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Arjun S Ravi is the editor of Indiecision ( He believes in brutal honesty, and thinks your band sucks.

Music festival 101: New and old carnivals woo a growing crowd

Bacardi Weekender 2011

t's all happening, said Penny Lane to young William Miller in Cameron Crowe's excellent coming-of-age movie in 2000, and clearly the most referenced film on this column, Almost Famous. Festival season is upon us at last. Over the next six months, a host of music festivals around the country will woo you with big lineups, great locales, big production "flea markets" and more in the hope of getting you to spend anywhere between Rs 1,000 (a lot of festivals have cheaper tickets for Under-21s or "students") and Rs 15,000 (depending on how much you value "free IMFL", reserved parking and being a person of great importance on account of your superior spending power). A number of new promoters and live entertainment companies are making their debut this season, joining a growing pool of players in what is becoming, despite a failing economy, a fairly vibrant live music industry.

The festival business isn't easy. Despite all the hype, promoters and event companies setting up their own festivals know that there aren't any overnight, windfall returns to be made in this market. Like any new business venture, there are always risks involved. In this nascent live music market, a lot of these are unforeseen. Everything from unseasonal deluges to last-minute retractions of licenses has been responsible for throwing well-set festival plans out the window. Months of planning, booking artists, logistics and production, huge marketing budgets can mean nothing if a local politician or senior police official decides to enforce a sub-section of a clause of a sub-section of an outdated live entertainment law, or, in many cases, opposes "Western music", and the cringeworthy stereotypes associated with certain genres, on a moralistic level. Yet, many promoters I've interacted with over the last few months are fairly bullish about the 2013-14 festival season.

Despite all the hype, promoters and event companies setting up their own festivals know that there aren’t any overnight, windfall returns to be made.

ne of the terms I've heard being flung around increasingly frequently is "music tourism". A couple of years ago, I wrote in this very column about the rub-off effect on the economy of the number of music-based events in the country, referencing statistics from a report that music tourism contributed nearly a billion pounds to the UK economy in 2010. This season, a number of destination festivals are in their second or third editions, asking fans to travel to scenic locales in the likes of Arunachal Pradesh (the Ziro Festival of Music, September 20-22), Ooty (the goMAD Festival, October 25-27), sand dunes in Rajasthan (the Ragasthan Festival, dates TBA) and Coorg (the Storm Festival, dates TBA). And then there's the marquee edition of the Sunburn franchise (now in its seventh year) set to hit Goa's beaches (though it isn't entirely certain which one yet) once again this December. Most of these festivals are hoping that the repeated patronage of genre-agnostic music fans will develop their brands and build a legit loyalty.

It's the same for festivals that exist within the confines of big cities. Corporate giants like Viacom18 are preparing to make a splash in the live music scene this year (the company recently started a new division under its Integrated Network Services banner called Viacom18 Live), with multiple, genre-specific events, and newbie entrants like Twisted Entertainment (who are promoting the Enchanted Valley Carnival festival in Aamby Valley this December) are also looking to make their mark. But a struggling currency, a hesitant brand economy, and the usual first-festival jitters will not make it easy for these debutantes.

All this makes for a pretty exciting festival season ahead. It's now pretty much a given that big-name international artists, and popular and emerging Indian talent will make up the bills at these event, and that quality of production will also be world-class. So now is the time to plan your calendars and set your budgets, dear reader. I'll see you at the rock stage.


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