The reality of working at a music festival

It’s not all crowdsurfing

Working in the music festival industry isn’t your average 9-5 desk job. It can be difficult to convey to people who haven’t worked in events how a typical day in the life is anything but typical.

I wouldn’t trade these challenging and rewarding experiences for anything, but it can be far from glamorous at times. For those interested in joining this fast-paced and transformative field, here’s an inside look.

The hours are crazy

From the excitement building up to opening, to the “How-did-time-fly-by-that-quickly?” as the final headliner takes the stage, it can be long, tough hours to make sure everything goes off without a hitch.

I’ve clocked 100-hour weeks and 18-hour days with little sleep in between. The work keeps you on your toes. You never know what crisis or adventure is going to pop up, and no two days are even remotely the same.

Breaks are for sleeping

Whenever I wrap up early enough that acts are still performing I usually take the chance for what little sleep I can get over seeing another performance. Every little bit helps to make the following day better.

Seeing late night acts like Zedd or White Panda would be fun, but after a 16-hour work day, it can be hard to muster up the energy to jump around with a bunch of rowdy festival fans in glow sticks and face paint.

The weather is never on your side

I’ve encountered extreme levels of dust and mud, rain so aggressive that it hits you sideways, hail, high winds, and a tropical storm emergency evacuation where the festival had to be shut down.

Part of working in events is coming prepared for everything, and always having plans B through Z, when plan A inevitably falls through.

Meeting the bands is rare

Unless working in Artist Hospitality, I rarely catch a glimpse of artists or bands.

“Did you meet anyone famous?” my friends always ask upon my return. Sometimes, but remaining confidential and professional about the work I do is part of the job.

And no, I wasn’t hanging out in their dressing rooms. Work is work.

And it’s not all crowdsurfing

You don’t have the entire lineup at your disposal. I’m not out dancing in the crowd with a giant cardboard cut-out of Morgan Freeman or crowdsurfing through a sea of flash tat-clad hippie youths.

But the music is awesome

The acts I have seen at festivals have been some of my favorite live performances, and moments that reaffirm how much I love what I’m doing.

You don’t get to see your friends

Music festivals have what’s called back of house, which is everything that happens behind-the-scenes. Depending on my roles, I’ve spent a majority of time in back of house and not inside the actual festival.

This leaves little time to meet up with friends attending the festival. When I do venture into the festival grounds, it’s difficult to find friends amidst thousands upon thousands of festival goers– some more coherent about their whereabouts than others.

“Meet us by the group of people wearing glowsticks!” Yes, that’s helpful.

But you make new friends from across the globe

Traveling and working in events, I’ve had the privilege of learning from passionate and talented people and meeting new friends who live all over the country.

It’s labor intensive

Part of what makes music festivals so special is that they are often built from the ground up. What starts as an empty space of land is cultivated with ideas and hard work.

The onsite operations behind this can be rigorous– mentally and physically. Whether it’s constructing furniture, moving heavy barricade fencing, or other intensive labor, festival jobs will give you the workout you didn’t have time for.

Events are fast-paced– they require you to multitask, problem-solve, and think on your feet. The hours of hard work all come down to creating a stellar event that makes thousands of people happy. I am grateful to work in an industry with such dedicated and creative people.