Volunteering at a Music Festival: The Why and How

Festival Season will be here before you know it. Those beautiful line ups are dropping early, but the exclusive low pre-sale prices and car fees are looking a little scary. We all know music festivals are a worthy investment, and they definitely give you the biggest bang for your buck, but they’re still expensive and we’re all looking for ways to save.

Regular readers of Concert Hopper already know our preferred method of getting free tickets for supporting our beloved music festivals is Street Teaming. But if you’re looking to lend a hand to your fellow festival goers: volunteer.

What’s your motivation for volunteering? Getting a free ticket is nice, but you will have more fun if you are doing it to learn, to be a part of something, and/or to give back. So bring your brightest attitude and feel the love! Volunteers are the lifeblood of many festivals.

The Why:

Saves Money

You usually still have to pay a nonrefundable application processing fee of $15-$25 and deposit fee of the festival’s ticket price, but you get the deposit back once you successfully complete your volunteer shift.

The Free T-Shirt

Bonnaroo’s Volunteer T-Shirts are always so cute and I get super jealous that I can’t have one!

Free Showers

Enough said.

Free Meal Voucher

Most festivals will give you free food before or after your shifts. We all know festy food is yummy, but costly.

Preferred Camping

At most festivals volunteers are going to be in designated camping. These camping spots are usually less crowded and closer to the action.

Get Experience

Put that shit on your resumé! Seriously, yours truly freelances as a resumé writer, and I say do it.

12494686_10101300071288788_10507056470315661_n

Make Friends

Don’t fret about getting a shift without your friends. You’ll be working alongside fellow festies, so you’re bound to make some new festy besties.

12548866_10205033834799675_1751995078112386782_n

Have a Story to Tell

Who knows, you might get to assist with a marriage proposal.

 

img_2857

The How:

Directly for the Festival

Many festivals will have their own volunteer program. You can usually find more information about signing up on the festival’s official website, generally under terms such as: “Get Involved”,  “Connect”, “Participate”, etc.

 

Clean Vibes and Work Exchange Team

Both Clean Vibes and Work Exchange Team staff volunteers for a number of festivals each year such as Del Fest, Sweet Life Festival, Mountain Jam, Governors Ball Music Festival, Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, High Sierra Music Festival, WayHome Music and Arts Festival, Forecastle Festival, and many more.

12571172_10205145441376217_93200222_n

 

Tips for Volunteers:

  • Volunteering sometimes leads to getting hired, so do your best.
  • Do whatever is needed with a smile.
  • Be proactive by asking what you can do to help.
  • Check the weather and bring clothing for the whole shift.
  • Bring a snack and water.
  • Read all the guidelines in advance so you are prepared.
  • If you have a disability be sure to explain what’s going on to the volunteer team so they can place you in a position that will work for you, e.g. “I can’t stand for a long time so I need a position where I am seated most of the time.”
  • Sign up for pre or post festival jobs. These jobs usually require you to work more hours, but you won’t have to worry about working during the festival.

 

Here are some of the stories my friends shared with me about volunteering while I was collecting information for this article:

 

So I got grabbed up by Florida Georgia Line’s tour manager at Riverbend. I was walking back to the volunteer office after their set, the year I interned, and the tour manager saw my supervisor shirt. He grabbed me and said, “keep the fans back!” I looked around and a mob of people were rushing my way. I braced for impact and dozens of women were trying to mob the bus. Some of the other people working security rushed over to help and we finally got it under control. Earlier that same day I went to eat lunch and ended up having spaghetti and meatballs with the whole Florida Georgia line crew. Cool dudes. – John Matthew Horton

 

 

When I volunteered for my second year, circumstances changed and my other friends were unable to come. I decided to go by myself which I was a little nervous about. When I arrived the Sunday before the festival started, my neighbor volunteers immediately helped me set up my camp. By Monday night we had all joined together sharing food, stories, and music together. All of a sudden the wind picked up and a staff member came by saying we may get evacuated. We were all sitting in a circle listening to a couple boys sing and play guitar. 10 minutes later it started pouring and blowing like crazy. We all gathered together as canopies were flying all over the place. After the storm passed they all helped me get my camp sight back together soaked and cold because mine got destroyed. That was one of the best experiences I ever had, especially going alone. My neighbors took me under their wing and we all became family! – Sarah Thomas

 

 

I initially signed up to volunteer at Bonnaroo in 2013 in order to attend for free. I was also going solo and figured volunteering would be a great way to meet others. I was assigned to Toll Booth C’roo, greeting everyone when they first arrived on site. I loved sharing in the enthusiasm with all who came through when the gates opened on Wednesday. But, I had not taken into consideration my physical limitations due to arthritis and the repercussions of standing for many hours. I barely made it through my 12 hour shift and was nearly in tears walking back to camp from the pain. I was camped in Access and the following day David, who was working with Everyone’s Invited – Laura Grunfeld, asked how my festival was going. When he heard how I was struggling he reached out to the Volunteer Coordinators and was able to switch my assignment so I could fulfill the rest of my hours helping out at the the Access Tent. That was a festival saver. The following year when I applied to volunteer, my first choice was the Access C’roo. I loved working with their team in helping everyone enjoy the festival. Many times, I was simply giving directions or handing out water, but I’ve enjoyed nearly every interaction I have had at Bonnaroo. It’s been a wonderful growth experience for me. One that has enabled me to attend the last couple years and look forward to seeing the same friends I made the year before. This year, I won’t be there as a volunteer, and I’m slightly regretting my decision not to sign up. Arriving early and seeing the farm come to life with music lovers from around the world is magical. – Dana Marie Arnold

 

I have a little story about a cannabis camp out held in Ohio in my twenties. I found myself running the first aid/kitchen tent. I had no experience, but common sense. Very little equipment but a bonfire, a big tent with picnic tables and recliners, some first aid stuff, a tea kettle and an acoustic guitar! Mostly I was dealing with psychological and fatigue related injuries or crisis. Merle Saunders and Ekoostic Hookah were headlining. As the night went on I told stories. Made tea. Played guitar. Handled the freak outs that are nearly mandatory when folks take a little too much psychedelics at an emotionally pronged event such live jam music will be. I had to grab some more coffee… and rum. So, mostly I was there for moral support and comfort. I kept the fire burning until sunrise.  Sometime during Merle’s set my buddy ran up to the kitchen and said, “Merle needs a towel. He’s on FIRE tonight!” I happily took down the towel I had drying on the line. It seems funny now that I have gone through many evolutions in my life, approaching 40 and roaming the streets as an EMT. How seminal that very night was to my whole existence.  I definitely still dig the live music experience just as much as I ever did. But I never forget to bring a comfortable chair, water and a kettle, firestarter, and of course some towels! Stay thirsty for adventure! – Amy Horst

 

Comment with any tips we didn’t include and/or share your stories from festival volunteering. Then go forth and volunteer (and nab me a shirt, will ya’)! Take the money you saved and do more concert hopping!

943829_10206569289325898_4645905883017312355_n

 

4 thoughts on “Volunteering at a Music Festival: The Why and How

Add yours

  1. Hello Tayrn,

    What a helpful post. I hope that more fans with disabilities will realize that they are welcome to volunteer. There are volunteer positions available that can accommodate people with various types of disabilities. As you said, Taryn, when you submit your application, let the volunteer team know about any disabilities you have that might make a difference in the type of work you can accomplish. And let them know about your skills and talents as well. I love having assistants at the Access Center who have had experience working with people with disabilities, and outgoing people with a sense of humor meet & greet our fans when they arrive, and firm but friendly folks kindly instruct the person dancing right in front of someone in a wheelchair to “move to the back please.”

    With that information, as Dana Marie Arnold said in one of the stories above, you can be placed in a position that works for you. Governors Ball in NY will begin accepting volunteer applications in February http://www.governorsballmusicfestival.com/info/volunteers/. Bonnaroo in TN will be accepting applications on March 4: http://www.bonnaroo.com/get-involved/volunteers. Outside Lands in San Fran, TBA, http://www.sfoutsidelands.com. Sign up to receive updates from the festivals and while you are at it – check out the festival’s services for fans with disabilities page. You’ll usually find the access info page on the “Festival Info” tab. The Everyone’s Invited team is looking forward to seeing you soon. Love you always!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I would add that you can also find volunteer opportunities on Craig’s list. As you get within a month or two of the festival begin searching that name of the festival under “jobs” and “gigs” you’ll likely find some interesting and maybe paid opportunities to attend the festival of your choice.

    In 2015 I responded to an. Ad on Craig’s list for a job at Baconland in centeroo. I was paid tips and received not only a vendor wrist band but also a guest pass since the stand was actually owned by the organizers.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: