As music festivals continue to proliferate with no end in sight, it's a bit too easy for organizers to forget their guests are people and not just piggy banks meant to be emptied. In the interest of combating that painfully opportunistic attitude, here's a list of 10 basic amenities that all festivals should provide.
1. Free and plentiful water
Luckily, it seems like most festivals these days provide at least some access to free water. Not only should this be a basic human right, but providing it keeps people both alive and happy. The next step in the right direction is to make water stations large enough to handle the crowds that inevitably form, and to set several of them throughout the festival grounds.
2. Free earplugs
Electronic music shows and festivals are absolutely terrible for hearing. Many festivalgoers are either unaware of that or simply don’t care that hearing damage is permanent. While providing free earplugs might not sway those who specifically choose not to wear them (yikes), making them available could at least help bring awareness to their necessity and increase their use.
3. Welcome kits
When organizers are pumping out a festival a weekend - and tickets cost hundreds of dollars or more - the industry begins to feel all too much like an unabashed cash grab. Festivals need to make their money too, but taking just a few dollars out of every ticket purchase and putting it towards a welcome kit (à la EDC Las Vegas’ goodie-filled ticket boxes) would make attendees feel infinitely more important and lessen the sting of those ticket prices.
4. Break times
When festivals focus on packing their schedule with headliner after headliner, it’s hard for patrons to not stretch themselves thin trying to hit every artist at every stage. More festivals should devote a portion of their programming to collective breaks to allow people to eat, hydrate, recuperate and clean up the areas around them.
5. Safe spaces
Music festivals can be overwhelming at the best of times. Being surrounded by thousands of sweating bodies and a cacophony of electronic music (all while under the blazing sun) can send even the most even-keeled person into a mild panic attack. For these situations, devoted safe spaces are key. The ideal safe space would be shaded or cooled, relaxed and friendly.
6. Stronger green initiatives
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Unfortunately, the environmental impact of music festivals is extreme. A single large music festival can produce over 100 tons of garbage per day. Millions of gallons of diesel fuel are burned to power a festival stages and lights every year. The CO2 emissions caused by attendee travel exceeds that of small cities.
If the implications sound dire, that’s because they are. Music festivals and their patrons owe it to the world to reduce their incredible strain on the environment. Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions, but a good start at tackling sustainability is to provide recycling and compost bins, heavily incentivize carpooling and trash pickup, and take advantage of more efficient powering systems.
7. Harm reduction
It’s painfully obvious that many countries' drug policies are draconian and backwards at best. It’s also no secret that drug use will happen at festivals and events, no matter the intention of the organizers. At the intersection of these two realities is a situation where people will buy and consume substances that they are unable to safely, legally test, and deaths result every year. Drug testing saves lives, prohibition doesn’t work, and when fentanyl is regularly taking the lives of festivalgoers, it’s time to allow organizations like The Bunk Police and Dancesafe to set up shop at events.
8. Totem limitations
Festival totems are a surprisingly sticky situation. Though they are made with the best of intentions, the reality is that they are as big of a nuisance as they are a boon. All too often can totems totally ruin the experience of others, all for a few cheap laughs. Though an outright totem ban might be a bit extreme (as nice as it sounds), rules and regulations surrounding their use would help mollify both those for and against totems. In short: no totems in front of the sound stage.
9. Better ADA accommodations
Luckily, the vast majority of attendees do not have to consider handicap accessibility in their festivalgoing lives. For those who do, however, it’s a major factor in planning a day’s activities. Though all festivals must legally provide ADA accommodations, the reality is that many events do not have much beyond a single stage or section for those in need. The ADA stages are often located deep in the middle of the crowd, and there are usually no designated pathways to these stages. That means navigating the throngs of tightly-packed attendees while in a wheelchair or crutches.
10. Friendlier security
Power-tripping security can be one of the worst parts of a music festival. Between the part-timers playing cop, and the actual cops trying to bust festival kids as if they're hardened criminals, simply getting into a festival can provoke anxiety. And though security pat downs are (probably) a necessary evil, getting violently groped and pushed around are not. At the same time, this sort of attitude helps ensure attendees will not seek help when they should, for fear of getting arrested or worse.