The Politics of Festivals

Two politicians behind podiums on a stage

Music festivals are thought of as 'The Business of Fun' but they can also be thought of as 'The Politics of Dancing' since the event scope and scale is so large, myriad municipalities need to be involved. This post looks at the politics surrounding events and provides tips on how the festival ticketing software can make things easier for you.

The Politics of Festivals

"If the juice worth the squeeze."

The very popular 'Hangout' music festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama has found itself in a bit of controversy as area residents question whether or not the influx of tens of thousands of party-goers has a negative impact on the community. FOX 10 in Pensacola reports (video above) that some city officials are going so far as to described the event as a "detriment."

The Hangout festival is so large that it requires the host city to add extra police and fire & rescue resources to meet the requirements for keeping patrons safe. But additional city resources are not the issue being call out by residents, according to FOX 10:

A study is being considered that would give hard numbers on the economic impacts of the concert, but residents want the so-called social impacts explored as well...Blake Phelps with the City of Gulf Shores says “It does put a strain on the entire community. And that’s what we want to weigh those constraints that it puts on us with the economic impact and kind of see what that hard data is and really understand if the juice is worth the squeeze so to speak.”

The report goes on the to describe how the various road closures around the event may be negatively impacting local businesses' ability to make money. If true, that would be a counter productive side-effect of the widely accepted idea that music festivals are a big boost to local economies.

Oddly, this point of contention is being brought up just hours before the Hangout Fest is scheduled to start. Just how practical it is to "conduct a study", with an expectation the results will be put into place this by weekend, is open for debate. It may very well be that the study is to begin this weekend and the results of any "social impact" being addressed at next year's event.

Festival operators are very familiar with the last minute political wrangling seen in Gulf Shores. Unlike other events that operate within the confines a single venue, outdoor music festivals are huge, sprawling events, making them a magnet for politicians' attention. Entanglements with permitting, insurance, police, fire & rescue, traffic management, et al are part and parcel of just about every music festival. The trick is to be ready for anything and be able to react quickly.

An advanced method for lessening the burden of having so many 3rd parties involved is to let them have access to the event "hard data" via the festival ticketing software (but more on that later).

City May Increase Fees For Festivals

If it's not one thing (a festival's "social impact") then it's permitting fees.

City officials Mount Airy, North Carolina say that the costs associated with hosting festivals is under review. Music festivals in Mount Airy, just like in Gulf Shores, spread municipal resources thin. So much so, the city is now considering an increase in what a festival operator must pay for permits.

An analysis released earlier this spring showed that in 2012 alone, the special events held in Mount Airy cost the city government $42,237. The lion’s share of that was for the Autumn Leaves Festival, with a price tag of $23,188 for extra manpower and equipment for such needs as security, traffic control and trash collections.

The biggest pain point for Mount Airy is post-event clean-up costs, something that isn't always pre-negotiated with the festival operators. Sanitation during the event, within the confines of the outdoor area, may be an obvious responsibility of the festival, but the city often gets left holding the bag for clean-up beyond the festival grounds, like in the city streets or in nearby camping sites. This extra clean-up is being cited as the reason for the increased permitting fees. Of note is the ultimate decision by the City of Mount Airy may be a template for other cities that host festivals to follow.

Overhead costs are already a huge concern for music festival operators and increases in permitting fees is just one more mouth to feed. One of the best ways to keep overhead costs in-check is to use festival ticketing software that supports bar code wrist bands and handheld scanners at the gate. Why? Because higher gate efficiency means less staffing is required. Less staffing means lower overhead costs. The gains made in gate efficiency can sit in the accounting ledger opposite of any increase in permitting fess.

TIP: Share Event Data With 3rd Parties

Mentioned earlier, and applicable to both points of contention in Gulf Shore and Mount Airy, is allowing third parties access to the event data. Festival operators do this so city officials can gauge the demand and adjust available resources accordingly. Rather than wait until the last minute and have an overreaction by the city occur (or worse no reaction at all) you can give secure access to your event's ticket sales data to 3rd parties without giving away the keys to the kingdom, so-to-speak.

As a feature of your festival ticketing software, city officials can sign into your event with very limited permissions, most a likely "view only" mode, and see the running totals of tickets sold - which they see as people that will need police, fire & rescue, traffic.

You have written estimates of attendance, and those are most always accurate. But as the festival operator the tiny details of how many street barricades are needed is not the best use of your time. So, instead having a phone call about street barricades, just build a temporary guest account in your festival ticketing software and let city officials do the math themselves. The same limited account access can be given to your vendors for the same reason, letting them gauge demand, head count, etc. for themselves and not burden you with a bunch of questions or asking for revised estimates.

ThunderTix Music Festival Ticketing Software

Of course, not every ticketing software has the ability to allow secure, limited account access for 3rd parties - but ThunderTix does!

The ThunderTix plan for music festival operators has the optional feature of what we call Event Restricted Access that is perfect for letting city officials do what they need to do in "view only" mode.

event restricted accessEvent restricted access is well suited to any type of 3rd party that needs the ability to review tickets sales before, during and after the event. For example, one of your 3rd party promoters needs access to their own financial data from a remote location. You obviously want to protect your account order and customer history, so by using the Event Restricted Access feature that 3rd party will only see the event data you have authorized. You can expand and contract permissions levels on a per person basis, and once the "need to know" is over, you can completely revoke permissions.

If your current festival ticketing software isn't making your life easier, with features like Event Restricted Access, it may be time to switch to ThunderTix.

If you are interested in switching, or learning more about how Event Restricted Access can help you, be sure to take a look at our other features and sign up for a free trial today!