Why Aren't There Music Festivals Like Fringes?
by TJ Dawe
[PUBLISHER: There could not be a happier way to start a new month than with a new monthly column - jackDawe - by someone we admire tremendously: TJ Dawe. Enjoy! GLC]
There’s no reason why the idea of an unjuried arts festival should be restricted to theatre.
-artist selection by lottery, or first-come first serve
-$10 tickets (or thereabouts)
-all genres welcome
-artists pay an application fee, pay their own way to and from the festival, stay with billets, pay for their own food and beer
-artists make 100% of their own box office
-there’s a festival program with details on every act
-each act gets six or seven performances over the course of ten to twelve days, and a single tech rehearsal/sound check
-a variety of venues, in size and type, in reasonable proximity to each other. Some would be sit down venues, some cabarets, some bars, some known and established, some thrown together for the festival
-each act gets a mix of peak and off-peak time slots
-each company promotes itself
-there’s a central gathering place (beer tent, fringe bar) where patrons and performers can kill time between shows, read their programs, talk to each other, get hammered, put on cabarets
If a number of Fringe Music Festivals were to spring up in some kind of a sequence, that could encourage performers to tour.
-not every act would find an audience or make a dime.
-many solo performers. It’s cheaper and easier to tour alone. (I don’t actually see this as a problem, but some do)(and a saturation of minimalism can have the counter effect of making a bigger ensemble seem refreshing by comparison)
-some acts would steer themselves towards gimmicks, there’d be a general artist gravitation toward what sells rather than what’s in their soul and needs to come out (although any artist can choose to cultivate work that lies in the overlap between what you want to do and what people want to see)
-more applicants than spots. More Bring Your Own Venues being accepted, year by year, spreading the festival out, thinning the audience out.
-some artists getting paid decently for their work
-some acts spring-boarding to further opportunities
-artists seeing each others’ stuff, learning by osmosis, and cross-pollinating (given the ease with which a musician can join other musicians, I can picture there being plenty of sitting in and jamming - a delightful prospect)
-the cultivation of an audience with an appetite for new, unsigned acts, from across the globe and right here at home.
TJ Dawe lives and creates new theatre in Vancouver, and tours it all over the place. He's on Twitter @TJ_Dawe.