Every summer, across the planet, music festivals flourish. From EDM to country to worship music, sunshine and warm weather have become synonymous with sharing great shows with thousands of like-minded fans. And, 2016 has been a sensational season. All summer long HARMAN Profession Solutions has been in on the act, providing top-notch festival sound with JBL VTX and VerTec line arrays, Crown amplifiers and Soundcraft mixing consoles while energizing night concerts with Martin lighting.
According to Nielsen’s Audience Insights Report on Music Festivals, approximately 32 million people attend at least one U.S. music festival each year. From the mammoth Lollapalooza in Chicago with 300,000 attendees, to the kickback, boat-friendly Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival in Maryland, festivals have emerged as signature events, highlighting certain genres of music while capitalizing on each locale’s unique personality.
Then, there’s the music. Though dubbed a music festival, the audio is often taken for granted, as if it’s simply the soundtrack for summer’s biggest parties. Nonetheless, stellar sound is crucial. No matter how far attendees are from a stage, they expect to hear their favorite artists loud and clear.While smaller festivals require lower infrastructure costs, the numbers escalate exponentially at mega events like Coachella and Austin City Limits. Considering the vast number of logistics that come into play—from ticketing, security and the positioning of food vendors to art and sponsor installations, site maps and developing festival apps, organizers must make sure safety comes first. It’s astonishing how smoothly most festivals unfold.Producing a music festival is no easy feat, though. Outdoors or tented, 5,000 or 150,000 ticket holders, rain or shine, countless details go into ensuring a positive and memorable experience for attendees and artists alike. Across the board, all festivals entail a long lead time and, for the larger ones, planning can start a year or more in advance. With heavy competition for star power, headliners must be booked far ahead, and the supporting lineup balanced across festival days to entice the widest possible audience.
Long before show time, event producers obtain riders from each act to determine the optimum combination of gear that will suit all the artists playing a specific stage or tent—taking into consideration their must-haves. Producers then finalize approvals for PA systems, consoles, mics and other equipment. Next, a schedule is created for load-ins and load-outs as well as programming, testing and tuning throughout the grounds at various performance areas. As the festival approaches, final site coordination kicks in with arrangements for patching, broadcast hookups for webcasting, getting trucks safely on and offsite, and reconfirming weather contingencies.
For a major festival with a Friday start, the final countdown begins a week or two in advance by setting up the stages and tents. Lighting may arrive on the Tuesday prior, audio Wednesday and tech run-throughs Thursday, all leading to the long-awaited first downbeat on Friday afternoon. As attendees swarm through the gates, the carefully designed grounds appear effortlessly organized. Summer 2016 may be over, but the great music and memories from this summer’s festivals are on replay in our minds.
Marina Muhlfriedel is the content marketing strategist for HARMAN Professional Solutions. She's a native Angeleno and creative omnivore with a deep background in writing, music, film and post production. Mariana used to play synthesizers in bands and has long been fascinated by how creativity and technology converge to push the boundaries of entertainment—something we strive for everyday at HARMAN Professional Solutions.