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Find out what Sarah Cole shared with our music production and music management students about her experiences working in the music festival industry.

7th November 2016
Music and performance

Did you know? Huge bands like Iron Maiden have 80 tour members, including their own masseuses, chefs and a warm up rehearsal studio.

This is just one of the industry facts that production management and artist liaison expert, Sarah Cole, shared with our students when she visited Solent recently.

Sarah is the founder of SC Productions, a site and production management and artist liaison company that has worked at major festivals including Bestival, Creamfields, Lovebox, and Camp Bestival, among others. Over the past years our BA (Hons) Music Promotion, BA (Hons) Popular Music Journalism and BA (Hons) Music Management students have got incredible work experience as artist liaison and stage crew at major festivals through Sarah’s company, with many graduates still employed during the summer

The Solent artist liaison crew with SC Productions

Sarah visited our music courses to talk about her 20 years of experience in theatre, outdoor production, music festivals and large-scale parties. Solent Music picked up some of the highlights of the talk.

As an industry expert who started out in theatre and stage management, Sarah emphasised that you never know how your career is going to pan out and what opportunities are going to come along.

‘When I started working in events, the outdoor industry didn’t even exist yet. The event industry is unregulated, and so broad and varied that there are many ways to make a living out of it.’

One of the stages at Bestival

One of the key things about music festivals Sarah talked about is the importance of focusing on customer experience as well as the musical line-up. An example of where that strategy wasn’t employed is Forgotten Fields, a festival that flopped due to flawed traffic management, production and reaching out to the wrong demographic.

‘The festival circuit is absolutely saturated. You need something completely different in order to succeed. It’s about trying to find niches, like Creamfields which is easily one of the most unique festivals in the UK largely thanks to its creative production.’

Surprise of the day came when we explored the reasons behind the huge dent between headliners and the rest of the festival line-up when it comes to payment. It appears that at mainstream festivals like Download, one headliner will cost roughly £1-2 million to the promoters and since festival profit margins are usually within the last 1,000 tickets, it’s not that shocking anymore when festivals go bankrupt.

‘Festival production is just exploitation of theatrical content. Arena shows, festivals, major events - they’re the same worlds and every experience you get matters.’

Finally, Sarah discussed the financial power of large media conglomerates like Live Nation by comparing two similar festivals Download and Sonisphere. Both are rock/metal events but the difference is in their resources, meaning that Sonisphere is finding it difficult to be sustainable when Download that is owned by Live Nation can offer same artists double the fee. These major conglomerations are directly endangering the independent music scene.

Like the sound of this? Find out more about our music management, music production and performance degrees. Alternatively, those who are interested in a career in music journalism should visit our English and journalism page.