Musicians and prospective festival organizers have “sold out” a Tuesday networking/roundtable session at Grand Rapids’ Listening Room probing the mysteries – and basics – of music festivals.
Over the past decade or so, Michigan’s music festival scene has exploded.
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Not only does the Great Lakes State boast major internationally renowned events such as Electric Forest, MoPop and Movement, but dozens upon dozens of homey, smaller festivals that have popped up with regional stars and more.
All of them cultivate a devoted fan base that appreciates the special camaraderie of attendees and musicians that’s created by a weekend together in Michigan’s great outdoors.
I’m consistently bowled over by the enthusiasm of music lovers for these memory-making spectacles and I know many folks who literally plan their summers around travels to different festivals every weekend.
Consequently, music festivals have become a major focus at Local Spins, which not only covers dozens of these events every year but also publishes an uber-popular, comprehensive listing of festivals online (starting Jan. 1) and in our photo-laden calendars that are available now online here.
So, it’s not surprising that a roundtable event focused on festivals would sell out quickly. “The B-Side Session: Festivals” being held Tuesday evening at Listening Room in Grand Rapids will feature guest speakers (aka, “movers and shakers”) Seth Bernard, Jake Robinson, Luke Sass, John Crissman, Randal Erno, Kevin Lamb and other experts discussing various aspects of the music festival scene.
CHECK OUT THE 2019 LOCAL SPINS READERS POLL OF TOP MICHIGAN MUSIC FESTIVALS: Michigan’s Top 10 Music Festivals: The 2019 Local Spins Readers’ Poll
Moderated by Elle Lively of Michigan Music Alliance and Crooked Tree Creative with help from Local Spins, the goal is to give artists “concrete information to navigate the more daunting aspects of being a self-employed career musician” and uncover some of the mysteries of the festival scene. It starts at 7 p.m.
Because let’s face it: Organizing and staging a festival isn’t easy. Heck, it can be absolutely overwhelming. Even getting in the door as a band to perform at one has its challenges.
“This particular session is important because Michigan has a vibrant festival scene,” Lively said. “It’s part of our music community’s heart in Michigan.”
And attendance for these events keeps growing every year.
“It is a goal for many indie artists to play these festivals, or host their own someday. This session’s purpose is to start a conversation about the teams, efforts, and heart behind these festivals while giving artists great advice about booking, attending, and being as prepared as possible. We’ll take questions about booking, production, and anything else the attendees want to cover.”
Although all 200 free tickets for the session have been claimed, the session will be live-streamed online here.
Tom Wall, guitarist and frontman for Cosmic Knot who stages a festival on his family farm near Holton every summer, said many people overlook “how much work it actually takes to pull off an event of that nature,” something that requires building a strong team of workers and organizers.
TIPS FOR GETTING IN, JOINING THE TEAM AND CREATING A SPECIAL VIBE
“It’s a series of connecting dots in order to make everything work right. From scheduling, to preparing the grounds, to finding and building stages and beyond, it’s an enormous effort to pull it all together,” he stressed.
That effort includes performers, said Wall, who has renamed his annual event Cosmic Knot’s Fest of All Music Celebration, which will take place Aug. 21-23.
“The goal for artists applying to venues should be finding a way to work synergistically with the team that is creating the event. If a band or an artist is selected then they are brought in as part of the team,” he said.
“As a booking agent for a festival, the aim is to create the best possible experience for the festivalgoers and find the best possible acts to help manifest that properly. That’s where many artists can really show their assets and set themselves apart from the rest. Things like the ability to help promote, set up, create art installations, etc., can really set one artist apart from the other and it might greatly increase your chances of getting selected to perform.”
In the end, a successful festival creates an atmosphere that attendees and performers want to experience again and again. Wall quoted Muruga Booker, a Detroit native and well-known Ann Arbor-based drummer/composer who played Woodstock in 1969:
“It’s not about the band that is playing, it’s about the vibe of the event, the happening. It’s creating an event environment that people want to stay in; that way, it makes them want to keep coming back.”
More B-Side Sessions and a workshop also have been scheduled for January.
A songwriting workshop with The Crane Wives will take place Dec. 17 at Third Coast Recording Co. in Grand Haven, followed by a “Time Management” roundtable with Bob Wallis at La Luna Recording & Sound in Kalamazoo. Another Time Management workshop will be held Jan. 28 at Third Coast in Grand Haven.
The sessions are hosted by Michigan Music Alliance, a nonprofit aimed at serving the music community in Michigan via networking opportunities and music business resources. The idea is to empower musicians “to take control of the business side of their music career” with help from experts featured at the sessions.
Get a listing of 2020 Michigan music festivals along with Local Spins concert photos of more than two dozen Michigan bands in the 2020 Local Spins Calendars online here.
Revisit coverage of 2019 Michigan music festivals at Local Spins here.
Copyright 2019, Spins on Music LLC