Why festivals fail…. or better yet, how not to fail

Why festivals fail


It’s springtime in the Rockies and our minds have turned to festivals. We love a good festival…sunshine, music, food, what more could anyone ask for? Also, while we don’t love a ‘festival fail’ we can’t help but think of a few in recent memory that didn’t quite go as planned - looking at you cheese festival and the other one that rhymes with 'fire.' No one wants their festival to fail or to be a guest at festival that is less than extraordinary. We put some thought into it and came up with some Festival 101; for guests and for planners.

When the hype exceeds expectation

When someone sees a festival billed as ‘the cultural event of the decade’ they can’t help but be swept away. Sometimes all that flimflam can elevate a guest’s expectations beyond what you can produce. The reality is that it doesn’t have to be ‘the best thing on this or any other planet’ to sell tickets. It should be about guests’ enjoying the thing they love…. Octoberfest, tacos, comic books…. whatever it is. If the focus remains firmly on the guests’ affinity for the thing we’re celebrating, we can best manage expectations and serve up an experience they will never forget. Turn down the hype machine, and make sure you know your audience, speak to their wishes and let the festival hype itself.

For would-be festival goers: look beyond the hype. You deserve a better festival than something that’s main feature is a vague endorsement from a celebrity. Do your homework and know what you’re getting. It’ll be a much better experience.

Lack of ________________ (fill in the blank)

Any festival needs some secondary activities to keep guests interested. It’s that simple. You can’t just open the doors, take tickets and hope for the best. Festival goers are seeking an entire experience that is rooted in their favorite thing, not solely the thing. Bring on the games! Strike up the band! Fill your glass! Festivals need activities, food, drink and fun to complete the picture. Your vendors will be running out of taco fixins if there nothing to do but eat tacos. I mean, you can’t just eat tacos for 6 hours straight…. can you?

Festival peeps: have fun with it. If you want to eat tacos for 6 hours, have at it. But bring your taco hat, get ready to compete in the taco spelling contest and be open to it. Focus on what you think is missing and you’ll miss the fun.

Timing is everything

How long is too long? How short is too short? There is nothing worse than not having enough time at a festival. Unless of course it’s a festival that has run out of steam before its scheduled end time. Think about what you’re planning and how your guests can get the most out of it. Two hours is usually way to short to enjoy anything. And five hours can be a long, long time especially if there is food involved. You can’t even imagine how many tacos people can eat if there is nothing else to do. If you do need more time, stick to a schedule so festival goers can plan. Tacos at 6, more tacos at 6:30, how to make tacos at 7, taco eating contest at 7:30.

Festival peeps: Be on time for short festival and you won’t miss a thing. If it’s a longer gig, pace yourself.

Think of everything. Then think again.

There is no end to the details and logistics that can go into a festival. Want people to stick around? Make sure they don’t need to leave to use the restroom. Want your guests to post like crazy on social media? Get your WiFi set up. Depending on size and scope you could be planning for street closures, entertainment, permits, power, parking, insurance, ticketing, wristbands, ADA access, First Aid and much more. And this is all before you can focus on the guest experience. Think about what you need and find the best vendors to add to your team. There is no way you can pull it off by yourself. Assemble your dream team and conquer that festival.

Festival peeps: do your homework and come prepared. Yes, it is that simple.

While most festival goers won’t ever know the amount of work that happened before it all came to life, they will know a great event when they get there. Our best advice? Know your audience, ask for help and don’t believe your own hype. Need some help with your festival or event? We want to help. Give us a call or send a note.