Behind the Scenes: What Really Happens at a Festival like Ultra Music Fest

Camie Dunbar   |   Mar 19, 2018 11:44:05 AM

 

Nothing brings a crowd of people together like a music festival. The ground-shaking, feel-it-in-your-chest pounding music, your favorite performers rocking out the stage, and the smell of festival food filling the air. All of these sights and sounds come together to create one heck of an incredible experience and a unique form of experiential marketing.

From the audience’s perspective, a well-planned festival or event flows seamlessly, as if everything were effortless. But behind the scenes, the directives and actions start at least a year out with strategies and plans being combed over constantly and changing like the direction of the wind at every turn.

Putting on a major three-day event like Ultra Music Festival, the world’s premier electronic music fest, is an enormous amount of work. The festival, which returns for its 20th year to Miami, Florida on March 23, is one of the world’s biggest dance music events and virtually takes over the entire city.

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Planning for an event like Ultra Music Fest involves coordinating support for:

  • More than 200 performers and artists;
  • More than 225 police officers and paramedics;
  • More than 925 jobs; and
  • Livestream online viewing capacity for more than 7.5 million users.

In fact, it takes a full two weeks to physically set up for Ultra, which hosted 165,000 people from more than 60 countries in Bayfront Park in 2017.  

If you are one of the 32 million people who attended a music festival last year, you are probably asking the same question we are asked by so many...what’s it like putting together a large-scale festival. We are here to oblige and give you a taste of what it is like behind-the-scenes.

Everything is Happening at Once

Massive events of any kind are fast-paced — they require an unparalleled ability to multitask, problem-solve, and think on your feet — all while moving at what feels like 100 mph. However, all of the hard work, sweat, and time all comes down to creating a stellar event that makes tens of thousands of people happy! That, in itself, makes our jobs (and all of the hard work that goes along with them) totally worthwhile.

It’s Super Labor-Intensive

Part of what makes music festivals so special is that they are often built from the ground up — literally. Everything from the stage, lights, sound systems, and pyrotechnics has to be designed and carefully planned and implemented. What starts as an empty space of land is cultivated with ideas and hard work.

The onsite operations behind this can be mentally and physically rigorous. Whether it’s constructing the elaborate stage, moving heavy barricade fencing, or performing other intensive tasks, festival jobs will give you the workout of your life.

Additionally, it’s not just the event itself that needs to be coordinated. An event of this magnitude requires the cooperation of local law enforcement, city officials, and many others to ensure that everything goes smoothly and according to plan.

Meeting the Performers is Rare

If you want to work in experiential marketing and event planning for a chance to meet the performers, then you’re likely to be disappointed. Unless you’re specifically working in artist hospitality, you’ll rarely catch a glimpse of artists or bands — let alone get to spend any time with them.

We often are asked one question about the years we have spent organizing VIP hospitality and food and beverage for UMF: “Did you meet anyone famous?” The answer is, “sometimes.” But, remaining confidential and professional about the work we do is an important part of our job.

You Create the VIP Experience

Creating the VIP experience is something that you want to make sure you get right every time. VIP areas provide a sexy mix of premium access, premium foods and beverages, parking and shuttle accommodations, hospitality, and unique merchandise and collectibles. By shelling out extra money, your VIP audience gets the benefit of extra luxuries, which truly comes in handy when they need to use a restroom or want another drink. In VIP, the lines are a lot shorter, the restrooms are a lot cleaner, and you have more space to relax and enjoy the show.

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Overall Music Festival Experiences

Successful music festivals, which included approximately 110 music fests per year in the US alone, are about more than just the music. Just look at Burning Man as a perfect example! It’s all about the ambiance and experience. Go back to the original “lifestyle” you are trying to perpetuate, and create an awesome experience around that vibe.

Some questions you can ask yourself include:

  • What types of experiences are natural to that lifestyle that you can integrate?
  • What is already being done by other festivals that you can do better?
  • What isn’t being done?

One thing being done better at Ultra Music Festival than any other is the pyrotechnics. A sampling of Pyrotechnics at UMF includes 108 tanks of CO2 for just one stage, water fountains that burn – Ultra Techs have literally learned how to catch water on fire, and it is incredibly magnificent. The stage itself features a 50 ton metal spider made out of helicopter parts and jet engines that can spit flames 50 feet into the air. Talk about making a statement!

Festival owners want fans to leave with the memory of having the experience of a lifetime. Think this through and create an environment that fans will never forget.

If you want to see how Innovative Group can help you incorporate experiential marketing for your brand at the next music festival, get in touch with our team of experienced and innovative solutionists™ today to start a conversation.