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Jan 18, 2024 · 1 min read

Your Ultimate Guide To Planning A Festival In Australia

Guide To Planning Your Own Festival Event

Australian's have long enjoyed the festival season. Fields across the country start to comes alive in late spring, with the party atmosphere lasting until the autumn. With some of the most iconic festivals in the world, it's no wonder we have one of the largest festival markets in the world - valued at an estimated $2.7bn!

Amongst the famous Australia festivals are Melbourne International Comedy Festival across the month April, the world-famous Splendor The Grass Festival held in July and other festivals such as Falls, Bluesfest and Vivid.

Festivals have long been popular, however their resurgence following COVID lockdown measures in 2020 has been epic.

But it’s not just the major festival scene that attract large audiences; since the pandemic, the market for festivals in general has boomed - with both 2022 and 2023 seeing more festivals across Australia than ever before.

In this blog, we'll help you get to grips with the variety that surrounds the Australian festival scene and help you with the basics of planning your own.

What Exactly Is A Festival?

The world festival comes from the Latin festa which means feast. A festival is literally a feast for the senses, where people with shared interests come together to celebrate their passion.

Traditionally festivals were religious festivals spread across religious calendars to celebrate particular times of year, significant dates and certain gods. These days a festival can celebrate music, film, food, cars and many other shared interests.

What Constitutes A Festival

What other types of festivals are there?

Whilst the music scene may be noisy, there's plenty of other types of festivals seen across Australia. Here are just a few:

Food festivals

Celebrating the best in local, Australian produce, food and drink festivals are popular the length and breadth of Australia and there are more and more added to the event calendar each year.

From beer festivals to gin and rum festivals, vegan festivals to BBQ festivals that celebrate Australian meat, many of us can’t resist a day or two sampling our way across a food festival in search of exciting new treats and tempting delicacies.

Film festivals

These are a great opportunity for independent and budding film producers to showcase their creativity. Film festivals are often themed, and many include outdoor cinema, foreign film screenings, short films and documentaries. The most popular film festivals in Australia include the St Kilda Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival and Indian Film Festival.

Literary festivals

Similar to both music and film festivals, a literary festival brings people together to enjoy the written and spoken word and will often feature poets, authors, screenwriters, fiction and non-fiction writers.

Agriculture Shows

Agriculture shows are a classic tradition to bring the whole community together. Typically agriculture shows occur in council parks and reserves that usually involves many different community groups who provide their time giving back to local communities and celebrate the agriculture society of Australia.

Arts & Comedy festivals

This is something in between a music festival and a film festival, comedians, artists and performers will take to the stages to live audiences for the entertainment of others. The Australia's most famous arts and performance festival is the Sydney Fringe Festival held annually in September in venues and streets across Sydney and is particularly renowned for both budding and established comedy acts.

How do you plan a festival?

Anyone who has organised a festival before will know that it no easy feat - many event organisers who organise festivals do it for their love of their chosen event.

As a first-time festival organiser, it is worthwhile understanding that festivals are not huge money-making events. The average festival only makes around 5-20% profit, even lower for smaller festivals - requiring efficient organisation, enough initial funding and plenty of savvy marketing.

16 Steps To Plan A Festival

  • 1. Set your goals
  • 2. Consider the environmental impact
  • 3. Funding and budgeting
  • 4. Finding your venue
  • 5. Arranging your line-up, vendors and entertainment
  • 6. Selling festival tickets
  • 7. Planning logistics
  • 8. Keeping things accessible
  • 9. Marketing your festival
  • 10. Recruiting your team
  • 11. Planning the day
  • 12. Your festival layout
  • 13. Pre-event preparation
  • 14. On the day
  • 15. Post-event take down
  • 16. Evaluate how it went
Setting Goals For Your Festival

Set your goals

You have the seed of an idea and you’re thinking about organising a brand-new festival. Maybe you want to share passion for music, or meet more people who are interested in what you’re interested in. You might be looking to raise vital funds for a charity or cause, or you might just be excited to do something new or different in your local area.

It is important that before you start planning your festival you think about what it is you want to achieve. Whether you’re looking to raise funds, make money, champion local upcoming artists, start a new trend or you’ve spotted a gap in the market, thinking about what a successful outcome to your festival looks like will help keep you on track throughout your event management journey.

Festivals don’t have to be a money-making enterprise - many are about bringing people together for a unique experience. When setting your event goals, make sure you don’t lose sight of them along the way as referring back to why you’re organising a festival will keep you positive, proactive and prepared for all eventualities.

Event planning, especially for a large event such as a festival, can be stressful, time-consuming and expensive. It can also be hugely rewarding, spread joy to lots of people and is a great way of bringing communities together.

Running A Sustainable Event

Consider the environmental impact

Whether this is a priority for you personally or not, your festival goers may be passionate about sustainability, reducing their carbon footprint and eliminating waste. 

This section is not a must for all festival event organisers - however it is a good idea to think about the impact your festival might have on the people, wildlife, landscapes and economy local to your festival and what measures you can take to lessen your impact.

You may even find that when marketing your event, these measures you take to consider your sustainability will be a hook for attendees to whom this is important and mark you as better than other festivals.

Here are some ways you can promote sustainability around your festival:

- Promote lift-sharing and using public transport to get to your event
- Organise recycling bins for your venue
- Use paperless ticketing
- Eliminate single-use plastic from your event
- Sign up to a carbon offsetting program
- Promote donating any items people don’t want to take home that could be reused, such as tents, sleeping bags, clothes, food etc

Funding and budgeting

There is no doubt that organising a festival can be expensive. Even if your event is a charity venture, or not-for-profit event, you will need substantial capital or investment to get your festival event up and running.

When thinking about planning a festival consider the where, when, who, what and why of your event as part of your event management plan to give you an idea of what you need to spend money on. Using spreadsheets to manage event budgets will be useful and help you keep track of potential costs.

It will also be imperative that you do plenty of research before setting your budget to make sure your expectations are realistic to your expenditure.

Associated costs for your festival may include;

- Venue hire
- Entertainment costs
- Toilets
- Catering
- Staging, lights, PA system, fencing, barriers and other equipment
- Staff
- Marketing
- Security measures
- Insurance, permits, licenses and taxes

You may have funds in place to start your festival planning but if not, there are a few ways you can the raise money needed to plan your event.

You could consider if there are any local event grants available or support schemes for local initiatives. Following the pandemic, there was funding for the event industry to help it get back on its feet, although this is not available now, there may be other schemes you can take advantage of.

Alternatively, you could consider seeking sponsorship from businesses for your event. Businesses could sponsor individual elements such as a particular stage, event, artist or performer or could provide general sponsorship in exchange for promotion of their involvement, event tickets, exhibition space or access to your attendee data.

Consider carefully the suitability of your festival sponsors as you want to make sure you maintain the integrity and values of your event at the same time as inviting involvement of private businesses.

If you want to make a profit from your event, then consider how much you want to make and work out how much this equates to in terms of money you need to spend.

Using the average profitability estimation of 5%, this means if you want to make $10,000 profit you will need to allocate at least $200,000 for your event budget. It is always a good idea to include an additional 10% contingency fund for unforeseen expenses in addition to your event budget too.

Finding A Venue For Your Festival Event

Finding your venue

This is when the fun starts and your festival dreams turn into more of a reality!

The type, duration and expected number of attendees for the festival you’re planning will dictate the shape and size of your festival venue. For music festivals with multiple stages, you might want to consider an outdoor venue with plenty of space.

Festivals in the Australian spring or autumn may be better indoors so inclement weather doesn’t affect your acts or attendees. Things to think about when selecting the perfect venue for your festival include access to the venue, parking facilities, amenities such as toilets and catering, emergency exits, available spaces, entrances and exits.

There is much more besides this list so making a list of your venue requirements before visiting prospective spaces is a good idea. In addition to venue rental for your festival remember to budget for associated costs such as marquee hire, stage hire, barriers, signage, stall hire, seating, portable toilets as well as permits and insurance.

An outdoor music festival could be hosted on private land by agreement with the landowner. Drawing a map of where people will enter, exit, park, eat and sleep will help the landowner get an idea of what you’re planning and help them price hire accordingly.

If you’re taking over a town centre for a street festival, make sure you seek appropriate permissions from the local authority and have the correct licenses for the entertainment, food and drink that will be available.

For film or literary festivals, an indoor venue might be more appropriate. Choose a theatre complex with multiple spaces, or an event venue with soundproofing and a choice of rooms so you can host multiple films, presentations and discussions.

Line Up For Your Event

Arrange your line-up, vendors and entertainment

The next job on your festival to-do list is to recruit your entertainment. This might be musicians, bands, performers, comedy acts, or food stalls, demonstrations, lectures or screenings.

The type of festival you’re planning will dictate what your line-up looks like. Remember to think back to your event goals when making bookings as who you book should reflect the values of your festival. Think about what your attendees will expect to see and make sure you’re adding value to their experience so you can charge accordingly for their attendance.

For an awesome music festival, a winning line-up will attract more bookings. Look for your main headliner first, then secure supporting acts that will complement this. If you have multiple stages at your venue, think about staggering performance times and segregating different genres.

If it’s a food and drink festival you’re organising, consider what types of food you want to showcase at your event. Champion local produce by inviting local food and drink suppliers or create an exciting international cuisine journey by inviting vendors who produce food inspired by different cultures.

Whichever type of festival you’re planning, your guests will expect food and drink vendors to be present so make sure you think about refreshments that cater to a wide range of dietary requirements.

Top tip: Don't just think about the provision of food, but what happens after. Consider effective waste management and collection as disposing of takeaway packaging will be important with any catering services.

Selling festival tickets

You’ve set your event goals, you have dates, a venue, a budget, now it’s time to start getting some money coming in by selling tickets to your festival. The best way to sell advance tickets for your festival event is to use an online ticketing platform such as TryBooking.

Selling tickets online is beneficial for a whole host of reasons from saving on cash banking fees to reducing admin for event organisers, it allows easy data collection and lets you easily sell tickets 24/7.

What's more, to start selling tickets, you really only need to provide the name of your event, date, venue and what is included in the ticket price!

An online ticketing platform such as TryBooking will allow you to sell different ticket types so you can have entry tickets, camping tickets, parking tickets, adult and child tickets as well as the ability to set limits and capacities for the numbers of each ticket type, giving you complete control of your event capacities.

You could go one step further and take advance orders for any merchandise you want to sell too, such as picnic hampers, festival branded clothing and festival programs. You could really get the hype going and sell early bird tickets up to a certain number, or before a certain date, give discount codes to VIPs and get an early indication of how popular your event will be based on this advanced purchasing data.

Don’t forget to think about booking terms and conditions that cover both your interests and those of your bookers. Make sure these are clear on your booking platform and that you have a fair and clear refund policy in place in case of cancellations, either by you or your purchasers.

The other thing to bear in mind when selling tickets online is how you want to accept those tickets on the day. Make sure you let your ticket purchasers know whether they need to print tickets, show them on a device or if they just need a name and booking number to enter your festival.

Event Logistics

Planning logistics

Now we’re really getting into the nitty gritty of how to plan an event. Logistics for your festival will include all the finer details of managing people getting to, arriving at, spending time at and then leaving your festival.

We’ve broken down some of the most important operational elements you’ll need to consider - but remember, this list is by no means exhaustive.

Getting to and leaving the event

Will you put on shared transport from nearby locations? Will you offer discounts for those arriving by public transport? How will you manage queues to get into your venue? Could you stagger arrival times? Do you have multiple entrances or exits? Think about signage, directions, possible congestion, one-way systems and wardens or volunteers to guide arrivals for larger festival locations.

Parking

Do you have enough parking for the expected number of arrivals? Will you charge for parking? Will you limit parking spaces? Is your parking close enough to the venue? Do you have disability or family parking available which is closer? Who will coordinate parking spots and capacity?

Ticketing

Are you selling tickets in advance or on entry? Do people have to book in advance? Are you accepting cash or card payments only? Do people need to bring tickets with them? Consider using an online booking platform, such as TryBooking and operate a cashless, advance ticketing system where you know who is arriving, how and when. Entering and exiting the event. How are you going to check people in or out? Are you using stamps, tickets or wristbands? What are your entry and exit requirements? How will you communicate these with attendees in advance?

Permits and insurance

Do you have all the right permissions for your festival? Have you contacted the local authority regarding permits? Will you be selling alcohol and are the correct licenses in place for this? Do you have the right kind of insurance cover to protect both yourselves as event organisers and your attendees should your festival not go ahead? Are there local noise restrictions that you have to consider? Think about talking to local planning officers, local authorities, parish councils and event neighbours to ensure your event runs as smoothly as possible.

Health and safety

This goes hand in hand with permits and insurance. You’ll need to carry our thorough risk assessments for your festival, consider safe entry and exit in case of an emergency, access to local emergency services, first aid personnel and it might be a good idea to appoint a qualified risk assessor to take responsibility for safety measures for the event.

Equipment rental

What infrastructure do you require to accommodate your expected audience? Will you need barriers, sound systems, screens, signage, stages, radio equipment and first aid facilities? Remember to make a list of everything you think you may need, consider what the venue may be able to provide and don’t forget to allocate budget to the equipment required.

Vendors

Depending on the nature and size of your festival you may want to invite food vendors, drink vendors, retailers, activity providers, fairground ride companies, crafting suppliers and any other fun stalls your attendees may enjoy. You can either charge a one-off pitch fee to vendors, a percentage of their sales across the event or a mixture of both, where a small upfront pitch fee is requested alongside a smaller percentage of takings. Consider the locations and sizes of pitches available before setting clear and fair vendor pricing.

Toilets

Your festival venue may have toilet facilities but if you’re using an outdoor space you will need to provide amenities for your visitors. You can easily hire companies to come and deliver toilet facilities, arrange cleaning with them, emptying and removal afterwards. Again, this is something that should be included in your budget.

Security

Depending on the size and location of your event, you may want to consider hiring a security team who will help with bag searches, entrance and exit of the event and any antisocial behaviour. If you are hiring a venue, check to see if they have their own teams in place for your event and whether they are included in the venue hire. When hiring a security service make sure everything you need them to look after is included in the price you pay.

Event Accessibility

Keeping your festival accessible

Around 4m people in Australia have a disability - that's 18% of the population. Any reasonable adjustments you can make to ensure that more people can enjoy your festival will help you attract a wider audience of attendees. 

Things to think about include disabled parking, which is closer to the festival, accessibility ramps, solid boardwalks on soft surfaces and wider thoroughfares for those with limited mobility, wheelchairs or mobility scooters. If you’re using an indoor venue, you may be able to take advantage of hearing loops for those with auditory impairments.

Allowing assistance dogs into your festival will ensure those with visual impairments have the opportunity to attend your event and creating quiet or time-out type spaces away from busier hotspots may be appreciated by those with learning or sensory disabilities.

Refer back to your event goals and make sure that your festival venue and format is accessible for your target audiences and that you make any adjustments necessary to welcome those who might not be able to attend otherwise.

There will be ambassadors and volunteers who work with charities that may be able to assess your plans and advise on how to make improvements depending on your festival type and location.

Marketing your festival

Having sorted the logistics, entertainment, ticketing, venue and entertainment for your event, you should be ready to start marketing your event!

Our blog on How To Market An Event will give you plenty of guidance and insight into how to market your festival to achieve maximum exposure to your chosen audience and help you sell as many tickets as possible.

If you're running promotions via a specific method, you may want to check out some of our more in depth blogs:

- How to Market an Event on Facebook
- How to Market an Event on Instagram
- How to Market an Event on TikTok
- How to Market an Event on YouTube

Most of your audience will be online, so digital marketing strategies will be a good way to reach as many people as possible. It is important that you consider setting up a dedicated website or webpage on your existing site to direct people to online.

This is something you can do yourself or you can add it into your budget and get a digital marketing agency to help you. You can combine this with more traditional methods of marketing such as flyers, posters and adverts in relevant publications to catch those who may not be on social media.

Use QR codes for people to scan with their smartphones and add the festival website URL address too so that people can easily find out more.

Consider the power of press releases in local and national publications, depending on the size of your festival, and send these out well in advance of your event with details of how to book tickets.

Using email marketing

This is another good strategy for marketing your festival. If you have an existing database of customers, contacts, friends, colleagues or community contacts, sharing festival details with them by email will keep your event in the forefront of their mind. Add a subscribe button to your website and keep your subscribers up to date with festival news by regular email to keep people engaged and excited about your upcoming festival.

Lastly, you might want to reach out to relevant influencers to help promote your event. These could be industry role models, local celebrities or social media moguls with large followings that conform to your festival industry and prospective audience. Influences will likely have packages you can buy into so remember to include this as part of your marketing budget.

Recruiting A Team For Your Event

Recruiting your team

Whether you’re planning a small local festival or a national event-of-the-year, you can’t do everything yourself - you’re going to need a good team to help you.

If you’re part of a group already you may have volunteers at the ready to help with organising, planning and executing your event. Otherwise, you may need to think about hiring some staff. The number of people you’ll need and the kind of skills you require will be dictated in part by your festival type. The wages for these staff will need to be factored into your event budget.

The roles you’ll need to fulfil may include operations and logistics, marketing, health and safety, security, wardens and marshals for during the event and a team for the post-event clean up.

Some larger festivals offer free tickets to volunteers in exchange for a set number of hours work across the event. This is one way to make sure you have a team in place throughout your festival. Alternatively, students or those looking for seasonal work may be a good option and are happy to work for a fixed amount of time around your event.

You’ll need to allocate some time to training your new teams which you can either do online or in person. Hold a few introductory sessions so that your team can meet each other, see the venue and understand what is required of them before, during and after your festival event.

Security for your event is important, especially for larger events and events that are selling alcohol. Getting a professional team to help police your festival will ensure things run smoothly, keep anyone who shouldn’t be allowed into your event out and make sure your attendees are safe. They’ll help manage entry, queues, bag checks and exit of your festival.

Planning the day

Creating a schedule for your festival will show your attendees what to expect throughout the event. Whether you’re organising a single day festival, a weekend event or a week-long extravaganza, putting together a comprehensive program of events and locations will help those attending to find the entertainment they’re most interested in and facilitate prioritising time.

If you have multiple stages, different venues or different rooms, putting together a clear plan of what is happening where and when is a mammoth task but will not only help you to manage your acts, vendors and staff but will help people navigate your festival on the day. Consider producing programs once your schedule is fixed and selling them both online in advance and at the entrance to your event.

This is also an additional way to drive festival revenue. Think about leaving plenty of time in between acts for set up and take down on stages, leaving time before demonstrations, talks or screenings to allow seating to be vacated and a new audience to enter and any curfew restrictions your festival must adhere to. Overrunning late at night or past allocated timeslots may incur penalties or disruption for your attendees.

Your festival layout

Hand-in-hand with your festival program, your staging and event layout is another big task to get your head around!

If you have food stall holders, stages, venues or functions rooms, creating a draft map will help visualise where your acts, vendors, attendees and staff will go.

This will help with people management during event setup, on the day and clearing away afterwards. It’ll also help determine your available space, capacities and thoroughfares which will help you put in place staff to manage any foreseeable access issues or congestion.

 

Pre-event preparation

Jotting down all your thoughts as they come into your head to make into a manageable and logical to-do list is a vital skill for when you’re planning a festival.

There are so many elements to think about that if a list doesn’t work for you, a spreadsheet might be a better option. Whatever your go-to organisation method, you’re going to have lots of things to coordinate and a fixed amount of time to do them in.

Start with the big tasks, equipment delivery and set-up, task allocation for staff, barriers and layout then work your way to the smaller tasks such as signage, sound equipment and decorations. You can plan much of this in advance so don’t leave this task to the last minute.

Think ahead to what your helpers’ skills are, what you need them to do to help set up, how many people you’ll need doing what and how long each part will take. Having a clear festival schedule and staging or layout plan will help your pre-event preparation immensely.

Busy Festival

Managing on the day

You’ve made it to the BIG DAY! All your hard work, sweat, tears, late nights and early mornings have paid off and today your guests are arriving to enjoy the exciting experience you have carefully created for them. Well done you.

If you have followed our guide, you should be fully prepared for all that today throws at you. You will have a team of dedicated, well-trained staff, lots of interesting entertainment, delicious catering options and a well-planned schedule for your festival. Remember to take a step back and try to enjoy your event as much as possible.

This may seem hard whilst you’re fielding questions, solving minor problems and trying to be here there and everywhere, but don’t forget your festival goals. You wanted to make your festival dreams a reality because you are passionate about sharing your love of music/food/the arts/season.

Try to take a little time to look around and enjoy the reactions of the people you have invited and what you have created.

Taking it all down

In theory, coordinating your post-event take down should be easier than setting up. Make sure you think about the logistics of taking down equipment after your attendees have left the festival and allow plenty of time to disassemble, return and pack away everything that you so carefully set up.

You can start planning the festival clean-up well in advance of the event and ensure you have teams in place to help you with litter-picking, recycling bins, supplier access for stall and stand take down and managing deadlines for returning any hired equipment.

Evaluate The Success Of Your Festival

How did it go?

Once you have packed everything and everyone away for the year, take some time to analyse the success of your festival. What worked well and what didn’t? Consider sending out a feedback questionnaire to your attendees to see what they thought and ask for suggestions for the next one … if you decide to repeat your event!

Hopefully everything went well, and you want to go again next year. In this case remember to keep your audience engaged online with photos, videos, giveaways, sneak peaks and advance booking announcements to help keep the hype up around your festival. You should have plenty of content to continue marketing your festival in preparation for a bigger and better event for next time!

The beauty of online ticketing is that you have oodles of data to look back on about who came, who didn’t, ages, genders and booking patterns. Don’t forget to analyse this closely as it’ll help you plan your next festival and give unique insight to who your festival goers were and what they wanted.

TryBooking has low transparent ticketing fees, outstanding customer service advisors to support your queries and holds all of its event data firmly in Australia.

For a Australian online booking platform that truly cares about you and your events, create a free account with TryBooking today and discover the benefits of an online ticketing platform that is easy to use and super-intuitive.

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