Festivals adjust with the times

by Michael Popke

With Entertainment Weekly dubbing this concert season the “Summer of Sadness” — many acts have cancelled dates, ProgPower USA is now selling single-day tickets for the first time, and admission prices to Lilith Fair have been slashed — the recent news about Projektfest ’10 comes as no suprise. Organizers of the festival, slated for July 30 in Philadelphia and featuring so-called dark-cabaret artists such as Voltaire (pictured) and Black Tape for a Blue Girl, are putting a positive spin on their decision to reduce the already-low ticket price of $39 to $10. But they really shouldn’t feel the need to do so. After all, more-mainstream acts could learn a lesson or two from Sam Rosenthal — founder of the Projekt record label and head of Projektfest (which had been on hiatus since 2002).

“It’s quite simple: It’s the best thing for me and it’s the best thing for fans,” Rosenthal said when announcing the price reduction. “I received feedback from fans that the economy is really tough, and although they’d love to attend Projektfest, the $39 ticket price plus travel expenses are a bit much for them.”

Although the price reduction may seem drastic, Rosenthal saw it as a better alternative than taking the route of other major summer tours and canceling altogether. Like many progressive-rock festivals, the gothic-tinged Projektfest is as much about the connection with fans as it is the music, and many of those fans have already made travel plans that have them traipsing across the country. “If I kept the price at $39, there is a large group of really wonderful (and no doubt fabulous-looking) people who won’t be at Projektfest,” Rosenthal said. “This was not good news because wonderful and fabulous-looking people enjoying each other, enjoying great music, having fun in a big party atmosphere is what makes Projektfest wonderful. I knew I needed to change something.”

So did Glenn Harveston, promoter of the popular 11-year-old ProgPower USA metal festival in Atlanta. Rather than sell two-day-only passes, he opted to make single-day tickets available for the first time ever this year for $60 each in the hopes of wooing future full-festival attendees. “I’ve never marketed the fest in Atlanta. I’ve never taken out a single (local) ad. It’s always been word of mouth. This year, the younger kids who get into Tyr or Kamelot have a chance to afford one night, if they like,” Harveston recently told BraveWords.com, referring to two of Sept. 10′s seven opening-day bands. “Hopefully they’ll enjoy themselves and come back for the other night.”

Sparking the desire of fans new and old to keep wanting more is the name of the game in these lean times. And while Projektfest surely won’t attract pure progheads, it boasts enough avant-garde and counterculture appeal to intrigue fans of adventurous music who may be looking for a new mid-summer live-music experience. Not to mention a cheap one.

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