[Dixielandjazz] The Ultimate Festival

Kurt bowermastergroup at qwest.net
Thu Dec 18 13:45:39 PST 2003

Just taking an informal, unscientific survey here to see if we can come up
with the ultimate festival.  

There are so many variables and considerations, this may be an impossible
task, but with all of the varied opinions on DJML, from people who attend
festivals and concerts, to band leaders and sidemen, and festival and
concert producers, I'm wondering if we could put together the "blue ribbon"
formula for the best festival in terms of the criteria below, or does each
festival have to be adapted to a set of local criteria determined by their
local customs, habits and logistics?:

Keep in mind the following goals:  The festival can not lose money and must
benefit the community where it is held.

Should it be run 100% by volunteers, or should there be some paid staff?  Is
it run by a jazz society or an independent producer?

Should the management be set up as a non-profit organization or a for

What time of year is best, or does it matter?  Is it best to avoid holiday
weekends, or is it best to hold it on holiday weekends.

What is the target audience of patrons?  Should the festival try to be all
things to all people (multiple stages each featuring a different style of
music), or should it focus on one style targeted to one particular
demographic (such as males and females age 55+).

What bands would you book?  All traditional and dixieland, or would you
include blues, ragtime, other styles of jazz, rock, Zydeco, country and
western, Klezmer, etc.?  Are the all local bands, all national "name" bands,
or a combination of the two.  Do you invite international bands?

What type of criteria is established for performer fees?  Is it one price no
matter who the performer is (say $100 per sideman and $150 for leader per
day), or is it on a case by case review based on the bands reputation?
Should there be ancillary activities as part of the festival such as an art
fair, craft fair, CD/souvenir vendors, etc?  What types of souvenirs should
be sold?

What about food?  If an outdoor location, are multiple food vendors selling
a variety of items invited?  Is one person contracted to coordinate all the

Is there a beer garden?

Is there preferred VIP seating/treatment for sponsors, donors, etc.?

How do you get the local/national media to take notice?  Do you issue media
credentials?  Is there a photo pit in front of the stage?

Do you have a dance floor?  If so, where is located in relation to the

Is there a souvenir program?  If so, is it free or is there a charge for it?
Is advertising sold in the program?

What about sponsors?  Do you go for large national sponsors, or limit it to
local companies?  What are the sponsorship dollar levels and what do they
receive in return?  If a potentially controversial sponsor wants to be
involved (such as a tobacco company, liquor, condoms, etc.) do you take the
money and deal with the criticism? 

Do you include a youth band or other youth oriented activities as part of
the festival?

How many days should the festival be (one day, two, three, a week, several

Are small venues (under 500) best, or would it be better to have venues
holding many thousands?

Number of venues/stages: Should it all be on one major stage, or spread out
over several locations?  Should it be held throughout the geographic area or
contained to one site such as a fairgrounds or hotel?

Should it all be held indoors or a combination of in and outdoors, or all

Is admission charged or does the festival rely on souvenir sales, beer
sales, etc. for revenue.  Should there be all events badges? If so, how much
would the patrons be willing to pay for a several day festival?

There are thousands of other questions and "what if's" to consider, but this
will get the discussion rolling.

Just thinking out loud,


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