Festivals Go Pop in Appeal to New Crowds
October 9, 2012 Leave a comment
By Bernard Zuel, Originally Posted on the Sydney Morning Harold, October 9, 2012
Not that long ago you were as likely to find pop music at a major arts festival as you were to get a genuine apology from Alan Jones. But these days, no self-respecting festival director, mainstream or fringe, would program without it. Indeed, Fergus Linehan, director of four of the most successful Sydney Festivals ever, made his name doing just that with the likes of Antony Hegarty, Lou Reed and Sufjan Stevens as unlikely stars of his programs.
The fact is, says Greg Clarke, director of the Adelaide Fringe, contemporary music is increasingly being seen as the lifeblood of festivals: the source of new audiences and the spur for future programs. His most recent festival featured nearly 300 music performances, outstripping comedy as the major contributor, and next year’s Fringe will likely go further still with the likes of Sydney songwriter Tim Freedman of the Whitlams preparing to pitch new shows.
You may well ask why festivals would need to put on music which in theory you can get fairly easily in any major city through the course of any year. Clarke’s response is demographics – both audiences and directors.
“The old festival goers are those people in their 60s and 70s now and their experience with festivals was going to see international theatre, seeing stuff that wouldn’t normally see in Sydney and Melbourne. They were brought up going to see high art – opera, theatre, classical music,” Clarke says. “Audiences these days who go to festivals, the majority of them are in my age bracket which is 30 to 50, they are the new festival goers, brought up in the 1980s and ’90s, maybe seeing bands and going to see stand-up comedians. And that’s the kind of thing they still want to see.”
Interested in learning more about choosing performers for your music festival? Join KUT.org Austin, Hang Out Music Festival & Catalpa Music Festival, Alice in Chains, Winnipeg Folk Festival, Pipeline Productions – Wakarusa Music & Camping Festival, and Houston International Festival as they discuss the same topics during their panel, “Challenges in Talent Selection” at the upcoming International Music Festival Conference in Austin, Texas at the Hyatt Regency Austin, December 2-4.