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Open Letter To A Festival From a Person In A Local Band

A certain festival starts tomorrow. I’m not going this year, nor is my band playing. A few years back it was for bands who were just getting started or doing something exciting to get a chance to play for press, labels, management and otherwise music biz hoy polloy who were sent to lil’ ol’ Aarhus on the company dime to see what DK had to offer as far as talent. Tales of bands being offered international publishing and recording deals are true, some are success stories. The “festival” over the years has become bigger and bigger, and I’m guessing when they realized that the local kids could suffer through several sets of pretentious shit from this years bands wearing this years fashions and holding guitars (or lingering above keyboards) AND still manage to afford paying 600 kroner for a ticket and guzzling plastic cups of stale beer – they figured they would just go for it.

I’ve given up. My bands have been applying year in and year out. We’ve filled out the complicated forms and dutifully answered questions like: “what do you think your band will bring to _____ festival” and “how would you describe your sound” and of course “what is your fee?” – of course we are willing to drag all of our gear down to anywhere they seem fit for free, or “EXPOSURE”. Why the hell not. We pretty much play for free anyway most times if you work out transport, parking, instrument maintenance, studio rent, recording fees, promotion, and turning down otherwise paid work to “fight the good fight”. Sure guys.

Then we always get a response a few months before the festival: something to the effect of:

Dear _______________ :

We thank you for your interest in applying to ___________ festival, however we just do not have the budget this year to book you. Best of luck…blah blah blah – best wishes: the intern girl.

And then they begin leaking their line-up. This last 2 years – this part makes me so fucking angry: most of the bands already have management, distribution, records out, and are well on their way to playing every other place with a fucking PA in the country (and northern Germany). Then a few weeks later – more names are announced….a bunch of bands from other cities and more bands that already have had their shot…OR…maybe they are collaborating together or something to make on mega-turd of a giant jerk-off indie esoteric crap-core concert. THEN – they add a band that of course is well established, has been around for years, on the radio 3 times an hour…whatever…last year they added a certain band that hadn’t played in twenty years or something, but everyone fondly remembered – oh buddy – then people were buying tickets! Finally – they filled out the program with the rest of the shit – some rappers and bands that were formed by conservatory students with connections, or even the side project of “butt monkey and the vomit comets” – who were so hip last year and now the new band plays “a mixture of early Belle and Sebastian, porn music and Mongolian Tuva singing”.

When I get REALLY sick – is when the weeks leading up to the festival – the festival’s social media are saying things like: “LAST minute addition – we just had to get this guy” (really expensive solo artist who will perform an acoustic set) and days before the festival – “10 fantastic new names added to this years line-up”….all the while I’m composing a letter going – “But we won’t charge anything…we just want to play….and WE’RE ACTUALLY GOOD and WE ACTUALLY NEED THE EXPOSURE”

Then 2 days before the festival they are still looking for volunteer staff to do the grunt-work or stand outside a fence for 8 hours for an arm-band, a sandwich and free coffee. Fuck that shit.

I give up. Our band will just continue to make good music that we (and out hundreds of fans) really like, continue to sell our recordings by ourselves, continue to scrape and battle to get shows when and where we can, continue to pay out of our own pocket in cases to perform and continue to tell everyone we know what a joke this festival has become.

Instead of calling it “____ festival” – why not just call it “festival” and stop kidding yourselves that you still have the same mission and purpose as you set out to achieve. Just go ahead and book John Mayer, Slayer and get the Kinks to re-form or something.

Right – I’m off to make money doing something I really don’t like so I can eat AND play with my band for the love of music.

1 Comment

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