As electronic music continues to gain popularity, it appears as though a new festival flyer pops out of thin air every single day. While a wide variety of festivals is exhilarating, it can be hard to choose which ones to attend. Time, money, and energy can only be split so many ways, after all.
After years and years of festival prep and mistakes made, I’ve crafted a list of facets to consider when building the perfect festival itinerary for the season. Whether you go to one festival per year or dozens, these aspects never change.
Here are 5 factors to delve into to make every festival feel special:
As 2024 festival lineups and tickets hit social media, it’s hard to ignore the fee spike for a majority of festivals this upcoming year.
Bonnaroo‘s 2024 tier 1 ticket price rose from $275 in 2018 to now $355, a 29% increase in price.
Similarly, Electric Forest‘s 2024 tier 1 ticket price rose from $374 in 2019 to now $601, a whopping 60% increase in price.
The continued expense burden is leading music festivals to become a luxury experience for most. Luckily, you can avoid overspending and ensure a smooth-flowing season by setting aside time early in the year to outline your budget.
First, it’s important to note the length of a festival. Two-day festivals may look cheaper upfront but sometimes they end up being pricier per day compared to longer length festivals.
You’ll also want to take into consideration food and lodging for that duration of time. Festival food for four days can surely add up, even if you really are one who can survive on one chicken finger a day.
Take extra caution to note what is included in your ticket price like camping, parking, etc. It may pay off in the end to upgrade to a GA+ or VIP ticket based on the experience you’re looking for.
Lastly, when building your festival budget, think about what kind of talent you’re looking to see. If you’re dead set on seeing big-name headliners, you’ll probably have to fork up some extra cash.
Contrarily, spending time at smaller, lesser-known festivals is a great way to be frugal while still getting the whole festival experience. You might even discover your new favorite up-and-coming artist!
The location of an event can impact multiple different factors when choosing your festival itinerary.
Attending a festival further away can mean more money spent on plane tickets or gas and more PTO from work required. It also takes significantly more planning from your squad to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Choosing somewhere far away, however, may mean visiting a place you’ve never been before. Try expanding your international vacation to include a once-in-a-lifetime foreign festival experience. Planning a vacation to include a music festival is a really great way to make the best of your budget and immerse yourself in unique opportunities.
Knowing yourself and your limitations when it comes to venue type will also save you stress this festival season.
I, for one, am not a beach girlie. The sand and the sun do not bode well for me. So, no matter how enticing the Hangout Fest lineup is, I know I would not have a good time at this beach-dwelling festival.
Festivals happen in all sorts of places like mountains, caves, warehouses, and forests so pick the right spot for you and have fun with it!
3. Camping v. Not Camping
Camping is undoubtedly the most important aspect for me when looking into festivals.
In my experience, camping festivals are much more fiscally responsible and provide a more enhanced overall festival experience. There’s nothing I love more than walking back to my campsite after a day of dancing with my friends, not having to worry about how I’m getting home, and starting my day with the blazing sun and blaring music.
OK, I was lying about the blazing sun, but it’s just part of the experience!
Some people just don’t want to do camping festivals and that’s okay too. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a real bed, running water, and air conditioning at the end of the day.
Choosing to camp or not requires you to hone in on your priorities and evaluate what’s logical. Can you realistically drive to the festival with your camping gear? Do you want to pack your food each day or are you fine with eating inside the festival? Will you feel like you’re missing out if you have to leave the late-night sets early to catch a ride and avoid traffic?
All of these aspects are important to think about and will become clearer as you gain more festival experience.
4. Lineup v. Vibes
It took me a really long time to figure out that there are vastly diverse events that play to specific crowds.
There are going to be some festivals that weigh heavy on a very niche lineup and market towards the music and performances for that niche.
For instance, Lost Lands will be a festival I go to time and time again for the lineup. They nickname it Dubstep Disneyland for a reason.
And while the experience isn’t always easy for me, that’s okay when I know that going into the festival. I prepare myself to have back-to-back sets from morning until night because all of my favorite artists are under one roof.
Lost Lands will be a festival where I just kick back, relax, and listen to music without worrying about exploring every inch of the festival grounds trying to soak everything up.
Then there are other festivals who pull A-list artists but their main focus is the experience. Electric Forest, Tomorrowland, and Burning Man are these types of festivals. They will have great turnouts every year despite the lineups because people go to revel in the culture, arts, and community aspects of the event. You might only see a handful of sets per day at these events.
Both types of festivals are great options. Researching various festivals before going will help prepare you for the type of experience you’re going to have and may help you narrow down your options when building your festival wish list.
5. Previous Festival Report Cards
The team at EDM Maniac carefully curates festival report cards for most festivals in the United States and a handful of popular international fests, based on our experiences. Each festival is given an overall grade in addition to specific grades for vibes, production, music, and venue.
The social posts for Festival Report Cards provide further details about parking, transportation, security, food and drink options, safety, sustainability, and accessibility.
The best part about the Report Cards is that they’re by ravers, for ravers. Meaning we prioritize what you prioritize and nothing is sugarcoated.
“No one likes criticism. But you have to be open to it and that’s what the Festival Report Cards are all about.”
He continued, “They’re about accountability and holding festivals to a certain standard so that dance music maniacs can have a real, genuine, pure experience; to feel like they got their money’s worth. It’s an unbiased opinion and it’s what the dance community needs.”
Report Cards are a great visual representation of everything festivals have to offer in one place, allowing you to easily compare various aspects across different festivals and hear about our experiences at these incredible events.
Featured image courtesy of Tabatha Fireman