‘Playing Your First Music Festival’ http://amzn.to/2bnSLkd is my mini-guide to performing at open-air, green-field, music festivals. Here are some extracts from part one of the book, ‘Advancing The Show’.
Performing at a festival involves a lot more than simply turning up on the day. The weeks and months of planning by the organiser/promoter require that each band sends them information vital to that planning process. In this part you will be introduced to what is needed from you as part of that process -called the ‘advance’.
Acts are allocated an amount of time on stage (’set time’) and the start and finish times of their set. Periods of time that are used to get one band off, and the next one on stage are also planned in. This time period is called the ‘change over’ time, a term you will read about a lot in this book. You will have been sent the running order, along with other information the festival wants you to know about, and that needs to know about from you. This process of getting and giving information is called the advance - the promoter ‘advances’ the show with the band, or vice versa.
The Changeover At A Music Festival
As I mentioned, changeover is the time allocated to get one band off stage, and the next one on, ready to perform.
Changeover time at most open air, green field festivals is a leisurely 20 minutes, sometimes being as little as 10 minutes. Yip, that’s right, 10 minutes. 10 minutes to get all of the previous bands people, crew and equipment off the stage, all of your gear, band and crew members on stage, and the monitor speakers, microphones, stage boxes and cables reset, plugged in, and tested.
Input List & Stage Plan
A contributing factor to a successful changeover, and therefore a great festival gig, is to make sure the festival sound crew have an accurate and up-to-date input list and stage plan from you. There is a detailed explanation of input lists and how to create one on my YouTube channel.
Equally important will be your stage plan. Again, my video is a detailed explanation of the purpose of stage plans and how to construct one, and again, your stage plan for festivals has to be 100% accurate and up to date.
Rolling risers are small platforms, on wheels, which are used to help speed up changeovers. The idea is that your band’s equipment is pre-built on rolling risers, off stage, before the changeover. Everything can be assembled, mic’d up, supplied with power, plugged into the PA system, and be made completely ready to simply push onto stage at the start of the changeover.
Spend Some Money On A Professional.
There is so much competition at each festival, and every band has that once chance to ignite the crowd, even if they are a well-known and successful act. None of the bands can afford to be ill-prepared or leave things to chance. Which is why I suggest you spend some money, and employ someone who has a lot of experience of working with bands at multi-band, open-air festivals with quick changeovers and the other considerations you have discovered so far. Unfortunately, festivals are not the place for amateurs or crew with no expedience. Obviously, everything I do with my books, web sites and online courses is about getting the next generation of artists and crew to a professional level of success, and I always encourage that ‘new blood’ be given a chance. However, if you want to make a good impression at your first festival, you need to spend some money and pay someone who really, really knows what they are doing.
Put One Person In Charge
Your first thought on reading this is probably, ‘that’s fine - our manager can do all this’. You are right, and, in my experience, it’s probably a bad idea to ask your manager to take care of the festival advancing. It is a load of work, which will take them away for other stuff they should be doing on your behalf, and so is probably better off being done by your sound engineer, or someone else in your band, or a good friend, or you.
Don’t Assume Anything
You may be reading all of this so far and thinking, ‘well, this does not apply to me - I have a contract rider that goes out. That tells the promoter exactly what I need for each show I do’. And, for ‘normal’ gigs - clubs, bars, and theatres - you would be right. But festivals and festival organisers are operating in less than optimal conditions and are not able to provide the usual technical, stage and hospitality requests you would expect in a purpose built music venue. Open-air festivals are built from the ground up, especially for the event, and then taken down again. And much as organisers try to make their guests (artists, crew and audience) comfortable and safe, there are limits to what is possible (and affordable). And so, when it comes to the demands on your rider - well basically, forget it.