Since Woodstock in 1969, music festivals have taken America by storm, particularly in the summer season.
However, we all know that festival tickets can be quite pricey, especially when you have to factor in traveling costs, lodging, food and spending money.
Luckily, there are many volunteer organizations in existence that reward volunteers for their time with free tickets to the festival/concert/event. Typically volunteers will be designated in a certain area (parking, tickets, clean-up,) and must dedicate a minimum amount of hours in order to maintain access to the concert.
Here are three volunteer organizations that can help make your festival dreams come true. (Also be sure to check out specific festival websites as they typically have separate volunteer teams.)
1. Work Exchange Team (WET)
Work Exchange Team is a volunteer organization that provides music-lovers with a different perspective of the show. Work duties range from hospitality, VIP, catering, front gate, specific site opportunities and more.
To volunteer, people must be over 18 years old and must register online through WET’s website to get into their database. This will allow WET to send you email updates. Afterwards, apply on WET’s website to the available festivals, where you’ll be asked to pay an application fee which will help cover the costs of WET funding and is non-refundable- typically this costs about $10-$15. Volunteers also will need to put down a deposit equaling the full cost of the ticket price, however, this is refundable as long as volunteers show up to every committed shift, which among a 3-day festival is about 18 hours. So if you wanted to volunteer for Bonnaroo, for example, you would put up about $270 total, but would receive $250 back as long as you volunteer during your expected shifts. All shift details will be provided ahead of time, and volunteers will typically experience a brief “orientation” one day before the start of the actual event.
In exchange for your services, you’ll receive a full festival pass, meet new people from all over the world, receive a free WET t-shirt and overall get to see the festival from behind the scenes. While you can’t exactly determine where you’ll be working, some people luck out an end up in positions that require little to no work. Still, volunteers should come prepared to work.
WET has previously worked events like Bonnaroo, Coachella, Rothbury, Lollapalooza, Wakarusa, Wonderlust, Camp Bisco and more. Current festival sign-ups include West Beach Festival in Santa Barbara, CA, De Luna Festival in Pensacola, FL, and Yonder Mountain String Band Harvest Festival in Ozark, AR.
Based in Maine, Reverb is a non-profit volunteer group that was founded by Lauren Sullivan and Adam Gardner (of alternative band Guster.) Reverb uses a grassroots approach an environmentally-friendly methods to help keep festival grounds clean and safe for both artists’ and fans. Reverb helps to educate everyone in the concert industry about how to live a greener life by setting up tents, putting up extra trash and recycling cans, offering advice to fans and incentives for fans and artists both. Reverb hopes that fans will take this “green” approach home with them after the show or festival.
Some specific aspects of Reverb include the “Eco-Village,” which has activities to educate fans, Non-Profit Groups, which are organizations that host each Eco-Village, “Fan Carbon Offset Program,” which allows fans to offset their carbon footprint, a Jumbotron Slideshow, Greening Website, an Eco-Concert Program, which describes greening initiatives, and of course, the Volunteer Program. Volunteers essentially will help out in any/all of the programs mentioned previously.
Other aspects of the program include Biodiesel Fueling, Waste Reduction and Recycling and Hospitality and Catering.
Current volunteer projects include Arcade Fire, Guster, Dave Matthews Band, Phish, Barenaked Ladies, Sheryl Crow, Drake, John Mayer, Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, The Roots, State Radio and more.
To register online for future projects, click here.
Headcount’s motto is “Music, Democracy, Action.” Indeed, Headcount seeks volunteers to help register voters at concerts and to help promote democracy. So far through artist connections and concert promoting ties, Headcount has registered over 150,000 voters.
Headcount simply wants to encourage young people to vote and “make their voice heard” by becoming informed of recent political events. Many popular artists have supported Headcount at their shows, pointing out their access tents and campaigning in their name (These artists include Phish, The Dead, Wilco, Pearl Jam, the Dave Matthews Band and more.)
Volunteers will help out by setting up the Headcount table and bringing people to the table to vote. Some specific campaign issues include Food and Farm Policy, Health Care Reform, Personal Liberty, Gulf Coast Recovery, Human Rights and Sustainability and Conservation. To volunteer and register on Headcount’s website, click here.
Headcount has worked with many bands an artists, such as Ani Difranco, Ben Harper, Dr. Dog, Death Cab for Cutie, Wilco, Tom Petty, Rogue Wave, Phish, Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, Neil Young, The National and more. Festivals include Rothbury, SXSW, Pitchfork, Nateva, Mountain Jam, Farm Aid, Camp Bisco, Outside Lands and more.