Gillian Henderson recently headed up North to sunny Liverpool for this year's instalment of the landmark music festival and industry conference.

Sound City 2017 is celebrating its 10th birthday. Having long cemented itself as the UK’s premier international music and digital business conference and festival, this year they surpassed themselves.

The festival featured two special concerts to kick off proceedings with electro innovators The Human League and The Velvet Underground’s own John Cale in the only European performance of the band’s Andy Warhol album.

As if that wasn't enough for festival goers, the weekend line-up brimmed with talent including Metronomy, The Kooks, The Cribs, Peaches, Slaves and The Kills.

I was asked to sit on a panel at Sound City+, the conference side of the festival, called the No Nonsense Guide to Putting on a Festival. Chaired by Becky Ayres, Liverpool Sound City’s very own Chief Operating Officer, it also included fellow panellists festival booker Emma Zillman of From the Fields/Bluedot Festivals, band agent Shaun Faulkner from Xray Touring and consultant Anna Maloney from The Culture Diary.

Festivals play such a critical part in the live music ecosystem and many artists aspire to headline them, but what's the best way of starting a festival that makes bands want to play it? We imparted some of our tips on building a successful festival from ticketing, booking, customer experience and of course the band’s perspective.


My background is in venue management. Having worked in them for over 12 years in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Liverpool, I have seen great examples of inner city festivals utilising the very best venues to host their events. Combining resources and working in partnership, venues can provide a great multi-venue festival experience allowing fans to see bands in places they might not traditionally expect them to be in. For example, in Glasgow we recently had the BBC 6 Music Festival which saw Depeche Mode who normally appear in stadiums play the Barrowlands.

What is also critically important is getting the ticketing aspect of the festival right, and I strongly advocated spending some time planning an on-sale campaign and working in conjunction with your ticketing partner to really maximise the marketing reach. Working together means you can come up with additional marketing support and creative ideas to capture festival goers’ interest and persuade them to buy tickets to your event.

For more information about Sound City, TicketWeb or festival marketing, contact Gillian Henderson at

Words by Gillian Henderson


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