Quora: How do festival organizers go about deciding set times?

Quora Question:

How do festival organizers go about deciding set times?

One of the most frustrating thing about music festivals is when two or more artists you like perform at overlapping times. Do festival organizers take any steps to avoid conflicts as much as possible?

My Answer:

The Short Answer:

Set times are chosen with a great deal of careful calculation. Yes, of course, festival organizers certainly try to minimize scheduling conflicts between artists with similar audiences as much as possible.

The Long Answer:

It takes a lot of thoughtful planning (and careful listening) to prepare the schedule for a multi-stage event, especially if the event spans multiple days, and most especially when one or more of the stages runs for 24+ hours.

Keep in mind that larger festivals may have a team of people collaborating on a large task like scheduling a performance stage. Not everyone may be familiar with the music of all the artists, or know their fanbase. Even when people are informed, they may still disagree.

There are general considerations that almost always apply, such as when to place the ‘headline’ act, and how to create a logical musical progression of acts from open to close.

Some considerations are ‘political’ – such as how to draw the crowd in at a key moment, or how to highlight upcoming artists who deserve an opportunity. Sometimes there are stipulations in an artist’s contract about when they must perform, with a certain set of prescribed conditions. All these factors can play a part in the scheduling.

Sometimes there is debate about whether to cluster music stages by style or genre, or whether to intentionally mix it up in order to expose people to performances they might not otherwise see. It can be easier to just group similar artists together, but an integrated performance schedule provides not only audience diversity but also a stimulus for people to walk around and check out different areas of the event.

So really, it’s a very complicated task, and there are a number of calculations that go into the decision-making process. No one answer will be true for all festivals.

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