Behind the Scenes: What It's Really Like to Work at a Music Festival

We’ve all seen our friends trendy Instagram pictures of those cool music festivals they’ve attended over the summer. Yes, we know Coachella is the ultimate goal, but there are plenty of other festivals around the country and even around the world which are just as much fun, if not even more fun! Would it not be great if we could attend these music festivals with our friends on the budget of a broke college student? Well, lucky for all of you, there’s a way to attend that hot summer fest on a budget!

Last summer, I got a job at a music venue. My love for live music and addiction to concerts is exactly what inspired a summer of craziness, fun, and LOTS of music. Working at a venue, you get to have some pretty cool experiences, some that you never thought would happen, but the best part has to be the perks! The venue I worked at offers two large music festivals each summer. One is three days long and features EDM music, while the other is four days long and features an array of folk and rock artists. As a worker, I was excited to check out what each festival had to offer. I can say that you would probably never catch me spending my own money on a ticket to an EDM festival, (ask any of my friends) but it was definitely interesting to check out and experience!  

When arriving at a festival for your first shift, you will receive a GA/worker wristband, which is good for the entire duration of the festival. Shifts can vary in length, but I opted to work 12 hour shifts each day. I know what you’re thinking, I am a complete crazy person! Let’s be honest here though, you’re at a music festival. You are not going to need time to sleep anyway. If you are not spending your time working, you are probably spending your time checking out the musical acts. In addition, when working a festival, you are usually offered free on-site tent camping. It makes life a lot easier when all you have to do in the morning is get up and walk to whatever destination you will be working at for the day.

The place you could always find me working on festival days, was at the box office. Working the box office, you get to meet some pretty awesome music fans. (and some not so awesome ones, but that’s just life) You will also get to meet some artists too. If you’re anything like me, you probably won’t even recognize that there is an artist in front of you. This job may sound picture perfect so far, but it is in no means a perfect job. This is a pretty face paced job. You have to be prepared for anything to be thrown your way. Sometimes you will have to deal with crazy customer requests or crazy artist requests. You will also have to be prepared to take on job tasks you did not think were expected of you and you may even get moved to a totally different location, with a different job task all in one shift. If you are not prepared to work in a fast paced, ever changing environment like so, then this isn’t the job for you.

If you have yet to back out and have risen to the challenge, then take out those ear plugs, because you will definitely want to hear about all of the perks a festival worker experiences! If you are anything like me, you were brought to this job for one reason and one reason only; to see live music! After you get off of your shift, meet up with some friends or some new people you’ve met during your shift at work and go catch some of the acts! Your ticket into the festival will be free. Once inside, you will realize that these festivals are about so much more than just the music! They are about music, art, food, and community. Artists will be gathered around the site, selling their artwork, as well as food vendors, who will be there to sell you those deliciously unique foods. (Yes, we know they’re overpriced, but they’re totally Instagram worthy!) Once you check out all of the vendors, you can go check out your favorite artists. I also suggest going to check out some that you’ve never heard of. Who knows, maybe you’ll find your new favorite band?! Music starts bright and early each day and usually does not end until the sun comes back up once again. Even if you work a twelve hour shift, you’ll still catch some of the acts. If there a specific artist you plan on seeing, you are sometimes able to organize your work schedule, so you are able to attend the performance.  

Finally, there are a few other things to remember when working a music festival. Remember that this is your JOB. Take it seriously when on your shift, because you never know what adventures it will lead to in the future! Also, make sure you come prepared for the festival, just as a festival goer would. Pack lots and lots of water and make sure you stay hydrated. While on your shift, water will most likely be provided for you, as well as a few meal vouchers to get you through the day. If you are camping, baby wipes are a must in order to stay clean, in addition to private staff showers that you will have access too. It also never hurts to pack sunscreen and insect repellant, as you will be spending most of your time outside. Now for the final act, go out and enjoy a festival experience like no other. You will surely want to do it all over again next summer!