This week, I asked Paul Richter, CEO of Doctor Striker Events Squad and stage manager for Oakland’s famous First Fridays, for advice on how to start a music festival for the first time.
He told me:
“There two ‘most important things’ for a first-time organizer.
The first is the space, and the second are the acts.
First, you need to create a feeling of a critical mass, so you can’t have a giant empty room or field; it’s better to have a small crowded one. If it’s crowded, people will feel a sense of intimacy.
Second, the bands actually have to be good. First-timers who are just figuring out how to start a music festival forget this. There are a lot of bad acts out there, and they’re hard to wade through.
You need a product that’s genuinely good.”
How to start a music festival: choose the right team
I asked Richter what kind of bands make the best festival acts and got a surprising answer.
“Rappers and rock bands struggle to get heard at festivals,” he said. “The mixers and technicians really struggle with projecting all these great artists– who depend on lyricism and wordplay– over a big area. On the other hand, EDM succeeds because it’s built to be as loud as possible. Same for pop.” He continued:
“I’d argue that the most overlooked aspect of the festival is the mixing. The music needs to be mixed right so people can hear the lyrics and feel the bass. The really need understand what’s happening. Of course, the more ‘live’ the music is, the harder it is for it to happen.
Festivals rarely put in the energy needed to match technical sophistication to the artists’ needs. That’s why it’s just so easy to hire DJs– EDM sounds the same wherever you play it.
Rock festivals tend to be more of a gamble as a consequence. For someone just figuring out how to start a music festival, figuring out what genre you’re going to play and finding experts to craft that sound is incredibly important.”
To explore how festivals should build their sound teams, we’ll speak with Richter again later this week, along with Steve O’Connell, sound engineer and owner of Valverde Records.
We’ll update this post to include a link to our follow up!