Since 2013, I’ve been lucky enough to work and attend multiple music festivals throughout the U.S. and each one was such a unique experience. No matter what anyone tells you, there’s a huge difference between attending music festivals and working music festivals.
The music festivals I’ve worked include Austin City Limits, Bumbershoot, 80/35, Coachella, Stagecoach, and Free Press Summer Fest. In comparison, the music festivals I’ve attended include Pitchfork, Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, Hangout Fest, and Day for Night.
Austin City Limits
The first music festival I ever worked was Austin City Limits back in 2013. My job was with Fest Express which involved me driving a golf cart around the outside perimeter of the festival giving guests with specific wristbands such as Artists and Artists Guest rides to the back of the stages.
Since then I’ve worked Austin City Limits for 4 consecutive years and each year the festival has grown and the atmosphere has definitely changed. It’s a lot less chiller than it used to be before they added two weekends and expanded the festival grounds, but it’s always really nice to feel the good vibes of ACL time and time again.
The last 2 years I worked, I was part of the Platinum Shuttle Team which is the same concept as Fest Express but for only Platinum guests. Since the Platinum guests were people who paid thousands of dollars for wristbands the standards were way higher than they were for Fest Express.
My coolest experience from working Austin City Limits was driving Kendrick Lamar from his stage to catering and back in 2014. If you don’t believe me, I’ve got photo evidence! I would totally be lying if I said that I wasn’t internally screaming but you can definitely see the expression on my face. He was pretty quiet but really nice when I made casual conversation.
Before bringing Kendrick back to the stage he was performing at, I waited for him to go get food from catering. In that same moment, I met Jessica Szohr from Gossip Girl and we both freaked out about me driving Kendrick Lamar and I waved at Ben McKenzie from The O.C, so that was super exciting because I loved both of those shows back in the day.
The calmest and best job I ever worked at a music festival was Transportation for Artist Relations at Bumbershoot 2017 in Seattle. It was a small team and we were each given a van for the weekend and assigned a daily schedule of names, pick up locations and times, and the drop off location so whenever I didn’t have a pick up scheduled I was able to enjoy the festival.
It was my first time visiting Seattle, so I loved getting to drive around the city while having sometimes deep discussions with people who worked in the music industry. The person with the coolest job that I drove in my opinion was Megan who did the stage lighting design for Lorde’s Melodrama tour. In addition to getting to travel the world, the coolest part about her career was that she didn’t go to college and managed to land her dream job.
I was lucky enough to work Bumbershoot again for 2018 and it was the same chill and calm vibe that I got the previous year. I got to see a good amount of artists this year such as DVSN, T-Pain, London on da Track, Lil Wayne, Illenium and a few more. My wristband allowed me to go backstage and watch from the VIP viewing area, so my experience was definitely more fancy.
Free Press Summer Fest
When I worked Free Press Summer Fest, it was for Artist Relations Hospitality and it was the most interesting and demanding job I’ve ever worked at a festival. My job required me to go to the grocery store and fill artists riders which are actually so entertaining to read. If you don’t know, an artist rider is a list of an artists demands for the performance. A lot of items on the lists are related to food and beverages and the bigger the artist and their team, the longer and more extravagant the list.
It was a team of 5 of us so it was really fun, but so much work going through each aisle of the grocery store and making sure that I was picking up the right quantity and brand of each item. There’s no specific format for a rider so some were handwritten and other were typed, so it truly was an adventure making sure we got everything on each of the lists.
Once we had almost everything purchased, we brought it all back to base and had to separate all the items by artists and then on the day of their performance presentably arrange everything in the artists trailers before they arrived at their scheduled time.
Since this was back in 2013, I honestly don’t remember what a lot of the riders entailed but one that does stand out to me was one of the bands asking for hummus that was made in store (we did end up finding a restaurant that did this!) and another rap artist asked for cubic zirconia earrings which we obviously didn’t buy.
There was very little down time to just chill and enjoy the festival, but at the end of the festival it was super rewarding to complete everything and get word of good feedback from the artists managers. Somehow during the day, I managed to sneak away and meet G Eazy for the 3rd time. We took a super cute picture and he told me that he liked my energy, so maybe the 4th time he’ll ask me out on a date (edit: never mind he’s taken again).
The best part was definitely at the end when we had to clear out the artists trailers because most of the food and drinks were left behind and untouched so it was a free for all. I managed to score a pair of $100 Marshall earbuds left behind in Tove Lo’s trailer and they were the best in ear headphones I’ve ever had (yes, I said “were” so I did lose them after a few years).
Coachella & Stagecoach
Surprisingly, working Coachella was the least entertaining in comparison to all of the jobs I’ve worked at a festival. My job was with Guest Services so I worked one of the information booths inside the festival and sat in the same spot for 6-8 hours enjoying the festival, handing out packets, and answering any questions that guests had.
I will say that it was very entertaining to people watch, especially the drunk ones! In addition I got to meet Vanessa Anne Hudgens because she came to my booth and asked for a packet.
My job at Coachella was different than the rest because I wasn’t really working behind the scenes and was constantly interacting with the guests making sure they were having a positive experience. And since Coachella is the only camping festival I’ve ever worked, the overall experience felt like a fun 3 week long summer camp, because workers had the option to live on site so we were literally eating, breathing, and sleeping Coachella for both weekends and Stagecoach.
Meals and Pay
During all of my jobs at music festivals, I received 3 meal tickets per day to use at catering which was something different every day. For Coachella, our housing was too far from catering, so we were given 15 $5 meal tickets at the beginning of each weekend that we were able to redeem at any food and beverage vendors at the festival.
The pay for working music festivals varies and the offer can be hourly or a day rate. The highest hourly rate I’ve gotten was $14 an hour and the highest day rate I’ve ever received was $300 a day. If you want to make extra money working music festivals, it’s typically only worth it if you don’t have to travel to a different state.
Working Music Festivals
- Attending festivals for free
- Free meals
- Option for free housing
- Behind the scenes experience
- Sighting/meeting celebrities
- Set work schedules
- Discounted merchandise
- No lines to enter festival
- Backstage access to shows
- Access to VIP areas
- Meeting new people
- Access to deluxe or normal bathrooms
- Missing performances
- Long work hours
- Wearing work shirts
- Early mornings
- Short meal breaks
- Dealing with difficult guests
Attending Music Festivals
- Open schedule to see performances
- Drinking at the festival
- Sighting/meeting celebrities
- Eat food from vendors
- Experience the entire festival
- Meeting new people
- Enjoying shows in the crowd
- Dealing with huge crowds
- Expensive food
- Struggle to find shade
- Waiting in lines to enter
- Having to use porta-potties
There’s so many more festivals in the United States and around the world that I’ve yet to experience, but I’m grateful to have been able to work and attend the ones that I have been to.
In my opinion, nothing is better than getting paid to attend a music festival so working them is the better option if you don’t mind sacrificing a few things.
Do you have any questions about working or attending music festivals? Ask me in the comments.
Thanks for reading and stay hungry to learn, create, and grow!