Wearing a pink princess costume and handing out icy popsicles to thousands of thirsty construction workers on a beach is probably the last thing I ever imagined myself doing, but when you work for music festivals — it happens.
I am a 20-year-old junior in the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's music business program. I've played musical instruments since I was very young, and I am pursuing a career in the music industry. After attending Lollapalooza, a large music festival held in Chicago, I realized that my passion was more specifically related to producing music festivals.
Seeing artists like Coldplay, Muse, A$AP Rocky, Ellie Goulding and The Beach Boys perform at music festivals opened my eyes to the wide variety of genres represented at these events.
Because music festivals book an extremely diverse variety of artists from a wide range of genres, naturally, the audience attending festivals is also extremely culturally diverse. Traveling the world and bringing different types of people together just to jam out to fun music is the best way I can imagine spending my life.
When I started out as a music business major, the first thing I learned about was the uniqueness of the music industry. It is unique in that, unlike other industries, it is always rapidly evolving.
Music is constantly being released, and the genres and styles that are popular are always changing with the tastes and preferences of the listeners: you. It's difficult to be taught a lot of the skills required to be successful in the music business because, along with the main music trends, those entrepreneurial skills and strategies are quickly evolving and changing as well.
As time progresses and new music is introduced to the market, new marketing techniques, production technology and networking mediums are also introduced. That being said, UL Lafayette's music business program's curriculum does a pretty great job at covering all the bases for me.
The first year of the degree is mainly spent learning music theory, participating in a group ensemble or a band and beginning the mastery of whatever instrument you choose. For my first semester, I chose to specialize in singing. It was pretty difficult, and I honestly got chewed up and spit out a few times before I really got a handle on my work ethic.
Being a massive failure my first semester was definitely something that I regret, but failing in college was still important to me because it made me realize how much I really cared about being here. My horrific GPA helped me mature and learn to value my education. Being embarrassed of my failure helped fuel me to continue my program and keep grinding until I reached my goals.
Starting my second year, I had a new attitude to put to the test. The second year is mainly spent continuing to apply the techniques and skills learned in the instrumentation and ensemble classes. My newly discovered ambition helped push me through the year and come out the other side with a solid foundation of music-related knowledge. I also got to take a class every semester where all you have to do is sit in Angelle Hall and listen to bands perform for an hour or so. Although none of the performances have light shows and fog machines like Kid Cudi, I still loved getting to watch and observe other peers perform. Not quite a music festival experience, but it was a rewarding learning experience nonetheless.
Although these were pretty small steps, they felt momentous because of how many mental puzzle pieces started to click together. I was able to apply my knowledge from the first two years into my new classes and the actual work field in ways that I hadn't anticipated. After the second year ended, I really started branching out into the industry the way I wanted to: meeting with big artists, attending more music festivals and helping out in more local recording sessions.
The third year of the curriculum focuses mainly on the business side of the music industry, whereas the first two years revolve around the music itself. Transitioning my role in the industry from a practicing musician to an active businessman is something that the curriculum's design helped me achieve.
Taking applied music classes so that I'd have the background in musical knowledge first and foremost helped influence the business decisions that I had to make as I entered my accounting and economics classes. That background was crucial in making important business decisions because my first instinct was to approach the problems creatively.
Had I not known the creative side of the music industry, I would have been oblivious to a lot of the factors that need to be considered in my decisions: stage setup, cable usage, how weather can effect the artist's sound, etc. The "music first, business second" approach has proven to be pretty fruitful for me.
These classes especially came in handy when I worked for my first music festival — Festival International de Louisiane. As a 2014 programming/marketing intern, working under the incredible Lisa Stafford, I learned more about festival contracts, international booking, event production and transportation scheduling than I had ever imagined I'd need to know.
Getting to work with Festival International was also eye-opening because it was my first real experience working behind-the-scenes for a festival. Seeing GIVERS joking around before their set, watching DakhaBrakha soundcheck their drums and meeting artists from African countries are experiences that I don't exactly have every day. The months leading up to the festival were filled with long hours, lots of paperwork and even more hours on the phone.
Was it worth it? Absolutely.
After I worked my brain to death for Festival International, I applied and was accepted for an internship at Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama — ready to do it all over again.
I spent my first week there meeting the owners and producers, building the festival and making connections. During the actual festival weekend, I got to work in the VIP areas, party with the artists and oversee the entire festival grounds.
If the intermediate-level interns have the opportunity to do all of those crazy adventures, I could only imagine how much more exciting my life will become when I actually get my degree and start working for music festivals full-time.
The world of music festivals is constantly changing, and I can't wait to change along with it. Keeping up with the latest music trends and finding innovative ways to strategically promote new artists is what I love doing. Music festivals are harmonic utopias that I hope to work in for the rest of my life — even if it's as the popsicle princess.