Getting a job at a music festival is a long game. You need to start planning your career moves as much to a year ahead of the actual festival. Start by making a list of potential employers, whether you’ve got an “in” at this organization or not. Asking someone you know about openings is always preferable, but if you don’t have a connection, do some internet research on whom to reach out to about getting involved.
Look for positions relevant to what you want to do at record labels, production companies and concert venues that regularly participate in the festival of your choice. If you have very little music industry experience, look for street team, volunteer or internship opportunities with organizations you know will be at the festival.
Check the festival’s website for job fairs or volunteer opportunities. A lot of times these job listings are for Ticket Takers or Parking Lot Attendants. Positions like these are hit or miss for getting you on the path to your dream job.
If you’re a teenager with very little work experience, these roles will look good on your resume and show you’re interested in working your way up. However, you’ll have to network like crazy with people in more music-focused job roles at the festival to show your interest in moving from the parking lot to the production offices, and you won’t always have this chance.
It’s much easier to meet the people you need to know when you’re working closer (both physically and skill-wise) to where they are. This is why, especially if you have some music-related experience—whether through a college degree course or relevant employment—you should keep an eye out for positions where you’ll be working with music industry pros.
Network to find your first festival job and network to move from a volunteer role to a staff position.
It might seem counterintuitive, but be aware landing a job at a music festival might require you to volunteer for a few months to a year to prove your commitment, and for people on staff to get to know you. Some festivals, such as SXSW or Bonnaroo, rely on volunteers to help visitors, hand out press badges, and staff the festival’s merch booths.
If you’re weighing a position where you’ll be staffing the info booth at the festival for free versus selling tickets and getting paid, choose the volunteer position. You may be starting from the bottom, but you’ll meet a ton of people, and if you do a good job, you’ll be able to talk to your supervisor about expanding your responsibilities or possibly moving into a position closer to what you want to do in the future.
Keep in mind it’s easier to get involved way ahead of the festival when there’s less competition for jobs and your potential employers aren’t dealing with deadlines and last minute snafus and can give more of their time to a promising new member of the festival staff. Getting involved with an organization prior to the festival season also gives you time to demonstrate your commitment, work ethic, and eagerness to learn, so when festival time rolls around, you’ll be a shoo-in for festival staff.
Of course, the key in all this is networking. Network to find your first festival job and network to move from a volunteer role to a staff position. Volunteering will help you get a foot in the door, but to work your way up your desired position and to make a career out of working at festivals, you have to build connections with the people who make the festival happen.
This is easier to do at a small festival than a huge one like Coachella, for example. At small festivals people wear more hats, and it’s easier to get to know people in the industry when you’re one of a hundred volunteers versus one of six hundred.
You’ll also have better luck if you’re trying to get a job at a festival in your local area since it’s easier to capitalize on your existing music industry contacts to help you sniff out any available openings, and it’s easier to stay in touch with all the people you meet through the festival if they happen to attend the same shows as you or get their morning coffee at the shop where you work.
Plus, festivals hire their staff from people they know who are active in their local music community. If, eight months before the festival, you start working as an assistant to a well-respected Sound Tech at a big concert venue in town, festival organizers will probably already know your work and your local connections will put you ahead of someone with less proven experience.