The first annual AMP Festival came to 9th Street in Automobile Alley on August 27th, 2016. The outdoor festival celebrated Art and Music created by women and girls with live music hosted all-female bands, female-fronted bands, and solo performers, as well as a variety of artists and artisans.
With the festival over, I spoke with founder, Tobi Coleman, for my new Better OK segment. This series shares stories and advice from people working to make Oklahoma a better place, which started with my documentary, District Up. My goal is to provide lessons learned and inspire others to do great things with art, businesses, and events. In this in-depth interview, Tobi dicusses why AMP Festival was started, the logistics of planning a festival, and the future.
What is AMP Festival?
It is a festival to celebrate art and music created by women to benefit Oklahoma City Girls Art School and Rock and Roll Camp for Girls.
Why did you start it?
We (Revolve Productions) were inspired after I (Tobi) volunteered at Rock and Roll Camp for Girls OKC in 2015. We had been wanting to do a new event that was different than anything else in OKC. Once I volunteered at camp, I knew that what we were doing was a female inspired event that would give back to Rock and Roll Camp for Girls OKC and Oklahoma City Girls Art School.
Why did you pick to host it in Automobile Alley?
We had searched for a location for several months with no success. Aly Branstetter had come to our office to meet with us about something else when she saw the note on our vision board about it. She suggested 9th Street in Automobile Alley. Once she spoke to the businesses on the street, they were all on board.
What factors did you consider for location when planning the event?
The biggest factor as far as we are concerned in the layout of the event itself. Whether or not it flows and allows foot traffic to easily access all areas of the event so that no exhibitors participating are missed out on.
What factors should other festival planners consider?
Even though we encouraged folks to bring chairs, lots of people just showed up to see what was going on and we should have had seating for them. People will stay longer with seating. Also, you need to have plenty of food, drinks, and other activities.
How was the festival managed?
Revolve Productions, the company that my son Justin and I own managed the event. The two of us did all of the planning and logistics leading up to the day of. We started out with a planning committee of 6 to determine the date, location, times and artists requirements. We then had an art committee of 3 and a music committee of 3 that reviewed all the submissions after our call to artists. We had great volunteers the day of the event too.
What makes a good committee?
A good committee is formed by individuals with knowledge in different areas, contacts that will help further the event and the willingness to do the work. All committees should be “working” committees. If you can’t find someone that will work along side you, they shouldn’t be on the committee.
How was the festival financed?
The festival was financed through sponsorships and by Revolve Productions as the presenting sponsor.
What fundraising advice did you learn along the way?
Once we had a location, we had a very short time ( a little over 2 months) to get the funding for AMP Festival…which is not enough time. When you are seeking sponsorships or funding, you need to be cognizant of budget cycles. Some companies run on a January-December fiscal year, reviewing their next year budgets in the fall. Others run on a July- June fiscal year, reviewing their next year budget in the spring. It’s best to approach potential sponsors a little ahead of when they are reviewing the next year budget. With the timing of our event, we were outside of both of those windows which made it difficult, but we knew that going in.
How were volunteers recruited?
We had a link to “participate” on our website and we blasted it via social media for them to sign up there. We were also contacted out of the blue by people we knew, who had heard about the event and wanted to help.
What perks and incentives did you give to your volunteers?
Our volunteers that were there the day of the festival all received free AMP Fest t-shirts. They were scheduled in blocks of time that they chose, which allowed them to enjoy the event on their own time as well.
What did you do to promote the event?
We purchased advertising through Tyler Media and scheduled numerous on air (tv/radio) appearances the week of the event.
What challenges did you face on the day of the festival and how did you overcome them?
Our biggest challenge was the heat emanated by the blacktop in front of the stage. Once we had cloud cover, it was fine. We are taking steps to remedy this for next year. Truly, that is really the only challenge we had. Everything went very smoothly. I attribute this to our detailed planning/execution and the wonderful volunteers.
What will you do differently next year?
We will provide some seating and shade cover on the blacktop.
How do you measure the success of the event?
For us, we measure the success of an event by the turnout. When you have more people attend than you anticipate, that is a good thing. Additionally, success for us is also gauged by whether or not we stayed inside our budget.
If you were to be able to remove one element from the festival to make your life easier what would it be?
We can’t think of anything. Again, it was executed very smoothly. We have over 20 years experience producing events and festivals, so we can do it with our eyes closed.
What did you do to make the event environmentally friendly and how can you make the festival more environmentally friendly next time?
We contacted OKC Beautiful to get loaner recycle bins. They were placed next to almost every trash can and in key areas where people would be disposing of recyclables. We will use them again next year.
Who are you most thankful for in regards to the event?
This event would not have happened without Aly Branstetter and Steve Mason. In addition to those two, Leah Bellflower was instrumental in helping us with contacts and media promotion.
What do you enjoy or look forward to the most about the festival?
We had so many bands/musicians that contacted us after the call to artists. We really look forward to the types of music that will be submitted next year.
What is the thing that you wish the attendees knew or understood better?
Even though this event is to celebrate women, it is open for everyone to attend, is all ages, pet-friendly and FREE. Also, we worked really hard to showcase the different types of music genres and art. Last but not least, I want everyone to understand that this event is to support Oklahoma City Girls Art School and Rock and Roll Camp for Girls OKC.
Anything else you want to add or wisdom to share?
Scheduling (of everything, when stuff arrives, when stuff is ordered, etc) and follow-up is the most important thing anything a festival planner can do. It will make your life so much easier the day of the event.
AMP Festival 2017 is scheduled for Saturday, August 26 starting at Noon.