We’ve all been there. At an event or festival, sitting in the sunshine, maybe a couple of beers in and had the Eureka moment – “Hey, I could do this, but better!” For most of us, this is where it ends, for the lucky and motivated few this is the start of their event organiser journey.
We’ve spent a lot of time around events and organisers and we also cringe a little when we read about events like Vestiville, the latest, but probably not the last, of events to gain a similar level of notoriety as Fyre fest.
What makes us cringe is not the fact that the event struggled, but more the wasted potentially that went into something that someone clearly loved. So with that in mind, we wanted to take a moment and provide some tips to any aspiring event organiser so that they can grow the latest and greatest event.
- Start small
Ok, we don’t want to crush ambition – what we actually mean is start manageable. The biggest events and festivals today did not start with the ambition of being the biggest. Sometimes lightning strikes, but most of the time it takes work. Vestiville made the mistake of swinging for the fences the first time out (much like Fyre).
For most festivals, it takes up to 5 years to turn a profit. It takes a massive effort to break even. Small to midsize festivals that start small and focused tend to make it to year two. Good examples are Leefest (now Neverworld) and Gottwood, both of which have reached the 10-year milestone.
- It’s your event, make sure you like it
Don’t start an event to make money. Start an event that will fulfil the desires of like-minded people.
Green Man in Wales started as a small craft and indie festival with the likes of Super Furry Animals playing in the picturesque Brecon Beacons. That was 14 years ago. Likewise, Burning Man started with just 80 “free spirits who surf [ed] the bleeding edge of culture, space and time.” That was in 1986.
- Don’t get sucked into the never-never
“Neither a borrower nor lender be,” wrote William Shakespeare, which is great advice. Although in today’s world entirely impractical. Just make sure you’re borrowing within means. Two stages might sound like a great idea, but if it puts the entire event at risk, park it for year two.
It’s your event and only you can decide if this route fits for you. Sponsors can create a great revenue stream, but shouldn’t necessarily be relied upon – especially for year one.
Having said that, clever sponsorship can improve the event and provide you with cash flow. There are great examples on both sides of the fence for this one – it’s more about what fits for your event. Coachella in year one would have looked weird being sponsored by American Express, now it would look weird without it.
- Don’t bullsh*t
It only ends in trouble. Keep things simple, stay authentic, and only announce artists and acts that are confirmed.
If you do decide to start organising your own event, stay the course and persevere. There’s plenty of resources out there for enterprising event organisers, including organisations like The Association of Independent Festivals, and remember – all the best events start with an idea in the sunshine after a beer!