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How to Plan a Music Festival

How to Plan a Music Festival


After being in the production industry for over 47 years, we thought we had seen it all. Then, last month, Netflix and Hulu dropped their documentaries on the disastrous 2017 Fyre Festival. After watching both, Merestone asked the in-house event experts what critiques they had.

“Don’t Over-Promise and Under-Deliver”

Of course you want your big event to be fantastic and have cool amenities. But if you cannot deliver, then don’t promise it. One of the biggest issues the Fyre team faced was keeping up with the luxurious stay packages their Chief Marketing Officer came up with on the fly. They marketed these packages for attendees to buy before ever consulting their vendors or event production team. “You got to be a conduit between all entities of an event to make it a success,” says Merestone Executive Producer, Cindy Kenna. As an event production veteran, she knows how to plan large-scale shows. “When you have your hand in the pie, you need to share what you have with your marketing team, your event production team, your vendors… in order to execute.”

With all the buzz on social media that Fyre had created already, hundreds of people started spending thousands of dollars on cabanas that weren’t accounted for in the original plans. Instead, the team found and used disaster relief tents leftover on the island from Hurricane Jack. They also promised private jets, sushi cuisine, and meet and greets with celebrities that never showed up. In fact, none of the entertainment or talent arrived. They weren’t paid and so the music festival had no music.

The nightmare continues…

“Research, Research, Research”

Fyre Festival didn’t start with a strongly developed business plan and well researched course of action. Instead, the extremely well-connected and financially invested entrepreneur, Billy McFarland, and his friends flew to the Bahamas and stumbled upon an island with a deserted landing strip. Previously owned by the infamous Colombian cartel kingpin, Pablo Escobar, McFarland and his team had the brilliant idea of having a music festival right there in the middle of the Caribbean.

“Everything was wrong about this from the beginning,” says Rob Hill, Merestone’s Vice President.  “The infrastructure on that island was not equipped to handle the number of people they were expecting. There wasn’t enough electricity, plumbing, shelter… no one considered the environmental impact either.”

Taking the time to understand the infrastructure capabilities and logistics is key for any event planning. But this was not reviewed at the pre-conception of Fyre and ultimately led to their downfall. “That’s why Merestone goes out and does site inspections. We know our resources, we know our people, and we know the logistics. It’s also about building relationships with the people on the ground and who know the area,” Hill stresses how important it is to do the research of a venue and the location beforehand. Having professional input is highly valued in Merestone production planning.

“Listen to your HIRED experts”

Another major error the Fyre decision makers made was ignoring the advice they were receiving from the experts hired; event planners, production teams, engineers, audio, visual and lighting technicians, talent agents, and caterers. From the beginning, the experts raised the red flags but it fell on over idealistic, deaf ears.

Merestone’s cast members are exceptional industry professionals with diverse background experiences to ensure the recommendations clients receive are informative, well-researched, and dependable.

“Time and Planning Are Your Event’s Best Friends”

Set realistic dates and deadlines for yourself, your team, contractors, and vendors. Large scale events don’t happen overnight. Coachella’s planning began in 1997 and the inauguration was in 1999. Keep in mind Coachella didn’t start out offering VIP experience ticket packages with bungalows in the Bahamas right on the beach, private jet flights, and meet and greets with the top 10 models and influencers of the decade for thousands of dollars. Instead, they sold “come as you are” tickets and had space for attendees to pitch a tent or sleep under the stars in the middle of the desert.

In comparison, Fyre Festival needed considerable time to efficiently plan their first event. Unfortunately, they rushed everything and ended up with a major PR disaster and a federal investigation. With the advice from the Merestone event production experts, your large-scale show won’t go down in flames.

Take a look at the exceptional projects Merestone has successfully completed for our clients: PORTFOLIO

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