Festivals are one of the largest scale events that can be put on when it comes to entertainment. Although festivals are only for a weekend or a few weekends at a time, it is a full-time job to create a festival and it is not an easy job – there are a lot of logistics involved and it takes a lot of people to make it happen. It might be complicated for someone outside looking in but luckily, we had Amanda Phelan, the director of talent for Danny Wimmer Presents, to walk us through how festivals are created.
What Does a Director of Talent Do?
A director of talent oversees and handles anything that touches talent. They help curate the lineups for festivals, negotiate all the deals and make sure that payments are going out. They also make sure that everyone in the festival team has information that is needed regarding talent around their festival and talent buying.
A director of talent not only does deals for each act but also figures out their insurance, rider, and all the details that go along with each artist. There might be things that come with larger artists that are more work-intensive than smaller artists; but regardless of the artist, they have to do all these things for everybody. It is important to note that everyone is unique, and everybody is coming from a different part of the country or different part of the world – anyone from big acts like Metallica to the bands that people never heard of yet. The director of talent tries to have variations because that is what people need.
What is Talent Buying?
When a festival buys a talent, it means that they are buying artists to play their festival. By reaching out to agents and negotiating deals, the director of talent purchases the performance of the artist for the festival.
There are a lot of different factors that come into play when there are a lot of acts that are going to play at a festival. A hundred different artists mean a hundred different negotiations with agents that include what their guarantees going to be and what production elements they get, etc.
Skills Required to be a Director of Talent
For someone interested in working for festivals as a director of talent, a decent balance between creativity, knowledge of the space, and organization skills are needed to make it all work.
How Festivals are Created?
Contrary to what one may think, figuring out the name of the festival comes last. There are so many other important elements that come into play to make sure that you can even put on a festival.
It all starts with the city; you need to make sure that all those permitting, alcohol and liquor licensing, etc. are taken care of. In essence, when you start a festival, you are pitching to a city to allow you to bring business to them. There are a lot of meetings with government officials about what this festival you’re creating can do and what value it can bring to the city. You also have to think about the venues that are in that city and what kind of radius is there.
What is the radius?
It’s a contractual component for artists. When you have an artist on a show, there’s a stipulation in there to be able to gain the rights to the artist in which they are not allowed to perform within a certain mile radius of wherever the festival is going to take place. For example, the artist cannot play within 300 miles circle for 90 days prior and 30 days after the festival because the festival wants the show in that performance to be special. They want to draw people from a certain range of markets and don’t want to oversaturate them with an artist playing the week before 100 miles away.
Once permissions are cleared with the city, the festival team starts having internal conversations about budgets and what build-outs are going to cost. Also, they start honing on what their demographics are going to be and what is affordable for their demographics to determine the ticket prices. With all those budgeting conversations, there is going to be a talent budget allocated to the talent buyer for them to negotiate the artists that are thought of for the line-up.
Creating a Safe Space for Everyone
When creating a festival, the festival team wants to make sure that they create a safe space. With that being said, the operations team comes up with solutions for having numerous exists, how to control the traffic, etc. There are a lot of thoughts that go into safety for everyone.
When getting a line-up solidified, usually the festival team starts with picking the headliners because those are what’s going to sell but the bulk of it, of course, matters as well. Once they know their undercard, it becomes a money game. They see how much they have left with their budget when they have solidified headliners and the director of talent pulls streaming analytics, uses chart metrics, and fan engagement demographics to determine the rest of the line-up and who plays before and who plays after kind of stuff.
What is an Undercard?
Anything below the third line on an ad matt – up and comers, any act that is around 40K and below.
With the announcement of the festival, marketing teams go into full effect – they make radio advertisements, social media campaigns, email marketing – anything there is to help promote the festival. On the other hand, festivals lean heavily on artists to post; doing Instagram lives or Twitch streams with them to promote the shows. Artists are a marketing tool for festivals and festivals make sure to work hand in hand with the artists to push and help sell tickets. In return, festivals have them perform in front of a huge audience. So, once the show is announced, it is definitely a game of marketing.
The festival team is endlessly working on the show day to avoid possible obstacles. When something happens, they have to be on it. For example, there might be a last-minute schedule change, the festival team needs to make sure that the ticket buyers are informed so people are not showing up to a set at the wrong time. If it’s raining, they need to be able to control the muddiness by bringing literal tons of rocks and gravel to spread across the main stage area so that people aren’t stepping on puddles.
Anytime something happens, it sheds light on a weakness or something that can potentially be a weakness in these types of events.
Find Your Next Step
Working at a festival can be a great step for your career because once you get hired you will be there from before the doors and till after. It can be very educational for someone who has never toured or never worked in that space. It will help you to get the whole picture and understand the whole spectrum.
Danny Wimmer Presents is always looking for people to come and help locally. If you are interested in working for a festival, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org