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How to choose the right Music Festival
A festival goer's guide to picking the right music festival (headliner pic by Michael Spencer)

First comes opportunity, then comes choice. There are perhaps 10,000 music festivals in Europe this year, that’s a lot.  Consider this: there are 196 countries on this planet yet in the UK this year ChooseFest has recorded upwards of 400 music festivals, that’s like saying “Where shall we go on holiday this year?” and having two planets worth of countries to choose from. You could pack up the tent, stick on your wellies and set off every morning of every day of a year and still not see all of the festivals in the UK. Great, isn’t it? It is. Festivals are popping up everywhere and bringing with them new music, new styles and new experiences. With so many festivals available, it’s often a challenge to choose one, so here’s our guide to choosing the right music festival for you! Please do let us know your experiences in the comments at the bottom.

Pick a festival with Great Music
(pic by Christian Holmér)

The key factors to choosing a music fest:

  • Music you like
  • Great Location
  • Festival Community
  • Organisers Ethics
  • Budget

Some of the best advice we heard when chatting to a few friends before starting ChooseFest was “Be open for new experiences, but prepared”. Solid festival advice in every word. Below we go through a hit-list of what to think about when choosing which music festival to attend but we don’t talk much about what to do when you get there – watch this space for more info on that, for now – how do you find a music festival with music that’ll make you smile ear to ear?

Music You Like

Whether you’re a heavy metal guy or a folk pop girl you probably know a few bands you want to see at a festival. If your bands are major (or young) then you will probably find their website quite easily, most of them will put up tour dates on which you can find the festivals they are performing at this year. This is how we started, but there’s quite a major problem with it. Try doing this for 10 bands, it would take you hours, collating all that info is not fun and festivals should be all about the fun. This is why we made ChooseFest, to make it FUN to find the best fest :) You can hop straight over to the ChooseFest Festival Search, add your bands and get automatically matched to a festival, hours turns magically into seconds or minutes, you can even jump straight to the festival ticket buying pages after you have found a festival.

So if you know which bands you want to see that’s you covered. What about a group of you with lots of music tastes? Well roll right up! ChooseFest still works here, just get your group together (we recommend a group dinner somewhere nice, where there’s wifi.) Each add 4 or 5 of your “must see” bands & artists, from the mixed selection you will be presented with a “best match” as well as a list of other near hits that will give you some options to discuss.

Notes on Music @ Festivals:

  • The bigger the names on the bill (head-liners) the pricier/busier the festival
  • Do you want to discover new music or see your favourites?
  • Watch out for set clashes – do any of your favourites play at the same time?
Great Location’s

The amazing location of Sasquatch festival – The Gorge Amphitheatre (pic by Wil Kristin)

Festivals come in all shapes and sizes, this is part of the appeal of finding new festivals to go to. But how far are you willing to go? 30 minutes in the car? 4 hours on the bus? A few hours on a cheap flight? Depending on which of these applies you can find some great festivals in great locations. Looking locally you might be lucky enough to catch a major festival but for most people keeping it local restricts you to city/county festivals and smaller events (some of these are still amazing!) We recommend you ask yourself the following before you start looking for a festival:

  • For how long would I travel for the most amazing festival?
  • How much money do I have for travelling?
    (remember food and fuel – service stations are expensive!)
  • Will I be able to get a seat on the (bus/train/plane)?
    (popular festivals cause all sorts of transport sell-outs)
  • Am I looking for a special environment or a focus on the festival?

Remember – always allow an extra few hours in your plans for traffic – especially if it’s a huge festival. Organisers are pretty good at managing traffic and parking but you never know what can happen. Try to rest up the night before so you can hit the festival fresh, ready to find a spot for your tent and enjoy the location!

Festival Community

Which music festival has a community that suits you? (pic by Michael Dolan, Coachella 2010)

A major selling point for music festivals is the strong sense of community you get from pitching your tent within meters of other music lovers’ tents; you’re all there with a shared intention of enjoyment and experience, it’s a fantastic aspect of festivals. Every festival we have ever been to has had a strong community feel, but the communities are different from festival to festival. You will probably find as friendly people at a metal festival as you will at a mainstream music festival or a small folk gathering, but the way everyone interacts will differ. While it’s likely that if you share music tastes with the other festival goers you will share other values, it might help you to choose between a few festivals if you go to their websites, read comments and try to absorb their attitudes – the one which stands out most will probably be the one which best fits your outlook. Also: watch for festival goers’ reviews for next year’s festivals on ChooseFest.

Organisers’ Ethics

A growing trend amongst festival goers is to discern their festival of choice by the nature of its organisers. The rise of the green festival has become a strong movement and one for the better of everyone. If you are concerned with the environmental effects of your musical tourism then reading up on the festivals core values will often help you decide if it’s a good choice. Many UK festivals this year are doing their bit to help reduce the impact our festivals have on the environment, for example Croissant Neuf Summer Party is the first Solar Powered Festival!

Do your bit:

  • Read about the festival you want to attend, do they have an “Ethics” or “Eco” page?
  • If they don’t, ask them about their policy on recycling/environmental protection
  • Keep your tent! Buy a quality tent in the first place
    (don’t subscribe to the “throwaway tent” movement)
  • Car Share – Sites like goCarShare are great for polluting less on the way to your festival

Experiences trump possessions any day, you can’t put a value on experiences – you can however budget your spending for festivals to stop it getting blown out of proportion.

Tip: Festival food is expensive on site, budget accordingly (or bring sandwhichs)
(pic by Rich Jones)

With festival ticket prices growing on average faster than inflation it’s easy to buy a ticket early on in the year and forget to save for the travel, food and other expenses of the festival. Depending on the size of the festival and when you buy tickets (if you have a festival you really want to go to then early-bird tickets are the way forward!) you can spend anywhere between £5 and £500 on a festival ticket, with some festivals offering VIP tickets and Glamping additionally which can put the price up into the thousands (£,$ or €.) Once you have secured your ticket remember to save/allow money for the essentials.

We recommend you put aside some money for the following:

  • Travel – Bus/plane/train Ticket/Fuel/Human Fuel
  • Food – On-site food can be pricey, so allow for that – bring your own?
  • Toiletries – Soap, Toothpaste, Condoms, Aftershave, Make-up etc.
  • Beverages – essential for many festival goers, budget accordingly
  • Backup fund – What if you want to buy a hat with tassels on?

Like all types of tourism it’s good to bear in mind things like security and backup cash, watch this space for a much fuller guide on “what to take to festivals” where we will go more in depth into that.

Now Go Choose Your Music Festival!

So there we have it – this has been our guide on how to best choose which music festival suits you or your group, we hope you all HAVE AN AMAZING festival, if you have found this useful please do let us know in the comments, oh and yeah: share it with your friends!


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