How Much Money Can You Really Make in Music Festivals?
Billboard recently outlined the paychecks for different positions in the music festival business. While it's interesting to see the ranges of potential earnings for the key players required to throw a music festival, these are definitely not guaranteed and there is a LOT more that should be discussed and considered when talking about these positions and paychecks.
Festival promoter/producer: $5 million - $25 million
Agent/booker for mainstage headliner: $15,000 - $200,000
Mainstage headliner: $1 million - $4 million
Small-stage act: $500 - $1,500
Security Guard: $7.50 - $15 per hour
VIP experience valet: $250 per day
During a recent interview with Jeff Cuellar, VP of Strategic Partnerships at AC Entertainment, on how data is impacting the rise of festivals, the analogy often used by former COO of Insomniac Rust Lamb was brought up:
"If you want to be in the festival business, go out to your backyard. Take a million dollars, light it on fire, see how you feel. If you still want to do it, light another million dollars. And then if you still want to do it, then you’re ready to do it."
Festival producers, like many new business owners, are not likely to actually turn a profit until the third or fourth year in operation. And even if you are not looking to put your entire livelihood on the line to throw your own festival, most of these other occupations discussed come with their own sacrifices and risks.
To make a decent living as a booking agent or talent buyer requires years of working your way up the ladder. Aspiring agents often have to start out in unpaid internship roles which could last up to a full year or even two, after which they work on commission. And let's be real, the commission (usually 10 to 15 percent after all expenses) for small to even mid-size artists is pocket change.
Most know what's involved in the road to becoming a mainstage headliner. It's a combination of talent, luck, financial backing, connections and business savviness. For small stage acts, even if they can negotiate a booking fee of $500, much of this will go towards travel, lodging and eating/drinking expenses.
Lastly, several jobs like security guard and valet parker are done on a freelance or contract basis, which means during the months between festival season, you have to find other ways to pay your bills.
The pay does not always match the work that goes into festival jobs. (Photo via Pyramid Staging)
So yes, some of these paychecks as listed by Billboard are pretty enticing but they should be taken with a grain of salt. It takes years of developing a track record and proving your value and worth to earn these types of numbers, and even when you do - they never come with complete job or paycheck security.
The lesson to be learned here is that if you go into the business of music festivals purely for the money, you may be terribly disappointed or you may find yourself burnt-out long before you see a decent paycheck. But, if you are passionate about what you do and you are willing and eager to put the work in because you love it so much, you will feel fulfilled no matter what your paycheck may be.