The modern music festival presents the music lover with a dilemma. On the one hand, it is a voracious capitalist beast, sucking money out of attendees’ bank accounts and nipping at the heels of corporate sponsors. In the end, organizers rake in tons of cash, the host city gets a cut, and the bands get a little richer. The attendees – here’s the other hand – they get the memories.
In its second year, the Miami Music Festival (Nov. 11 – 14) amps up the dilemma by cutting the bands out of the profit. In fact, musicians must submit a $35 application fee to be considered for the MMF lineup. At which point MMF forfeits its claim to be a festival and becomes a short-term business model with a great name.
Perhaps the $35 non-refundable application fee explains the dearth of known quantities in the MMF lineup. Among the 400-plus acts, only the Vivian Girls have national clout … and they’re from Brooklyn!
Without the allure of national headliners, one would at least expect to see Miami’s musical core beefing up the lineup. But don’t get excited for Rachel Goodrich, Jessie Jackson, Raffa & Rainer, Sloane Peterson, or Harvey and the Buckets. They’re not playing. When I asked Irwin Kornfeld, MMF’s CEO and organizer, why, he turned the table.
“We don’t choose acts,” he said. “The acts choose us.”
Actually, they apply (for $35) and then MMF chooses or rejects them — unless they are invited by one of MMF’s sponsors, as was the case with the Vivian Girls. But why split hairs, especially when it’s fairly easy to see why Miami’s finest would stay away?
Besides the $35 money grab, MMF is charging applicants (accepted and rejected) $50 to attend a two-day conference at the Hyatt Regency downtown, where, among other can’t-miss events, they will have the privilege of hearing Uncle Luke hold forth on the value of publicists in the Jasmine Room. The $50 entry fee is half of what the general public has to pay. But considering applicants got in for free last year, the discount probably feels like a slap in the face.
So, with only one nationally known act and few local stars in the lineup, you have to wonder if MMF will draw a crowd. Kornfeld, a former associate publisher of Billboard and current publisher of In Tune Monthly, thinks it will.
“As long as people understand the opportunity to discover new music, and are live music fans, they’ll come,” he said. “They do at other similar festivals around the country.”
He also told me the lineup isn’t final.
“We haven’t yet released the names of a few headliners that everyone will know,” he said.
Not announcing big names with less than a month before the event starts seems a peculiar tactic, but let us hope.
Even if no “headliners that everyone will know” do join MMF’s lineup, the show will go on. And since tickets are pretty cheap ($25 for a three-day pass) and there are a few worthy acts on the slate, I’ve put together a guide that separates the good from the rest. Check it out HERE.