Tucker Gumber—aka The Festival Guy™—is one of the world’s most festivaled individuals. Since embarking upon this colorful journey of human celebration in 2011, Gumber has been to 112 festivals and has spent a total of 370 days on site. Yes, that one whole year out of the last six spent festivaling. Needless to say, Gumber might be one of the most clued up guests that will almost certainly be wandering through your gate this season.
In the last year, Tucker has extended his influence in the community by launching app-based resource FestEVO and publishing The Festival Thrower’s Bible. Tucker’s become a staple on the US festival scene and his energy his infectious when you meet him on site.
Given the scope of his experience, we decided to reach out and get his perspective on the simple things festival promoters can do to really elevate the experience of their event for the fans.
Experience It from the Guest Perspective
“Going to a lot of these things has made me realize that small, seemingly inconsequential mistakes on the part of the organizers can have huge consequences from the fan’s perspective,” he explains. “And I think it’s important for organizers to see things that way.”
— Electric Forest (@Electric_Forest) February 12, 2017
Yes, roughing it with the GA punters during the festival is going to teach you a lot about how well you have set up your event. How far is the walk from the furthest edge of the campsite to the festival? Walk it a few times. Try heading to the bathrooms in the dark, or finding your tent when you’re hammered. Okay, maybe you don’t need to go all out on this, but connect yourself to the average experience and your fans will thank you for it.
Go to a Variety of Festivals
Gumber recommends that promoters visit a variety of festivals every season to learn from the competition.
“Lightning in a Bottle, Coachella, Electric Forest, and What the Festival,” said Gumber without missing a beat. “For me, if you see each of these events you’ll have a very good sense of how well run and unique a festival experience can be.”
Remember when? This shot of Distrikt at sunset by Christopher Morahan was our most liked Instagram photo of the last week. pic.twitter.com/jnPJCymTWc
— Burning Man (@burningman) January 31, 2017
And, naturally, Tucker strongly recommends Burning Man. “It’s some of the world’s most creative people coming together to collaborate on an art project. There’s nothing like it.”
Spend Money on Art
Resonating what Lost Paradise founder Simon Beckingham told Intellitix in our piece on building lasting boutique festivals, lineups might be the ticket pushers initially, but beautiful art and a well dressed site will keep people coming back year after year.
“A festival should be a beautiful place to spend time with your friends, and if it is you’ll come back again,” Gumber explains. “Every festival should have at least a couple of art cars roaming around the grounds.”
“Art and non-musical creativity,” he continues, “has the ability to sell tickets before the lineup is announced, and that’s the dream of many festival promoters.”
Create Trash Rules
Festivals create big, deep carbon footprints, and it’s hard not to convulse with a mixture of rage, sadness and embarrassment when you see photos of British festival sites looking like literal garbage dumps. There’s absolutely no excuse for these kinds of scenes anymore, and The Festival Guy™ believes that the answer comes with creating rules.
“It should be stated that we need to pick up after ourselves. The reason why festival sites are often so dirty is because a select few people think that it’s someone’s job to clean up after them. That’s a terrible attitude to have and we can fix it by making that rule part of the festival culture.”
Develop Stronger Signage
Yes, you might know every painstaking nook and cranny of your festival site, but your fans don’t and when it gets dark and the party has gotten the better of your patrons’ wits, people will get lost if you don’t mark things out adequately.
“You should be naming your campgrounds, clearly directing people towards them, and lighting the way with some delicate fairy lights,” said Tucker. But he warned against making the lights too bright. “I camped under one of those big bright lights before, and 3am looked like noon! Not nice.”
Unsurprisingly, the biggest takeaway that you’ll get from Tucker’s experience is that the finer points of success stem from seeing the event from the perspective of a fan. He is walks the line neatly between being a fan and a professional, and his value in consulting hinges on keeping that balance and staying focused on the experience.