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Back stage pass: A day in the life of a festival organiser

When you’re in charge of where 32,000 punters (more than half of them camping onsite) are arriving for a three-day festival, you could say you’ve got a lot on your plate. That’s what the festival organiser of Splendour in the Grass.

Paul Piticco, the 2016 Splendour in the Grass co-producer says dealing with those numbers is a huge logistical exercise.

“We have hundreds of staff, hundreds of further contractors,” Piticco explains. “We plan maybe 14, 15, 16 months in advance for the show. It’s like a small city in the sense that we have all the services — fire, police, very high levels of medical care, road networks, water, power, sewerage.”

Want more? Here’s hoping your gumboots are comfy, we’re going along for the ride.

What do you deal with as a Festival Director?

Both Festival Directors manage the behind-the-scenes logistics of the festival by working with vendors, city officials and on-site staff.

These guys and gals will work behind-the-scenes to make sure everything goes smoothly from the earliest stages of the event to when the bands are packing up and all the fans are heading home.

These duties include securing necessary permits and building relationships with key companies within the festivals’ community. On the festival grounds, things get a little more nitty-gritty as these guys manage every.single.thing at the location including employees, setup and breakdown (also known as ‘bump in’ and ‘bump out’), dealing with contractors, and creating materials such as maps and signage. Thought that was it? They’re in charge of on-site offices, relationships with food, liquor and merchandise vendors, insurance, risk assessment and working with other top level execs to project potential income.

What skills do you need?

You’ll need a great personality and a love for working with lots of different people (see exhausting list above). You also need to be highly motivated, dedicated and a team player. Being well organised and skilled in coordinating event logistics is another must as is establishing, monitoring and sticking to budgets. Extra emphasis on the ‘sticking to’ bit.

Finally, you’ll need incredible communication skills, and must demonstrate a high level of initiative and passion for the experiential marketing business. And don’t think you’ll be getting out of working weekends: you’ll be on call all hours.

How do I break into the field?

Since a Festival Director’s job duties encompass such a variety of roles these smart cookies tend to come from all walks of life and a variety of different educational programs. Some have degrees in Music Business, others have no degree at all.

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Most start their careers as interns or music festival music venue volunteers before working their way up to positions such as Talent Buyer or Concert Promoter. Others land the position after years working in a tangential field such as event or wedding planning. Advancement comes through working on festivals with bigger audiences and well-known artists. You may also decide to strike out on your own, by founding a festival production company yourself!

At the end of the day…

One of the biggest mistakes I see is people coming in and thinking this job is way easier than it is,” Pitocco explains. “They underestimate the level of detail that must be maintained. There are so many things that need to be organised in advance all the way from Day 1 to [final] cleanup and if someone doesn’t have that attention to detail, this job isn’t for them. There are over 1000 people I’m communicating with, from supervisors to ground staff. I have to be super detail-oriented and have a great team in place to help me do that.”

Sound like this is for you? Find the course you need. 

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