OPINION | Small and local music festivals deserve more popularity

Imagine paying large amounts of money for a day at Coachella and only seeing three of the many artists performing due to overlapping performance times and long lines. Imagine performing at a large music festival as a brand-new band and only attracting the attention of a dozen people because a headliner is playing their set at the same time as you.

These scenarios describe experiences I have read about in articles and real-life stories I have heard from my peers. For a long time, I never thought any music festival could defy my low expectations. Then, I saw a flyer on campus for a local music festival called Dear Summerfest COS.

At this festival, the musicians and vendors were considered equally important, and the tickets were reasonably priced. Local events like that should become the new music festival norm. Everyone benefits from them in some way, and they are easy for anyone to attend.

The way big music festival lineups are printed on posters tells ticket buyers how popular the artist is compared to the rest of the lineup. When a festival poster appears on my Instagram feed, I often find myself planning a “what-if” trip to it. I always imagine prioritizing the performances of the headlining artists listed in a larger font at the top of the list.

I would not mind missing an indie band I like with a small following if they were scheduled to perform at the same time as an equally talented pop headliner. Headliners and major acts are favored by the festival organizers, which means that the smaller bands performing at festivals get lost in the mix. Small and local music festivals change that.

The festival poster for Dear Summerfest COS lists every artist and vendor in the same size font. Every artist receives their own performance time that does not overlap with any other artist’s stage time. This way, ticket buyers can see every act they want, and each musician gets the same amount of recognition.

Beyond that, the social benefits that the musicians and festivalgoers receive at Dear Summerfest COS could never exist at a large festival. Dear Summerfest COS posts about each artist and vendor on Instagram and has a Spotify account with the festival setlist available to the public. Coachella, on the other hand, posts very little information about the artists performing on their social media accounts.

Audience members get the opportunity to easily discover new songs and get to know the artists more personally at local festivals.

These benefits do come with a cost, but this price is not likely to empty bank accounts. One ticket to Boulder’s indie-centered Bluebird Festival in 2019 cost as little as $29 according to CU Boulder Today. Compare this to Bonnaroo, which costs $80-$149 for a single day based on information from Seat Geek.

Tickets to local music festivals make it possible for anyone who enjoys music to attend without having to worry about finances.

Dear Summerfest COS is also family and dog-friendly according to The Peak Bulletin. Bonnaroo only requires a legal guardian for anyone under 18, but Summerfest’s family-friendly claim makes the difference. I would want to know from the start that my hypothetical child will not witness or hear anything inappropriate.

The locations of small festivals are also more ideal. Coachella takes place in the middle of a desert with extreme temperatures. Dear Summerfest COS takes place in a park in Manitou Springs, and the Bluebird Festival is held in a CU Boulder auditorium. I think these locations are standard within their communities and more suitable for a comfortable experience.

People would likely miss the big headliners that do not perform at local festivals, but even if a festival like the Alpine Festival happens where a few headliners are allowed, the high price and headliner favoritism are inevitably reintroduced to the festival.

Smaller and local seems to be the best choice when it comes to big music events. Artists and audience members receive seemingly mutual benefits beyond entertainment, and anyone can enjoy an inexpensive weekend surrounded by fellow music-loving community members.

Photo courtesy of dw.com.