Thursday, October 07, 2010

Musicfest Musings

I was out of town for the most recent one, but I have attended all the others and I can tell you that you do not create a successful event like this by throwing a bunch of money at a big promoter and hope it does the right thing. We need to start from the bottom with something small and friendly and let it build on its own success.

I love listening to music, I love playing music and I have hosted nearly a dozen house concerts in my backyard - each successful in its own way. (How do I gauge success? People came and listened and bought CDs and put money in the tip jar and talked about it the next day.) I have a lot of friends who are successful musicians and I am fully aware of how little $ it takes to give really talented folks an excuse to come to the beach. So if someone entrusted me with a small budget - say something in the $5000-$20,000 range - this is what I would do.

Seek out bands and solo performers with wide variety of styles and dedicated local (RGV to Austin) followings. Offer them a smallish stipend and a nice place to stay (easy to do during the off season). Forget the bouncy tents and trying to appeal to kids - a music festival is not for kids. Make arrangements with venues of all sizes to host the shows - rock and roll and/or country acts at the bayside clubs; jazz and blues at mid-size venues (Padreritaville, Wanna Wanna) and folky acts at really small venues (the SandBox Inn, Blackbeards’ patio). Headliner would be someone like Del Castillo - a great band with local roots that will draw fans from Brownsville to Austin. Charge everybody the same price - $10-20 - for a bracelet that gets them into everything. Use smartphone apps to tell people what is going on when. Don’t attempt to tie it in with fishing or food or arts and crafts or anything else - not at first, anyway. Make it all about the music and make people drive or ride the wave or their bikes all over the island to find the kind of music that appeals to them and then let them post how much fun it all was on facebook so that their friends will be all fired up about coming to the next one.

I guarantee the merchants up and down the island would be smiling and asking how they can help with next year’s event. I have said and continue to say that I think SPI should strive to be Austin-On-The-Beach emphasizing music and art in our off-seasons. Start small, and build on success. Give folks a good excuse to come to the beach.

And here's a good excuse to come to my next house concert - Jason Weem at the SandBox Inn on Nov. 7 -- it's my birthday party, too!

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