• Asad Ali

What I learned from producing a Music Festival


Troyboi performing at Block Party 2018



The 6th Annual AMS Block Party was the first music festival I attended. I was 19, and it had been exactly eight months since I left Karachi to start university in Vancouver. I managed to skip all my classes that day; little did I know it would soon become a tradition. At the event, I experienced the long lines, warm beer, rain, and soon realized that my friends had been sold fake tickets. By the time the show ended, I was wet, hungry, and covered in mud. Despite the chaos, I wondered how I could become a part of this madness.

Who knew four years later I would be producing the 10th Annual AMS Block Party and creating a foundation for how universities would host music festivals in Canada. Producing a festival has been one of the proudest moments of my life. It has shaped me as an individual who is adaptive, agile, and ambitious. With the wealth of knowledge a festival offers, I have embraced three main learnings: project management, brand marketing, and partnerships.

Project management is a lifelong skill relevant to many industries. If you ever want to move in this direction, I would highly recommend it and even encourage you to get your Project Management Professional Certification (PMP), you will not regret it. A music festival has many moving components and Asana is your best friend. As complexity for a project increases, a project management tool is essential to keep you on track, stay accountable for lead times, and mitigate risks. One should always have a realistic workflow and be open to redesign when needed. Since 2017 I have managed over $6 million, worked with over 100 contractors, and reduced project expenses by 32%.

A marketer always needs a reliable tool kit for all their needs and for me, Airtable, Canva, Hootsuite and Sendinblue have been instrumental. Over the years I’ve managed to build a brand that is recognizable with over 20 billion impressions to date. In an age where organic reach has become more difficult, it is important to be vibrant. A brand sets expectations, creates memories, and builds relationships that allow consumers to choose how they want to experience it. I strongly believe that each festival sold out because of the way we executed the marketing. In three years, I have hosted over 40,000 people and have made these shows the biggest music festivals hosted by a student union in Western Canada.

Never hold back when it comes to your creative direction, it is fundamental to create a sense of belonging and at the same time envisioning an experience one would want to be part of. I was blessed to be surrounded by great creators who were always able to execute the vision that best fit the brand.

Check out our most recent features Block Party 2019 & Welcome Back BBQ 2019

I enjoy taking risks when it comes to creating content - use marketing mantras to help you with the process, mine is ‘keep it simple yet significant’. On a side note, if you decide to continue your career as a marketer look into getting your Chartered Marketer Designation (CM), just like the PMP, 100% worth it.

The art of partnerships is a beauty of its own. Having managed partnerships worth $500,000, I believe the perfect partner is someone who is willing to grow with you and at the same time able to share their expertise. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great brands such as Nude Beverages, Burb, Redbull, and RBC who further enhanced the overall experience of these shows. My key learnings from partnerships have been to always use a partner assessment checklist, never stop engaging with potential leads, motivate yourself to keep going when you're rejected, and use DocuSign.

2020 has been an interesting year, after producing six successful shows, canceling Block Party 2020 just four weeks before the scheduled date was absolutely heartbreaking. Over eight months of hard work disappeared overnight. You’d be surprised by the amount of work that goes into producing a music festival. Shockingly, even more, goes into canceling one.

My journey has taught me all these transferable skills that are applicable in numerous roles. I have had a particular hands-on opportunity where I flourished. I am a hard-working individual who has the mindset to get the work done. I am focused and always willing to take the extra step to learn more.

I’m thankful for everything I have accomplished. I am proud to be an experience creator.

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