As Forrest Gump’s mama once said “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get”
This is, of course, nonsense, because it conveniently forgets that the fact that every box of chocolates actually comes with a little menu card. So quite frankly, if you don’t know what chocolate you’re gonna get then you’ve been lazy, lost your glasses, or have a “laissez faire” attitude to things you pop in your mouth!
However, if you wanted to say “a music festival line up is like a box of chocolates” then you might have a point.
It’s important to get your crowd pleaser in there, be it coffee creme or strawberry fudge and then make sure you have a good mix.
But, whatever brand of chocs you go for, there is usually one left in the box at the end, the one that nobody in your family wants to eat. But that one is there for a reason. It didn’t just fall into the box. It’s there because someone likes it, maybe not you, but someone.
So how do we put together a music festival? I could bang on for ages (already have), so, to spare you half a day’s reading that you will never get back, here are the main points.
Budget and strategy
A music festival that doesn’t charge, but we still pay the bands??? Hmmmm…. okaaaay.
Well we want people here for 3 days. Do we want to use a huge chunk of the available money on a ‘name’ for one hour, or 3 days of consistent quality music? For us, it’s consistent quality. That’s not to say we haven’t gone after, and will never go after, the more famous ‘names’, because we do and will. If we can make it work we will, but the bottom line is, we tailor the music to suit the festival, we won’t tailor the festival to suit one band.
The hardest thing is to not just press the ‘reset’ button and go again with all the previous bands. We can’t invite them all back and it is genuinely one of the hardest decisions we make. Sometimes people tell us how much they loved a band and why won’t we have them back and our answer is this.
‘You didn’t know you loved that band until they played here. Now you have their CD, you stream their music, you’ve maybe been to see them play elsewhere. In short, they are embedded in your affections, so maybe it’s time to let someone else out into the beautiful Dartmouth light. Who knows, they might be you’re new favourite band?’.
It’s no reflection on the bands who have played here at all, we just have to keep the festival moving forward. At the risk of sounding like an insincere lover, it’s not you… it’s us…but honestly, we will always love you.
We open them up in July. By the end of November we had six times more applications than available slots. That’s why we have to shut them down that soon, because we listen to everyone. We try to reply to them all but sometimes we can’t quite do it. There are many different reasons why we might not give an act a gig so if you didn’t get in one year, please try again.
Eventually we get all the music, the acts we have gone after, the acts who have applied, the acts who want to come back, and we listen… then we listen some more… then we start whittling away and filling slots.. then we start arguing… then listen even more, until we manage to come up with a festival line up.
…IF the festival was 10 days long and we had unlimited budget! Then we tear it all up and start again.
Until, finally, we get our DMF finished line up. We don’t always get it right. We make mistakes, we are all amateurs who volunteer to do this while doing proper grown up jobs after all, but we try our very best.
Well, for you… yes, I’m talking to you!
That person out there who loves that last chocolate. That person who thinks they are the only one who likes the ‘Malibu and Yakult Swirl’.
Oh don’t get me wrong, we love the crowds, we love the singing along, the dancing, the atmosphere. It’s fantastic. But also, if that one person can slip unnoticed into a gig and be quietly surprised that there is someone on stage singing their life back to them, then that makes us especially happy.
Because that is what we believe music should do. Move us in some way, maybe just for the length of a song, maybe longer.
Music should make us smile, cry, dance, rage…. unite.
And if, for three days in May, we can make that happen? Well I guess the previous 11 months of work are all worth it.
Now…someone pass me those chocolates!!