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Daniel Zetterstro totem etiquette
Photo: Daniel Zetterstrom


Rave 101: The Do’s and Don’ts of the Totem

A totem, as defined by the Dance Music Northwest “Ravetionary,” is: “An object used as a beacon or group locator at EDM events – often times a meme, plush toy, or sign fixed to a pole.” Love them, or hate them, we must come to accept they’re a huge part of the dance music community. Used properly they can make finding friends easier and even great for a few laughs. However, used incorrectly, they can lead to an annoyance for others… which leads to an annoyance for you. With festival season just beginning in the PNW, these totem tips are guaranteed to make you a pro in no time.

While these guidelines can be applied to most events, we do understand some venues have restrictions on whats allowed inside the gates. Before we go any further we’d like to lay down the most obvious rule up front – totems are meant for festivals, not clubs. A big part of a totem’s purpose is to help your group locate you, especially in massive crowds at festivals with little to no cell service. If you’re bringing a totem into a club, you’re over doing it. However, small signs are okay, as long as their not getting in the way of others… we’ll cover that soon.

Photo: Marco Torres

Photo: Marco Torres

While we can go into full detail about the design of your totem, it’s best saved for another day. The purpose here is to simply state the Do’s and Don’ts to make sure you, and everyone around you, enjoys themselves.


  • Make sure your pole material is permitted inside festival grounds. Some events restrict certain pole types.
  • Use an extendable pole – allows for easy packing, lightweight and maximum height.
  • If an extendable pole isn’t an option, make sure your pole is tall enough to keep your totem out of peoples way and not block their view.
  • Use lots of colors – anyone can make a simple black and white sign. Make something your own and it’ll be easier to be recognized.
  • Lights are a great way to be spotted at night, just be sure you have extra batteries, and don’t forget that add extra weight. El Wire is best for this!
  • MEMES MEMES MEMES – we all love a good meme and will generally lead to a good laugh
  • Make something specific to you or your crew – having something relatable is a great way to be spotted, and makes for an easy story when people ask you about your totem.
  • Have fun with it – totems are a great way to express yourself and can make for a great time at festivals.
Photo: Soodyod

Photo: Soodyod

We’ve stated plenty of times before that there isn’t a right or wrong way way to enjoy a festival. However, as a community, we do have a few basic pieces of etiquette that allow us all to have a great time. The “R” in PLUR stands for Respect, and is a cornerstone to the foundation of this wonderful community. These simple DON’TS will help make sure your totem is ready to take on any festival.


  • Block peoples view – This is probably the most important one and is easily done by making sure your pole is tall enough (A 9′ pole will give 3′ of clearance when on the ground and even more when you hold it up!). If you can’t make a tall enough pole it’s best to stand toward the back of the crowd.
  • Be offensive – profanity is generally fine, but best not to use anything racial, religious, political, or about gender. What might be funny to you may upset someone else… just think before you commit to a phrase
  • Make it complicated – going overboard with lights, or size can be distracting. Keep it simple.
  • Bring them to clubs – as we said before, totems are really a festival item. Keep them at home when you’re going out for the night.

We highly encourage you and your crew to create a totem for the upcoming festival season. There are literally thousands of ideas and virtually no limit to what you can come up with. Just make sure to keep these Do’s and Don’ts in mind when designing it. We look forward to seeing you all around the PNW this festival season, be sure to tell us which totem your crew will be sporting and we’ll make sure to say hello.

As always be sure to give us a follow on Instagram and Twitter and like us on Facebook to find out where we’ll be next!


Important things happen in Pacific Northwest nightlife, and DMNW will send you alerts!

Written By

Avid adventure, and full time wild thing. Lover of all types of music but hold those that make me want to shake my rumpus close to my heart.

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Important things happen in Pacific Northwest nightlife, and DMNW will send you alerts!

Founded in 2013. © 2021 Dance Music Northwest, LLC.


Important things happen in Pacific Northwest nightlife, and DMNW will send you alerts!