SoundTown and Minnesota's music festival fatigue
Nate Kranz, general manager at First Avenue, for one, doesn't think so. "There are lots of destination festivals that do rely on camping and things like that," he insists. "Part of me wonders if SoundTown was a little caught in the middle: Is it a destination camping festival, or just a little bit out of the city, so you can drive there and back?"
What's more, Kranz points out that, while there are benefits to putting on a show in a city -- particularly in terms of resources, as well as easy access and cheaper travel expenses for the audience -- that fact can still go both ways. "Different communities allow different things. The Somerset rules are lax because they're dying for the extra business out there," Kranz observes. "There are challenges in Minneapolis, too," he adds. "There's lots of neighbors and other people that you have to keep happy, and hurdles you might not have elsewhere."
So, much to the chagrin of the eager writer looking for a scoop (ahem), the moral of the story may well be not to overreact. (Imagine that.) Fair enough. But there are still some important lessons for local promoters and music lovers to think about in this brave post-SoundTown world. The most important of those might to consider how best to use our resources, in order to insure that the music scene continues to thrive and also to grow.
"I love living in a city that's full of arts and culture, and I'm all for having as much as possible," says Arkulary. "But I think this music scene has really ballooned and almost feel like an age of austerity is coming, where people start pulling back, being more frugal with where they perform, and frugal with when they go out to events. I think there's going to be a real premium placed on why your event is better than another happening the same night."
It's hard to argue with Arkulary's point, in large part because of the potential benefits; focusing on making your events as strong as possible, whether you're a musician or a promoter, is only going to help the local scene market itself that much better, here and at large.
Kranz, meanwhile, looks at things from a slightly more pragmatic standpoint: Whether or not there is anything like audience fatigue, there reality is that festivals are here to stay, and local promoters better figure out how to deal with it. Case in point is the festival First Ave is planning for next summer at Minneapolis' Parade Stadium -- just north of the hallowed Rock the Garden festivities that Walker Art Center and the Current sold out 10,000 tickets in 2012 in just over an hour.
|Photo by Erik Hess|
Of course, First Ave is in a better position than most other venues in being able to start up their festival in response, so it's easy for Kranz to say that. But just the same, the management showed good business sense in delaying the festival's planned-for 2012 debut until next year. "By the time we got through the process, we didn't feel we could put on a festival at the level and quality we expected of ourselves," Kranz recalls. "The worst case scenario would be to force it and have a bad experience, and then the people aren't excited about it the next year."
That last point has some extra resonance these days, given the memories of SoundTown's rushed debut last year. It's impossible to say now, and all too easy to question in hindsight, whether it would have been better to wait the extra year. In the meantime, there will be plenty of time to reflect on what has -- and, more importantly, what won't--happen out in Somerset this year.
SoundTown 2012 has been canceled
SoundTown 2012 statement: Ticket threshold wasn't met
SoundTown 2011: A first-ever adventure in Somerset