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Help: How do I start a music festival

GUEST,car4doc@core.com 18 Aug 01 - 08:11 AM
Bat Goddess 18 Aug 01 - 09:14 AM
Murray MacLeod 18 Aug 01 - 09:56 AM
John P 18 Aug 01 - 09:58 AM
Pinetop Slim 18 Aug 01 - 12:39 PM
GUEST,Mac Tattie 18 Aug 01 - 12:39 PM
McGrath of Harlow 18 Aug 01 - 12:51 PM
RWilhelm 18 Aug 01 - 01:17 PM
Maryrrf 18 Aug 01 - 01:22 PM
Sarah2 18 Aug 01 - 02:29 PM
Liz the Squeak 18 Aug 01 - 04:20 PM
GUEST,leeneia 19 Aug 01 - 12:24 AM
Bat Goddess 19 Aug 01 - 09:57 AM
McGrath of Harlow 19 Aug 01 - 10:06 AM
sophocleese 19 Aug 01 - 10:15 AM
Ebbie 19 Aug 01 - 01:23 PM
Mr Red 19 Aug 01 - 06:06 PM
RWilhelm 19 Aug 01 - 06:43 PM
Sarah2 20 Aug 01 - 11:52 AM
vectis 20 Aug 01 - 06:19 PM
GUEST,Blind DRunk in Blind River 20 Aug 01 - 06:36 PM
GUEST,PeteBoom (at work) 21 Aug 01 - 09:16 AM
Liz the Squeak 21 Aug 01 - 02:38 PM
GUEST,car4doc@core.com 22 Aug 01 - 12:26 PM
Kele 22 Aug 01 - 09:48 PM
GUEST,GENE 16 Feb 11 - 10:13 AM
banjoman 17 Feb 11 - 05:19 AM
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Subject: How do I start a music festival
From: GUEST,car4doc@core.com
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 08:11 AM

Hi, I am new to MudCat & only hear about it through a friend. I have to ask for some help. Where do I begin. I found a town with good people & lots of heart. This town is Fort Madison,Iowa right on the Mississippi River. There is interest in getting a Folk music festival started. They have run festivals in the past which have grown to be to big. Being a small town they don't have a lot of resources. So what do I need to get a Folk festival started?? Thanks, Rob


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 09:14 AM

I'll point out this thread to Curmudgeon when he gets home. He was one of the major organizers of the Great Bay Folklife Festival which ran for 2 years (until done in by a tornado which the powers that be called a microburst but I'm from the midwest and know a tornado when I see one) in Newmarket, NH in the early '90s. He can give you many more details and suggestions on the practicalities and economics. All I know for sure is it takes a lot of planning and organizing and fundraising and publicity and a really good team (and time) to do all of that. And you have to plan for the totally unexpected, like the weather.

Bat Goddess


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 09:56 AM

I can second everything Bat Goddess says. I have worked on three different festival committees, and the only thing I would add is that it is essential to have a strong leader directing things. This is one area where democracy doesn't work, believe me.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: John P
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 09:58 AM

Get together a relatively small (8 -10 people?) but good team of volunteers to serve as your steering committee. At least one of them should have bookkeeping/accounting experience. One should have fundraising experience, or be willing to learn in a hurry (and be demonstrably capable of doing so). One should be charismatic and empathic enough attract and keep lots of other volunteers. One should have some experience at facilities management. All should buy into your vision of what the festival ought to look and feel like before they are asked to join the committee. Try to have a lawyer on the board.

Make exhaustive lists of everything you can think of that might possibly need to get done. Divide these tasks up amongst your committee. Make sure everyone is clear about what and WHEN each task needs to be done.

Don't be afraid to, without hesitation, "fire" one of your volunteers if they are not following through on what they agreed to do.

Break down everything that needs to get done into the smallest components possible, and involve as many other volunteers as possible in taking care of these things. The idea is to have lots of small, easily conquered tasks that are spread out to lots of people, so no one feels overloaded and no task seems insurmountable.

The better the advance planning, the better the festival. If you leave things to chance and hope they'll come out OK, they won't. Always maintain the high ethical ground in everything you do that is in any way associated with the festival. Learn about and obey all applicable laws. Don't lose your temper.

Have fun, or don't do the festival.

John Peekstok


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: Pinetop Slim
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 12:39 PM

Don't start one. Invent one that fits Fort Madison's needs and resources.
Music festivals come in all stripes -- from participatory workshops in church basements to outdoor spectacles on New York alfalfa fields.
Seems the thing to do is get together a committee of the people of Fort Madison, decide what you want to do, then split up the homework to figure out what you can do.
Resources in the smallest towns usually include church and legion or Grange halls, maybe a bandstand at a local park, and a lot of local talent. Whatever is there, you can design your festival around it.


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: GUEST,Mac Tattie
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 12:39 PM

Go and help out at other festivals for a while first, then when you "dive in" you will have a better idea of the problems and pit falls, and there will be problems and pitfalls, to plan ahead for.


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 12:51 PM

Best festivals are a combination of benevolent despotism and anarchy, like the Mudcat. From observation I think the thing to do is start small, and if it's going to be big, let it grow naturally, to whatever is the appropriate size for the folk community that grows round a festival.

My instinct would be to start off without much if any in the way of paid performers. If you've had festivals there before, and they've died away, that suggests two things. One is that the festivals you had before didn't put down roots, or they'd have continued in some form. But in the other hand they may have left seeds, people who enjoyed them and played some part in them, and who might be available to run song sessions, act as stewards and so forth.


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: RWilhelm
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 01:17 PM

We are in the eigth year of a small but sucessful music festival. I would second everything said so far. Get a small group of dedicated volunteers but a strong absolute leader. Murray is right, democracy does not work here.

Think locally. Featuring local musicians is cheaper and more satisfying than major headliners. Get a community group like the chamber of commerce to sponsor the event for the sake of liability insurance if nothing else. Service groups like Lyons Clubs etc usually have cooking facilities and can provide food service for a percent of the take. Work closely with local government but don't let them run the show.

We donate the profits towards restoration of the park where the festival is held. This wasn't very much at first but the concept made everyone feel good about helping. There will be opposition at first so working towards community improvement as well as music is helpful in getting public opinion on your side. Above all, as everyone has said, have fun with it.


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: Maryrrf
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 01:22 PM

It can be done! A group of about 10 of us put on our first festival last year. There were a lot of things that didn't go right and we ended up in the hole a little and had to do some fundraisers to clear up our debts. BUT....we now know what worked and what didn't and can put this knowledge to work next year. And, it seems the glitches weren't really noticed by anybody but the organizers - everybody who attended had a wonderful time! One piece of advice - fund raise and get seed money enough to cover your expenses up front. You can't count on ticket sales. What hurt us was rain for most of the morning of the festival. Fortunately it cleared up in the afternoon, but lots of people who would have come didn't. Had it not been for the weather I'm sure we would have made money and been able to put it towards next year. But if it had been a total washout - with all day rain or something like that - we'd have been in big trouble! Our next festival is in May of next year and we started planning for it this June, right after the last one. And we set it up exactly as was advised by somebody in a previous thread - a strong person-in-charge, a "board of directors" and several committees who report to the board. It worked well for us, but there has to be somebody with a strong personality to keep things under control, while allowing everybody to express themselves.


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: Sarah2
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 02:29 PM

Maryrrf is right on to tell you not to count on ticket sales. That's a good way to go bust in a hurry. Three things pay for a festival: program advertising, grant money and vendor booth fees.

Be nice to your vendors, work with them to meet their needs and make them want to come back.

Get onto working for grants and sponsorships NOW -- contact your state Arts Commission and ask for guidance, and hie thee to the library to ask for their books of Foundations. This one is a slow and tedious jump-through-the-hoops job, but the payoffs can be huge. Lots of "how to" stuff on the web and in the library, and a cover letter to most foundations will result in an answer of their requirements for applications.

Set your program advertising as low as you can, to sell more ads -- when you're a big noise, you can raise them a little "to cover rising costs" (which, alas, will be true enough) and see if you have some local organizations, especially with kids in them, who will sell ads for a split on the take. People will buy ads from kids who will turn down adults flat. Dance schools, music schools, etc. always need money for those expensive outfits and accoutrements. I could do a whole book on program ad sales. There's real bucks to be had here, but you have to go about it with an eye for the local "main chance."

PM me, if you like, and I'll give you my e-mail address as soon as I can and will send you info. We're less than two months from our festival here and I'm up to my (blub, blub, blub...)

Sarah


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 04:20 PM

And don't forget the limitless resources and full frontal lobotomy.....

I was involved in one that started life as a wedding reception and then turned into an anniversary party, that just got bigger and bigger, turned into a festival that was bloody good. It all died though, when the couple moved away, split up and couldn't find anyone else to take it over.

LTS


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 19 Aug 01 - 12:24 AM

I have never run a festival, but I've worked behind the scenes at concerts and have the following thoughts. 1) Talk to your state arts commission and see if they have advice, publications or mentors to offer.

2) see if the federal government has any publications. It's amazing how many documents they have.

3) seek help from your state Dept of Tourism

4) talk to the weather bureau

5) how about running a small concert series first, as a way of getting practice and bringing out people who are interested in music?

6) always be nice to the volunteers

7) media contempt for traditional music is a great handicap. This has improved some since River Dance made the bigtime, however. I heard "O Give Me Your Hand" in the supermarket two weeks ago. There is hope!


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 19 Aug 01 - 09:57 AM

Don't forget to incorporate as a non-profit organization. Go for local musicians (local = regional) rather than performers with national/international names. Get the performers to sign on for minimal pay, at least until the festival gets started, and for "shares" in whatever money is available after the other hard expenses are paid.

I'll get Curmudgeon to this thread yet! (Yes, he's working again today and won't be home until late.)

Bat Goddess


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 19 Aug 01 - 10:06 AM

Grants. Well, yes, but free lunches can come expensive. The hand that giveth is the hand that taketh away. And the people who give grants may have an agenda that is sharply at odds with yours and you want to find that out in good time.


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: sophocleese
Date: 19 Aug 01 - 10:15 AM

Something I would have thought of as a basic but I've seen a lot of grief over when it wasn't seriously considered, try really, really hard not plan your festival date on the same day as another festival in the area.


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: Ebbie
Date: 19 Aug 01 - 01:23 PM

I agree with those who advise to start small. Our folk festival began as a musical get together in a museum, mostly in order to give musicians a place to jam. It has grown, 27 years later, to a 7-day and night festival that is mostly supported by memberships.

In addition, there are several small 'festivals' thriving locally that have the potential to grow. About 10 years ago, we started 'Camp Damp'(An acronymn for Dance and Music Party- only later did we realize that we were describing the rain forest atmosphere of southeast Alaska!), a three-day weekend getaway at a local retreat. Four years ago, we started a 'Dance the Dark Away', a three-day festival. For it, out of town bands and callers are brought in

Last night we began a fun concert-format thing that is called 'Dog Days Music Mini Fest'. This is the only local festival that has been begun with a theme- this first one was an Arthritis Foundation fundraiser. Later they plan to take on other causes.

It was well attended and a lot of fun. They charged $10 at the door and had a silent auction for baked goodies. Eight sets signed on and the evening ran from 6:00 to 10:00. These were all local people.

Ebbie


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: Mr Red
Date: 19 Aug 01 - 06:06 PM

make good use of free publicity - Libraries, tourist offices, radio, and get the artists themselves to announce it at their gigs, give them handouts.
for the Upton FF (year 2) here I had Sweat & T shirts printed 9 months in advance and a lot of people noticed commented it was a bit early, to which we replied - well it worked on you!
I got a rubber stamp made and even stamped-up beer mats (use web offset ink and a roller), it is the novelty value and some of the efforts were indicative of a bigger festival than it was - in short, credibility.
This thread was a good start!


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: RWilhelm
Date: 19 Aug 01 - 06:43 PM

Two good points, Mr. Red. Free publicity is everywhere with just a little bit of work. And, if you act like a big-time event that's how people will view you.

Local papers will give you plenty of space if you send them quality material. Send them interesting photos, musician's press packs, and a concise, upbeat, summary of the festival. We've had our press release printed verbatim with no money changing hands.


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: Sarah2
Date: 20 Aug 01 - 11:52 AM

Mr Red and Earl make really important points on the free publicity. Get all you can!

A note on press releases: Best done, these are a skill in themselves. If you get slugged into a paper or magazine as "filler," the editor will want to "cut from the bottom," so get your important information up at the top of the release in the first paragraph. This includes the dates, venue, contact addresses and phone number. Then start listing attractions. So you don't just rip off the posters and flyers verbatim, or you might wind up with your contact info cut off in a newspaper article.

Sarah


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: vectis
Date: 20 Aug 01 - 06:19 PM

Planning! Planning! Planning!
A few friends and I are already planning a small folk ale for next July.
We have a site, pub and facilities lined up. Now all we have to do is get enough people to come for a great weekend.
We even hava a steam railway station next door!


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: GUEST,Blind DRunk in Blind River
Date: 20 Aug 01 - 06:36 PM

Okay so you like want to like start a festivale eh? Decent! What you gotta do is con the local pawlitishons into forkig over some cashe eh? If they don't go for it then you gatta find a farmer that owns some land out in the cuntry, eh?

He will probably rent it for a 24 of beer. Then you gotta get at least 5 trucklaods of beer, I dont care how but get it! Then you, like, put up a sh*tload of posters that say stuff like ROCK ON AND GET TANKED!!! That will garanty good attednance, eh?

If you get more people than you can handle, theh hire some bikres to keep the forkers in line. Bikers will work for beer, eh?

Make sure you get bands that are flippin LOUD! If the music is real loud then people will hear it and come to the festival.

Forget about folk music! QWhat you want is ROCK AND HEAVY METAL AND DEATH METAL and maybe some nostalja like a Led Zeppelin cover group.

Ferget about yer Elvis imitators. Tehy suck!

I figger these are the basics and you like got it covered.

Decent, eh?

- BDiBR


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: GUEST,PeteBoom (at work)
Date: 21 Aug 01 - 09:16 AM

Greetings, Car4Doc -

One model I have seen work EXTREMELY well had a group say "We want to do a festival", then they contacted every group and festival of the type they wanted to run within a couple hundred miles and asked "How do you do YOURS?" They then took a couple of years (really!) to sort through the information they got and come up with a plan.

The results have been phenominal - one of the absolute best one day festivals I have ever seen. I've attended four or five years now, and my band played there this past year. They enlisted the support of the local city government/council, local business, based performers around local and regional acts with a couple of major names to get a draw from outside the immediate area (and to generate excitement), and drew in scads of vendors that offered a wide variety of goods in a reasonable price range.

Then take the bits suggested here and run with it (I particularly liked the "beer mat" suggestion - may use that myself on a project - should work better than mousepads...)

The festival I ranted about is in Michigan - their URL is www.salineceltic.org. Drop them (and any other festival you yourself like) a message, I bet you'll get a pile of help.

Regards -

Pete


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 21 Aug 01 - 02:38 PM

And try to arrange it around half term/school holidays. Make it family friendly and you could double your intake, as well as corrupting - sorry, encouraging youngsters to keep listening.

A kids ceilidh is one way, a lot of schools now do English country dancing as part of the curriculum (John Kirkpatrick did a series for BBC Schools TV), and they love it. Make it nice and early - say, 4 - 7 to cover that dead zone, have food on nearby for the parents and bop their little legs off. You end up with entertained and knackered children and parents who can have a sit down, a feed and a quiet evening once the little darlings are asleep. Also good for less energetic parents who want to do the dance thing but medical conditions and general decreptitude forbids the manic stampede of a full blown Committee Band type thrash.

LTS


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: GUEST,car4doc@core.com
Date: 22 Aug 01 - 12:26 PM

I will follow up on the many good suggestions made here. In the passed the problem was not the lack of success but to much. The river festival which stopped two years ago was burning out the volenteers & attendance had grown to 20K for a weekend event. With the passing of John Hartford & being on the Mississippi I was hoping to find a way to grow a annual festival in memory of John's music which I so enjoyed. What equipment would I need to have ready. Clearly the simpler I can keep it the better & easier it should be.


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: Kele
Date: 22 Aug 01 - 09:48 PM

There's a lot of great suggestions here. I'd like to add a word of caution:

quite a few people have said, in essence, "Get local musicians because they'll work for cheap." Yeah, this can be true. However (speaking as a bandleader and festival participant in the Land of Constant Summer Festivals), nothing is more irritating/alienating to a band than to work cheap or free for several years "just to help get it started" and then, when there starts to be money involved, not be hired at all. Or to still be expected to perform for free when all the money goes to some out of state act. Remember to take care of the community that supports your efforts in the first place.

As far as the burn-out factor goes, my one suggestion is to increase your volunteer pool so it isn't the same people doing the same things all the time and/or the same people keeping the festival going. Perhaps this isn't an option, or won't be right away, but it's also a good idea to make sure there's at least one "Staff" position as a festival organizer (Executive Director, or what have you). That way you've already set up who has the final say in the decision making process, you're making it worth someone's while to deal with the stress (at least nominally), and if the Staff person DOES burn out you can hire a new one instead of trashing the festival. One full time person and 40 3-hour a week volunteers can often keep a thing moving longer than 10 volunteers all working 20-hours a week or more.

well, this was probably incoherent, but that's my suggestion.

Kele


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: GUEST,GENE
Date: 16 Feb 11 - 10:13 AM

"ON THE RIVER IN BLIND RIVER" is in it's 2nd year as a summer festival, get some sponsorship from community business & local talent.

for info on 2011 ON THE RIVER IN BLIND RIVER concert contact G.Serre @ 705 356 6778


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Subject: RE: Help: How do I start a music festival
From: banjoman
Date: 17 Feb 11 - 05:19 AM

Best advice I could give (speaking from bitter experience) is - DONT DO IT if you value your self esteem and finances


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