New to organizing, give me every bit of advice, details, do's and do nots, please!

I've wanted to promote a fest, but never really had the seed money to get going.  Now, I have potential access to a camp ground, and facility willing to sell food and refreshments.  Making the even free, and lodging being the responsibility of those attending, allows for a huge area for a festival.  I'm not even looking to make money from a festival, I just don't want to be at a loss. I have a bit over a year to plan, too, because South Texas is far too hot for an outdoor festival until late October (the current tentative event month). 


  • If you've ever ran a festival, how much do you charge for a vendor area?
  • If you've ever been a vendor at a festival, what was the range you've had to pay?
  • If you've ever had food trucks come in, did you charge them to park and sell food?  If so, how much?
  • If you've ever went out looking for sponsors, how did you go about that?  Did you ask for money, or swag, or both?  Did you ask for a specific amount?
  • What are some things you didn't have covered, your first time running a festival?

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If you don't know what you are doing, get in someone or get advice from who DOES know what they are doing at all stages for the event preparation.

I've run events from pub gigs, indoor weekend music events such as the UK Cigar Box Guitar Fest through to  open air events with around 3000 people and 10 bands, so I've got a little experience. I've also been to a fair number of festivals as a vendor and a performer, from small events in my local park up to Glastonbury with 200 000 people, so I've seen both sides of the situation.

It's not my day job to run music events, it is just part of what I do. Take this seriously - you need to prepare for the best and worst of what can happen. You need to minimise the risks, but ensure that you are covered legally and financially in the event of things going wrong.

Whether the event is for 100, 1000 or 10 000 people, you need a lot of  heavy-duty boring stuff to be sorted out. It's plenty easy to come unstuck and loose money on an event for only 100 people, let alone anything bigger, so be realistic and don't try and avoid facing up to all the legal and technical stuff that has to be done. Bear in mind I'm in the UK, so things like legal permits and consents, health and safety regulations etc will be different,  but in principle these things cannot be avoided, and as the USA is far more litigatious than Europe, you need to make sure you are totally covered

A free event is good way of making sure that you will loose money.

Keep all the financial risks as low as low as possible. Be modest with your first time effort.

Check what permissions and legal agreements will be necessary from the site owner - get it in writing.

Check what permits/consents/licences will be needed from the authorities (city, county, state, national, police  etc).

You will need Public Liability insurance.

Your vendors and partners will need Public Liability and Employers insurances.

You will need a Health and Safety Risk Assessment, as will all your vendors.

Staffing - how will you cope with the general organisation, set-up of stage, parking, camping, security etc?  Can you put together team of volunteers, or will you have to hire in help?

Put together a REALISTIC profit and loss forecast. If you have never done an event before this is going to be difficult, as you will need some predictions on number of attendees, number of potential vendors,  costs and overheads for sound equipment hire, stage construction,  lighting, temporary toilets, electricity supply/generators, security and safety fencing.

Put together a publicity strategy.

Sponsorship is very difficult to get as you need to have a sure-fire hot ticket event that you can sell to potentional sponsors. By all means go for it but don't bank on it until the agreement is signed.

Think about how you will deal with extremes of weather conditions.

Check the dates to avoid being in competition with any other events in the locality.

You can charge more money from food vendors than from other stall holders, BUT they will need a forecast of the potential number of attendees. Some events charge a straight fee (usually based on the pitch area), but others also want a split of the takings.

That's just the main points you need to look at, and there is lots more to think about. As you are asking about costs for vendors etc at this stage, then maybe you've got all this covered already. Good luck, it can be done, but there's a lot of hard work ahead of you!

Hi Chickenbonejohn, that's a great informative rundown.........enough to put me off.

Thanks Taff

That’s a great list, thank you!  A lot of i’s to dot and t’s to cross! 

If you can get permission from a bar/ restaurant to host it , many  of your legal issues will / can  be covered or shared  by them, some already included in their license . not to mention  food / drink  / bathroom / capacity  / fire  /safety /  etc etc .. Same with community halls   / wedding  reception rental halls  etc .. many of which already have these in-place .  (Expect some extended fees tho .)

Local fairgrounds / buildings  are another place to look . many will have a fee list already made up  for rentals. (including  Artist Usage  fees  (live music of  covered songs )  etc …

Piggy backing another  "blues" fest  etc   is another option .

Other folks experienced in the topic   to talk to on here  . who have hosted fests  ;  :


 Downtown Vinnie

Gary Herget

Smiling Dog

Shane Speal


To name a few .

 I suggest start out small , let it grow as your experience does .You can do it cheaper and easier that way .Don’t intimidate yourself by  expecting to start your own “WOODSTOCK”  off the bat  ;-)  Let it build from there . or stay small  , it’s better  than not doing it at all ;-)

Good luck  ;-)

PS ..First thing i would do is to see if there is enough interest in your general area to hold one  or if you  can draw enough folks  in .  If  it's not looking too  promising . maybe start with meet ups  ,,  that can evolve to fests  .. and  you have built in support .  ;-)


It's a good suggestion to make use of an existing venue in terms of it having all the necessary legal and tech stuff in place, likewise latching onto an existing event...anything to make life easier for you. Be ruthlessly honest with yourself over costings...I've been to plenty of events which were great, but I know that the organiser had lost thousands running it...and don't let the bands run up a bar tab! One case of beer, one of cola, plenty of water..that's all!

Go online and find conventions in your area. Talk to the people who run them. They usually have meetings with other convention staff. To share ideas and tell horror stories. I've learned that if you have an event that lasts more than one day you will have horror stories. And I'm not on staff. But have been part of event security. So planning a one day event for your first time out would be your best bet. 

Both ChickenboneJohn and the anonymous pick  have good advice. Before I start any project, I outline my goals. I research thoroughly and step back several times to evaluate the information. My festival began with a mission statement and it has taken rigor & discipline to adhere to it. That statement was to create a festival that serves the needs of all the builders and enthusiast in our area. I had my partner Gary Herget from the start and we learned to collaborate and define what we set out to accomplish. Best thing we did was form an alliance with owner of a food and drink establishment who also was a good collaborator. Under the umbrella of his license we had most of the legal concerns covered. We wrote up a document for vendors to agree to that held them responsible for their part. We've kept the event free and charge vendors a minimal fee which rolls back into our club fund. The first couple events will have many learning curves, there is just no way to avoid it. Have a follow up meeting and learn from your mistakes. PR work is at the top of things to do, flyers draw very little but good posters sell well as souvenirs. Radio, magazines and local TV are a must and that's where half your homework is, find out how to get in. Your demographics will dictate prices and traffic. Don't over extend yourself if you are organizing this on your own, it's hectic enough when working with two others. Remember, it's a show, it's supposed to be fun, would you take your friends and family there? Have fun doing it and other will to!     

Pretty simple to start..I'm on my fifth..1 ) Get a venue.Preferablly one you dont have to pay for.If you dont pay for the venue.You can charge admission to add to your budget. Get a place that already has its own insurance ,so you dont have to get extra cioverage for the event.Would also get a venue that already has food ,so you dont have to bring it in . Especially the first year...Keep it Simple until you get established.. 2)Get a budget.Paying performers videographers,people to take pics,advertising, Flyers.. 3) Get sponsors to donate $.Most people would like promotional Consideration.Like putting their name on posters or a sign on stage 4) Get performers)If you get them in state or close by ,You dont have to pay them for travel.5) Get donations...for swag bags.Get builds for raffles or presale. Sometimes it's hard to judge what a raffle will bring.So maybe presale if you have a real looker of a build....In addition,make sure you have a little stash of $ in case things run thin.The first year I dropped a few of my own $$ because I was a rook at it all. 6)Get a page on FB and a wbsite.Post on it all the freakin time.Visibility is a breat tool. I think keeping it inside is prob a good idea ,then you dont have any weather concerns.My plan is simpler than Chicken Bones ,thas jus me. For me its all about hustle and networking.Gotta reach out and ask for help from friends already in the game.If your going around soliciting help ,take a guitar or two and explain a bit about the CBG scene.Maybe even have a video cued up.Selling people on the whole movement is about making them understand it.So make sure you have a lil history on it as well.USE Your Connections!!!!.Where my fest is ,they have their own vendor rules ,So I cant help you there.Same with Vendor trucks..Cheers and good luck .Feel free to message me if you have any other questions.Good Luck


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