The MidPoint Music Festival has a new new boss for 2008. The old bosses, Bill Donabedian and Sean Rhiney, will remain on as advisers.
Overall I think this is great news. There are some big challenges ahead for CityBeat, but if they start work now, capitalize on established partnerships, and build up new connections, I think the festival will be a big success.
The initial thought of the festival each of the last couple years is on where will it be. Many have been whining about where MidPoint should be, specifically wanting it to not on Main Street. It has no other possibilities other than OTR and/or Downtown. Since the press release included an event is at Below Zero on April 9th to announce the new vision of the festival, I would surmise Midpoint is staying at least in part on Main Street/OTR. It makes sense on the level that businesses are picking up on Main and Vine. The negative is that these venues are not currently regular live music venues, like they were in the past. I say that point is moot for a simple reason, there are only a handful (maybe two handfuls) of music venues in town that have regular live original music. Those venues are peppered throughout the area, and have no cohesive force that would draw people out for something like this. Few of those venues, especially those in Northside, have stepped forward to be a partner on MidPoint in the past. They've done that mostly for good reason, the target market for MidPoint shouldn't be the grizzled aging hipster sitting at the bar at Northside Tavern. That person either will never change their musical tastes or they already shop at Shake-It and know many of the acts playing the showcases.
CityBeat needs to start with a definition of the festival. What is the point? Who are they trying to reach? My take would be be to bring 3 groups together, unsigned/small label/up and coming acts, media & music industry members, and most importantly the audience. The musicians would want to impress the media/industry by impressing the audience. The media/industry would want to connect or observe the audience and get the vibe out what people like and don't like in current musis. That makes the audience the key. Midpoint needs a large and wide audience.
To get a bigger audience you have to make get them to get in their cars and drive to Main Street. You do that with a hook. Have a Main Stage, say Sycamore Gardens (Red Cheetah) where you have a mix of bigger local bands (Greenhornes, Pearlene, Heartless Bastards) who would not play Midpoint any more, and then get 1 large act for Friday and Saturday Night. The Greenhornes might be big enough. You might need to start the showcases an hour earlier and then end them at the time the headliner would go on, say Midnight. Let the late night slots be second look spots for bands that stay in town, want to play twice, or are willing to be the alternative to the main stage.
This new main stage would be an additional ticket. I'd establish the following price points:
1. One venue one night, not including the Main Stage
2. One night all access minus the Main Stage
3. One night all access plus one night of the Main Stage
4. All weekend all access minus the Main Stage.
5. All weekend all access plus the Main Stage both nights
6. The delegate badge - access to everything, including the conferences, preview parties, etc.
What you wouldn't do is sell a ticket just to the Main Stage. You also could, if the headliners are big enough, sell out the Main Stage and have the normal showcase schedules. That would be hard to predict and plan for, however.
Another important change to make is to have CityBeat make this a conference in part for music journalists. Target them specifically. Free attendance for any good music journalist! Let the blogs in too! I personally appreciated my media credentials for the 2007 festival and I really liked the gift bag last year!
Other ideas - provide more organized opportunities audience/artist interaction. Get more local business tie-ins like Park+Vine. Increase the team running the festival. Bill and Sean did great job, but they did too much themselves, not letting other take over important functions. This can't be the Dan McCabe dictatorship, Dan needs to build a huge team (not that he wouldn't anyway). The Cincy Blues Festival has a good team structure, look to it for some guidance. Also get WOXY AND the rest of the local radio stations involved, somehow. I think WEBN was there last year. The idea is that all of them would want to sponsor a stage or do live remotes, anything. Don't make them compete, let them all in.
The 800 pound gorilla in the room for CityBeat is how they will get local media coverage. It is touchy because CityBeat is a local media outlet and other media outlets would be hesitant to promote something their competition is sponsoring. MidPoint requires coverage in the mainstream Cincinnati Press. That mens getting the local TV/Radio news to coverage it. It also means getting the Enquirer to cover it. As much as the Enquirer tends to suck and it just has no music coverage to speak of, it has many readers who if they know about the festival could come. I also have to say that includes CinWeekly. The more the coverage the festival gets, the better. It would be nicer if CinWeekly actually asked to cover it, but I fear getting a cover from them might take some prodding. This festival is worth sucking up to your foes. Cincinnati has the talent for a music movement. No matter what all the burn-out hippies and coked out scenesters say, we have the makings for a music scene.
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