What makes music festivals successful?

Posted by on 25 July 2008


The Calgary Folk Music Festival starts on Thursday at Prince's Island Park.

According to Richard Sutherland, a professor at the University of Calgary in the faculty of communication and culture, the folk festival is a model of success.

Sutherland says there are several reasons for the festival's success. One is that organizers make it a real event. It's not just music, it incorporates food and merchandise along with the setting to attract people. The festival also offers a lot of great music programming with a blend of big names and people you haven't heard of. Not to mention organizers make a real effort to make it a family event by offering free admission for kids.

The folk festival is also a hit with Sutherland because it pushes the boundaries of folk to broaden the festival's appeal to the public. Unlike the Virgin Festival, which focuses mostly on rock.

But not all is bad when it comes to the Virgin Festival. Sutherland says, although that festival is as much a promotion for Virgin as it is anything else, they did some things right too. Like the folk festival, the Virgin Festival integrated local acts, but unlike the folk festival these acts were limited to busking around the concert area as opposed to performing on a stage.

For many years, North American music fans were focused on stadium concerts. But Sutherland says in the past four or five years festivals are having a resurgence in popularity. He suggests that's because festivals are now more focused on more than simply a bunch of musical acts.