpose built venue it’s not necessary to think about licences and permits, but there are greater restrictions for organising events outside, even if it’s on private land.

For events of 499 attendees or fewer, you may need to apply for a Temporary Event Notice. This applies if you’ll be selling or otherwise supplying alcohol at your event or if there will be any sort of entertainment or hot food provided after 11pm.

For events with 500 or more attendees you’ll need to obtain a premise licence. For alcohol provision, you will also need a Designated Premises Supervisor who holds a Personal Licence.

If you plan to perform or broadcast copyrighted material (such as music, films or plays), you will need a Performing Rights Society (PRS) licence and/or a Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) licence.

If you want to hold an event on public land, you will have to apply to the local council. Likewise, if your event will require street or road closures, it will be necessary to apply for a temporary traffic regulation order.

Be sure to apply to the relevant authorities in good time – some like to be contacted as much as a year in advance of your planned event date.

  • Meet noise restrictions

To avoid complaints, consideration must always be given to the residents living nearby. Noise control should include careful consideration of factors such as the position of entry and exit points, stage location, equipment and car parking.

As well as advising local residents of your planned activities (including start and finish times), you may want to advise the council’s Environmental Protection Team of the event. In some circumstances the council may request that you appoint an Acoustic Consultant to assist in drawing up a Noise Management Plan.

  • Obtain event security

If your event is large, you will probably need to employ a professional security company to assist with crowd control, deal with any problems that arise and protect on-site equipment.

You may also wish to operate on-door security checks to prevent alcohol, drugs or weapons being brought on site. All security personnel must be trained and registered with the Security Industry Authority (SIA). You will also need to let the police know about your event.

  • Plan health and safety

Drawing up a comprehensive health and safety plan for your event is imperative. Factors to consider include access for emergency services, traffic management and car parking, crowd control, emergency exits and procedures. You will need to provide adequate stewards, barriers, signage etc. and make safety announcements before any entertainment begins to tell people what to do if there is an emergency. You should also think about disabled access to your event and on-site first aid, which can be provided by St John Ambulance.

Don’t forget public liability insurance or property insurance in case someone gets hurt at your event or kit gets damaged.

  1. Write a marketing plan

Now you have the logistics covered, how are you going to promote your festival? In this section, you’ll break down your strategy for selling tickets. Details could include:

  • Positioning and competitor research – who else are you up against?
  • Price – you also need to compare this to the costs you need to cover.
  • Channels – split these into two categories. Channels where you already have an audience (such as an email list or Twitter account) and those where you need to promote, promote, promote. Ensure you are on social media and using it effectively by having a variety of different engaging content and using paid advertising when necessary. A central Facebook event page is essential so that anyone connected with the festival can post content and invite people.
  • Event partners – networking with the artists, promoters and people involved in the industry is essential and will open doors to a wider audience who may want to attend. It is vital that the music acts you have secured are actively promoting the festival to their fans. The most successful events are when the band, venue and promoter are all working together so make it as easy as possible for them to promote your event.
  • Marketing budget – how much do you have to spend?

Once you have your marketing plan create a timeline and work backwards. A good rule of thumb is to ensure your marketing activities start at least six months before the festival, ideally a year, if you have enough lead time. Planning a festival is often dictated to by the seasons and it’s harder to sell tickets to a summer event when it’s winter and everyone’s thinking about Christmas! The earlier you begin your marketing, the better you can account for seasonality.

You could include a monthly, or weekly, timeline within your business plan so that everyone working on your festival knows exactly what you’re planning and when.

  1. Break down your budgets

When planning a festival it’s important to have a clear insight to the event budget. Your budget might not be fully confirmed when you first begin working on the idea or even the marketing, so be sure to update it with the latest data as you go (especially after your festival ends).

A good old fashioned excel spreadsheet can be a great way to keep track of your budget and any costs associated with the event.

  1. Add an appendix

Include non-vital information that’s important to your festival plan like a sitemap, other market research, or reports that don’t fit in with the rest of your festival business plan here.

Tips for writing a compelling festival plan

Your business plan is a tactical document, but it’s also your festival’s identity captured on paper. So while the language you use should always be professional, it should also be in line with your festival’s brand. That means you should:

  • Clearly differentiate yourself. There are more and more festivals popping up each year, and in order to really stand out, you need to be clear on what sets you apart.
  • Show your festival’s market opportunity for partners. Your event provides something that no digital campaign ever can: face-to-face, distraction-free interaction with your attendees (their customers). Be sure to show sponsors the value of your event.
  • Showcase your team’s talent. Half the reason you’re able to do what you do is because of your awesome team. Be sure to highlight their skills and past experiences in order to convince partners and sponsors that you’ve got this.

We hope this has helped you become inspired to write your own festival business plan and start on the road to creating an amazing event. Planning a festival is hard work but seriously rewarding and when done right, will be something that others will talk about for years to come.

How to stand out in a sea of events

In a saturated market, events that don’t nail the attendee experiences become irrelevant. Discover how to stand out in Stay Relevant: 6 Event Trends Shaping the Future of Festivals.

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