Music festivals and the need for escapism

Music festivals and the need for escapism

I went to Tokyo Disneyland. It was on my bucket list and as it is my last time in this grand city the decision to go was an easy one. Already on the train there I spotted several people in complete Disney gear. It made me wonder why people dress up like that. It’s not just Disney. You see the same at events like Comic Con and also at festivals. People like to go out of their way to dress up. 

Festivals should focus on throwing the absolute best festival!

I met up with Tucker Gumber at Lightning in a Bottle Festival in 2015. Tucker is also known as the Festival Guy, and we talked about event promotion and his app FestEvo.

Please introduce yourself and explain what The Festival Guy does.

I’m Tucker and I’m known as the Festival Guy. It started as a way to go to festival for free. I thought if I review festivals I could come in as media. For that to actually work I had to visit a lot of festivals and it turned into something else. What I do is I look at problems at festivals and try to find solutions for them.

For example I've created a campaign to change the crowd’s perception that it is our responsibility to pick up after ourselves. I’m writing about the other stuff at festivals that no one else is talking about.

When did you start The Festival Guy and how many festivals have you visited so far?

My first festival was March 2011 and Lightning in a Bottle Festival in 2015 is number 78. I like to think I’m a seasoned festivalgoer by now.

What is your advice to a future festival organiser about how they should organise a festival?

Be very clear with your audience what they can expect. Give them rules. Rules at a festival are not bad. In fact it is for everyone’s benefit. Here at Lightning in a Bottle the rule is that you pack it in, pack it out. We’re going to pick up after ourselves and they have signs across the site to remind people of that rule. It works!

What happens at festivals where you do not have these rules is that I cannot go up to someone who throws something on the ground and say “hey, that’s not how we do it here”. So, rules work.

How do you find out about new festivals and especially the smaller festivals?

Normally I hear about festivals word-of-mouth. It will probably always that way because if you throw a good festival you want to come back again next year and brig your friends with you. I do get press releases on all the festivals and that’s how I keep my app FestEvo up to date.

I also started my own app called FestEvo that let’s you research the line up of festivals. The idea behind the app came from what I said about addressing problems at festivals. I discovered two main problems that we experience when at festivals. One we go to these festivals to spend time with our friends but you never really know which of your friends are going to be there.

We had met at a conference and after Northern Night Music Festival I received a message from this guy (he’s referring to me) that he was at the same festival and that it would have been cool to hang out. I replied by saying: “if someone only worked really hard on an app to solve that problem”.

The other problem is that when you go to a festival is hard to find out the entire line up and listen to the music. So you end up spending hours trying to find artists on Spotify and Youtube. In my app you can click on any festival and it will show you the entire line up and you can listen to every artist. The app can give a customised line up based on how you rate the artist. The app is free but the customised list is $1.

What aspects of the festival do you focus on when you review festivals?

I focus on everything. I want festivals to be sustainable but also easy to attend. I want there to be bathroom lights. I want to see and hear the music from the back of the crowd. I want to know what the crowd is like. The only thing I do not write about is what happens on the stages. Don’t go to the festival if you don’t like the line up.

How do people find out about festivals?

You want your festival to be on websites like Fest300, Music Festival Junkies, Wiki Festivals, and of course my app FestEvo.

What can festivals do to promote themselves?

Festivals should get way more creative with the content they create at the festival. Very few festivals let their artists control their Instagram account. They should all do that. Make smart content along the way and focus on more user generated content. Give someone a camera for the day and at the end of the day you can use that content.

Is it social media that festivals should focus on?

Honestly, a festival should focus on throwing the absolute best festival! Because if you throw an amazing festival, everyone that came this year will want to come back next year and they will bring people with them.

Lightning in a Bottle for example doesn’t rely on the line up. Everyone buys their tickets in advance because they want to be here, because it’s Lightning in a Bottle.

Where can people go if they want to find out more about you?

You can visit my website FestivalGuy.com or FestEvo.com and via there they can look me up on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. 

Go to my Youtube channel if you prefer to watch the interview with Tucker.


Transformational festivals: what are they?

Last week I was a guest lecturer at a college here in Brighton. My lecture was about the story of an event. How that storyline helps you as an event organiser to convey your message to your audience. I used a transformational festival as an example.

The students weren't really familiar with the term transformational festival. Jeet Kei Lung explains in his TedX Talk that a transformational festival provides a "content rich reality that features a high density of quality interactions. Festival attendees are participants and co-creators of the experience". Think Burning Man and you get the idea.

Now what does that mean? At these festivals it is all about community building, about learning and self-development, about social consciousness, about eating healthy, about creativity. Honestly, the creativity at these festivals is mind blowing! It might sound to you as a bunch of hippies gathering in a field but that's not necessarily true. The locations for these festivals are carefully chosen and the people attending are from all walks of life. 

I've been lucky enough to attend transformational festivals like Lightning in a Bottle and Symbiosis Gathering. Both are taking place on the west coast of America, currently the hotbed for such festivals

Is there room for such festivals in the UK? I think so.

You can subscribe to my Youtube channel. Every Sunday an interview with an event expert. Coming soon: my interview with Dede Flemming from Lightning in a Bottle.

Startups and the event industry

Earlier this month I was at Event Tech Live in London. A conference of sorts but actually more a showcase of new event technology ideas. One of the areas at the conference was dedicated to startups who could pitch their company to potential investors. My favourite stage! 

Some ideas seem to already be out there, like that company that looked a lot like a new version of Eventbrite. But the majority of the ideas pitched were really good, really innovative, and generally inspired me. They offered solutions to problems they had faced in the event industry.

Perhaps you're walking around with some new innovative ideas as well. For example a problem you ran into at your last festival and you actually found a solution for it.

Earlier this year Startacus published this blog post about how to stand out with your new product when at music festivals. It's not the same as the products pitched at the conference but it might inspire you either way.

Would you like to be inspired on a weekly basis? Subscribe to my YouTube channel, every Sunday a new interview with an event expert.


My workshop Sustainable Event Management in Holland

Together with the Event Safety Institute in the Netherlands I am organising a two-day workshop about Sustainable Event Management. It will take place in Holland on the 18th and 19th of January and yes, it will be in Dutch. 

This workshop is for event planners, festival organisers, event suppliers, and event licensors. The aim of the workshop is to provide you the tools to make your organisation and your events more sustainable. 

You can find more information here. All info is in Dutch but feel free to contact me of you have any questions.

Some helpful tips to keep you safe at music festivals

Some helpful tips to keep you safe at music festivals

It's the end of the summer and the festival season has more or less finished. This year there was a lot to do about safety at festivals. Drug use, sexual assault, theft. 

Visiting festivals is great fun but sometimes it doesn't always go according to plan. Conway & Conway came up with this amazing infographic and other safety tips. 

A unique festival experience: Fuji Rock

A unique festival experience: Fuji Rock

At the festival site no queues for the stand where I had to change my ticket for a wristband. Long queues however for the merchandise stand that was next to it. Surprisingly there was no security to check my bags. I only had show my wristbands and I could walk onto the campsite. I can’t make up my mind whether this is a good thing or not. Let’s just say I was surprised.

What to bring to Fuji Rock Festival

What to bring to Fuji Rock Festival

Fuji Rock is often referred to as the Glastonbury of Asia. It’ll be warmer than Glastonbury but apparently I should expect rain. On their website, the festival warns for extreme temperature differences and potential heavy rainfall. The semi-British side of me sighs... “oh dear”. Besides the weather warnings there are warnings to keep away from bees, wasps, mosquitos and ticks. 

Waste Management At Music Festivals

Waste Management At Music Festivals

In a waste management plan you identify how you will deal with waste and the different waste streams at your event. There are different forms of waste. You can think of rubbish, air pollution, noise pollution, soil pollution, and sewage. When creating a good waste plan you should look at the layout and logistics of your event site.

Festival Audiences: The Eco Tent is Here!

Festival Audiences: The Eco Tent is Here!

Jakob De Proft has written this week’s blog for The Event Tutor. Jakob lives next door to one of Europe’s biggest music festivals, Rock Werchter, in Belgium. The number of tents left behind at this festival each year inspired him to create the most eco-friendly tent ever made. This is Jakob’s blog about the Fling Tent. 

Why do market vendors at music festivals always sell the same stuff?

Why do market vendors at music festivals always sell the same stuff?

Oh come on! Surely I'm not the only one who has never been bowled over by the amazing assortment of market stalls at a music festival? Or perhaps it is just me. Either way, as an event planner you have a say in what comes onto your event site. And you can write that down in your vendor policy.

On my way to a music festival

On my way to a music festival

Creating an environmental plan for your event is easier said than done. How you set up your environmental plan is up to you. This might sound a bit vague but it really depends on you, your organization, and the commitment that you want to make. But what should go into an environmental plan?

Event Planning: Making Your Festival More Sustainable

Event Planning: Making Your Festival More Sustainable

What do you need to do to make your event or festival more sustainable? More and more event planners want to implement sustainable policies and make their event greener but don’t know where to start. Event planning involves sustainable event management.

300 surveys from Bonnaroo! What's next...

Last weekend I was at Bonnaroo music and arts festival in Tennessee. A great festival and with 80,000 people also an impressive undertaking. I was there to conduct a survey asking people how 'green' they think the festival is. Managed to collect 300 surveys. That's a lot considering it was boiling hot. Seriously, HOT! Did some filming on Sunday and it looks like my head is about to explode....

Great festival, great music

Great festival, great music

Like at Lightning in a Bottle people were up for participating in the survey. People really took their time to answer all the questions and quite often started to talk about the green initiatives at Bonnaroo and other festivals. Based on these observations people do care whether a festival has implemented green initiatives or not. That's encouraging! Obviously, the real data comes later this year.

One of the festival attendees I spoke to was collecting cigarette butts in a small plastic bag. She had to hand in a full bag of butts and in return she'd receive a freebie: t-shirt, free meals, or tickets. This is an initiative from Clean Vibes, the company in charge of cleaning the festival site. Loads of people were collecting cigarette butts. Amazing initiative! I did come across these little thing. Another great initiative. Pocket Ashtrays...



After filling out the survey one guy came running after me telling me that too many people throw their trash on the ground. "Can you tell the organisation that more needs to be done about that?" Passionate people, we need more of them...

A tour of the festival grounds by Laura, the sustainability coordinator, really shows that the organisation has sustainability integrated into their management. A great festival with some amazing green initiatives. 

The results of the survey will be ready later this year. The online survey is still live so please visit www.eventtutor.com/survey. And help me out!

Meanwhile I'm in the process of moving out of my current apartment. My time in San Francisco, and America, is coming to an end. Back to England for me. But before I go I'm doing one more survey. Next weekend it's San Francisco Pride weekend and I'm conducting a demographic research study. And that's the last survey this year... I think.

Until next time.


The Lazarus effect and research at festivals

The Lazarus effect and research at festivals

Last weekend I, in my blue shorts and t-shirt, was at Lightning in a Bottle and it really was an amazing experience! The creativity on display is absolutely amazing. From teapots in which you can relax to the stage structures, it all looked really impressive. None of the tents had walls, everything was open and yet, it felt as though you were ‘inside’. The best stage was the Woogie stage: a stage wrapped around a tree with the tree lit up. Mesmerizing! Loved it!