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How to organise a music festival in India? Read on to get a complete lowdown

How to organise a music festival in India? Read on to get a complete lowdown

How to organise a music festival in India? Read on to get a complete lowdown
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By Kanishka Gupta  Sept 17, 2019 3:56:43 PM IST (Updated)

Organising a music event takes a lot more than what it appears to be. For audience, it might just be a source of entertainment for a few hours or so. However, for organisers, it’s a daunting task to manage the cost and gain profit out of it. 

Megastar Katy Perry is all set to headline the inaugural OnePlus Music Festival, which will be organised on November 16, in Mumbai. As a matter of fact, this music event will be a debut for both, the pop sensation and the tech giant, in India.

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Unlike in the West, the music bonanza in India begins towards the end of the year. However, this set trend is a mixed blessing for the organisers in the country. If you wonder how, here is a complete lowdown on organising a music festival in India.
Organising a music event takes a lot more than what it appears to be. For audience, it might just be a source of entertainment for a few hours or so. However, for organisers, it’s a daunting task to manage the cost and gain profit out of it.
To understand better, CNBC-TV18 reached out to members of different organising teams, who have been conducting events of such stature in the past.
Supreet Kaur, festival director of Bacardi NH7 Weekender, says cost to hold a music festival is subjective. “It depends on various aspects such as how large your audience is -- 5,000 or 50,000, how many stages do you have (build, artistes, technical equipment, manpower), for how many days the festival is taking place, which city is it in as licensing costs differ from state to state, or whether it is a destination festival with camping or a city festival. The variables are too many to comment with a specific figure,” she said.
"However, at Bacardi NH7 Weekender, the cost to build – infrastructure – is the highest,” Kaur added.
Getting the green light
Apramjeet Singh Lamba, co-founder of Paradigm Entertainment, has stressed the importance of obtaining clearances. “For organising a music event in India, certain things have to be kept in mind, and getting permission tops the priority list. This year, when DJ Snake came to perform in Delhi, due to some permission issue the event was shifted from night to day. Now imagine a DJ playing in broad sunlight. Hard to call it successful,” Lamba commented.
Cost distribution
This is again very subjective. At NH7, the cost to build infrastructure is the highest.
Typically, there are 2-3 key revenue streams which contribute to the profit margin -- ticketing, food and beverages, and merchandise.
The festival season in India is primarily from October to February, which makes India a one-off location for most International artistes, thus making it a lot more difficult to book them.
Besides, Kaur pointed out that preparation to prevent any security breach is the key. “You cannot foresee what might go wrong during a show, but you need to be prepared for everything to go wrong. The number one priority is to keep your audience safe and ensure they have a good time,” she noted.
Lamba believes that India offers one of the biggest markets for music, and therefore an artiste would not back off unless there is any big issue with the management or with the permissions.
So while booking, it is important to inform the performers in advance about the whole scenario and try providing them the utmost comfort, considering the fact that they are travelling from a different environment and should not face any inconvenience.
Compensation rules
In 2011, Byran Adams' Delhi concert was denied due to security issue. Is there any compensation provided in such cases?
“At Bacardi NH7 Weekender, our fans come to the festival for the experience first and artistes second. We've built a strong community over 10 years. When you purchase a ticket to a festival that offers you over 80 artistes over a weekend, you don't really apportion a percentage of the ticket price to a specific artiste, to be able to offer any compensation. In a concert format, however, when you purchase a ticket for a specific artiste's show, the rules change,” Kaur informed.
Role of recreational activities
Millennials demand top billing artistes and a variety of things to do at a music festival, besides listening to music. It has transformed into a culture and lifestyle experience.
Speaking of her experience at Bacardi NH7 Weekender, Kaur said, "For our properties, our sponsors are more than just brands associated with the properties. We work with our sponsors as partners in building value beyond logo presence. Owing to relatively lower ticket pricing, festivals in India are still largely dependent on sponsorship for sustainability."
She further observed, "When brands began to connect with the youth through music associations, it unlocked viability in the live music scene. What that has done for the live music industry is create opportunities to produce better shows, to book bigger artistes, associate with global agencies and talent, and in turn introduce those global agents to Indian talent. All of which has happened in the last few years which has been incredible to watch."
Drugs and alcohol
Bacardi NH7 Weekender has strict policies against substance abuse. This is communicated to the artistes and audience beforehand and during the festival.
They also have a code of conduct every artiste contracted to perform at the festival signs and agrees to -- which not only dictates action in the case of substance abuse, but also sexual harassment and general conduct.
"Videos on women safety, general conduct and substance abuse are played across all our stages at the festival in intervals, for our audiences,” Kaur pointed out.
Process of inviting artistes
Lamba also has an artiste management company. "A big name artiste like Wiz Khalifa costs somewhere around Rs 2 to Rs 3.5 crore, to perform in India. This doesn’t include their travel, accommodation and other expenses," he said.
"Our festival team speaks with agents through the year to curate the international line-up at Bacardi NH7 Weekender. Additionally, considering most international artistes are paid in US dollars globally, the Indian rupee conversion rate makes the viability of hosting an artiste in India significantly different from elsewhere in the world. We're extremely cautious about being realistic with evaluating the value each artiste brings to the festival before making any offers,” Kaur added.
Security arrangements
"We have security, we have bouncers, and 40 guards to ensure safety. And just in case something wrong happens, there are always VCRs standing right at the gates, to pull out the person and hand him over to police to take the legal action in the right manner," Lamba said.
Success factors
Today, there are at least a hundred events across various entertainment forms – from large scale to boutique festivals to concerts. Ten years ago, there were not more than two or three.
“Each year we see around 20-30 new properties. Unfortunately most don't last for more than a year or two. You need to have a plan for sustainability; I mean evaluate your revenue and expenses. That will decide your eventual success. You can be the most exciting event with top artistes but if you don't make enough revenue, your success is limited," Kaur observed.
"To ensure the success of the event, the organising team must put efforts in marketing. Often, people don’t show their interest unless there is a big brand and artiste name associated with the event. That is something small organisers are struggling to deal with," Lamba added.
Even a food stall at a venue like Sunburn costs Rs 70,000. Therefore, to ensure profit out of it, the event organisers need to make the right contacts and right deals. Big sponsors often make the process easy and add value to the event. Companies like Pepsi, Budweiser, Absolute, and others, provide things at comparatively cheaper rates and attract eyeballs.
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