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What You Need to Know About Volunteering for a Music Festival

The experience isn't just about a free ticket

For every musician and DJ on a festival lineup, there are countless crew members and volunteers behind the scenes. From the guy directing you in the parking lot, to the girl who scans your ticket, festivals rely on the support of their staff to make sure the weekend runs smoothly. With Summer nearly here many festivals have, or will be, opening up their applications to volunteer. The promise of a free ticket for some can be extremely appealing, especially to a festival that may have already sold out. However, we might suggest taking a minute to really evaluate your decision before jumping in.

On the surface you may think to yourself “Oh sweet, I help out and get a free ticket”! And while this may seem like that case, we assure you there’s a little more to it than that. The old saying “Nothing is free” certainly applies here since you’ll be put to work. Most festivals structure their volunteer programs to make sure each person effectively works off the value of their ticket. More importantly, be prepared to pay a ticket deposit upon your approval since most festivals require this to ensure you work. Volunteering can be extremely rewarding, fun and educational but can also be hard work and tiring.

Photo: Ricardo Hubbs

Festivals are built upon the idea of bringing together amazing music, in a beautiful place with great people. This idea is a common driving force for its staff, who see out the festivals goals from start to finish. A great example of this is British Columbia’s, Bass Coast Music Festival. With a focus on its people, the community and a clear labor of love, Bass Coast’s volunteer crew has certainly been one of our favorites. In a recent post regarding applications for this year’s event (Which open March 1st), the festival’s harm reduction coordinator Stacey Forrester had some great insight into the world of volunteering.

The first and most important part of this process is taking a moment to think about why you want to volunteer. The most obvious reason is because you missed your chance to secure your ticket and this is your second chance. Rather than helplessly scour the internet hoping to find one for sale you figure, why not work for a ticket. The key word in that statement is work, as we can promise you will be put to work. You will be relied on to do you job, and you will be letting others down if you don’t. Keep that in mind when applying, but don’t let a little work scare you off…it’s totally worth it.

“This festival is built of volunteer love…2-way love to be more specific. I have noticed our volunteers LOVE this festival and the festival loves them back. You can see it the details. So, let that be a driving force for you.” – Stacey

Once you’ve determined why you want to volunteer you should begin to think about what you’ll be doing. Take a minute to put yourself in a volunteer’s shoes and remember that the job might not be all that glamorous. Keep in mind you’ll likely be out in the sun, you may be picking up trash, and you may be dealing with people who aren’t fully sober. Your role, no matter how small, is important though and you will be relied upon by other staff and crew. Stacey put it great when she said “I try not to say it’s a free ticket. It is not free – everyone is busy”. Don’t let this scare you off though, the reward and sense of ownership that comes with working a festival certainly outweighs the time you’ll be working. Just remember your time is valued, and you’ll be contributing the the overall experience of 10’s or 1000’s of others!

Photo: Turks

So now that you’ve decided why you want to volunteer, and you understand you’ll be given an important role to fill, it’s time to do some self-checking. Anyone who’s volunteered before will tell you it’s an entirely different experience and requires some serious self-control.

“The reality of working a festival is that there will be one night where you have to call it and go to bed way early, so that you are sober, and rested and present for us on shift. Or a sunny afternoon where you have to pull yourself out of the river, part with all the beautiful folks lounging beside you, and shun the festivities so you can work a shift.” – Stacey

Make sure you’re able to commit yourself 100%, and that you’ll show up to work without problem. The idea of just not reporting to your shift and forfeiting your deposit shouldn’t even be a thought in your mind. This is probably the most important thing to understand, since as we’ve stated previously, you will be relied on. Take a minute to be honest with yourself and if you’re still all in then it’s time to act…like…NOW!

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