The past couple of years have seen a proliferation of summer festivals in the U.S., but many have been accompanied by a proliferation of financial swindles, musical shortcomings and logistical foibles.
No festival is perfect, but last weekend's tried n' true San Miguel Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona showed us how it's done with a killer lineup, moderate costs and a flexible schedule. And after last week's face-palming announcement from Coachella about duplicating the festival, we thought we'd offer a few pointers about why Primavera Sound should be the paradigm. Here's the Top Five Tips Festivals Should Take from Primavera Sound 2011:
5. Hold it (all) at night
We're talking 4 p.m. to 6 a.m. Because the only thing worse than baking in the hot sun all day is trying to find a way to keep the party going at night after the last band has played.
4. Hold it in a city
Because sleeping in a bed, showering and doing a little sightseeing with the festival-goers you met at your hostel will always be better than waking up in a tent at 7 a.m. with the sun in your eyes, hoping your stuff didn't get stolen.
3. Respect your audience--and their wallets
From roaming beverage vendors sporting backpacks-cum-bars to bang-for-your-buck meals, it was apparent that Primavera's organizers took pains to make convenience a priority. Most notable (and controversial) was its innovative Portal system - a sort of Primavera credit card that could be charged with money online and used to buy food, drink and more. The idea was to keep your wallet safer and make the lines go faster--and the idea was great. So while the execution ended up being a mess of server crashes and technical errors, and the cash system eventually restored, we'd love to see another fest hammer out the glitches and make this a game-changer.
2.Don't run out of tickets
And don't address the supply issue by duplicating your festival--we find the idea of replicating experiences a little insulting. Instead, handle the demand increase like Primavera did: Expand to a larger venue, or incorporate others nearby; supplement the main festival days with "spillover" days for more intimate sets and repeat performances; keep tickets flexible. Full five-day passes were offered at a reasonable price (about $250), but single day passes (about $90) remained available throughout Primavera's three main days at Parc del Forum. Rather than sell-out or do a blind pre-sale, Primavera encouraged fast, early ticket sales by increasing ticket prices over time, while still leaving room for additional revenue from the last minute ticket sales.
And the number one tip:
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1.Maintain your musical integrity
Summer festivals in the U.S. are more popular than ever, but their lineups are increasingly watered down and indistinguishable, a formula of [insert broad-appeal rap/pop artist], [insert heavy rotation alt rock band] and [insert trendy indie buzz band]. Primavera proves that a festival's popularity and the commitment to its musical mission aren't mutually exclusive - organizers just need to keep their eye on the ball. Make people want to come for the artists, not just the idea of a festival. Sure, Primavera's worldwide popularity means it was inevitably chock full o' corporate sponsorship, but that didn't get in the way of respecting the audience's musical intelligence and taste for definitely left-of-center music. The result was a lineup that was complex and distinctive rather than easy-to-swallow and predictable. Crowds were drawn just as equally to big-name festival favorites like Flaming Lips, Fleet Foxes and Interpol as they were to John Cale (performing Paris 1919), Suicide (playing their first LP) and German punks Einsturztende Neubauten.