Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ottawa's Folk Fest Gets a new Artistic Director, but is it too late?

Ottawa, Ontario, city of festivals. From Winterlude to the Tulip Festival, there’s a festival for everyone in Ottawa. And one of the city’s favorites just got another helping hand from Bluesfest. After years of growing debt climaxing with the bailout from Bluesfest in 2010, Folk Fest is once again on shaky ground. Just before the holidays, Artistic Director Dylan Griffith stepped down after just one year on the job. Enter Bluesfest Artistic Director, Mark Monahan. Monahan is now doing double duty as the Artistic Director for both Bluesfest and Folk Fest.

But is it too late? Can Monahan revive Folk Fest and make it as profitable, notable and successful as Bluesfest? Let’s face it, when the lineup for Bluesfest is announced, the entire population of Ottawa is struck with the juxtaposition of “that’s not blues” and “oh wow, KISS!” Despite acts like KISS and Ozomatli, Bluesfest still throws in a number of the world’s greatest blues acts. It’s an exciting and eclectic blend of artists known and unknown in a series of beautiful outdoor spots in Ottawa.

From a marketing perspective, Folk Fest needs to do the same. If you take a look at the 2010 Folk Fest lineup, it’s all Folk; yes, that’s the point of a folk festival, but it is not bringing the fans to the seats (notable exception: Arrested Development, but most fans were wondering where Jason Bateman and Michael Cera were). Even bigger names like Ani DiFranco and Rufus Wainwright are missing from the list – those names are at least well known. It’s all about content marketing and with a music festival, your lineup is your content.

Mr. Monahan, please do the city a favour, do Folk Fest a favour, and sell out just a little bit. Get some bigger names into Folk Fest. While you may create an underground nickname of “Folkish Fest,” that’s ok. At least they’re talking. At least they’re buying tickets. At least you’re out of the red.

Tell us what you think by commenting below. What does Folk Fest need to do to get back on track? Is Monahan the right pick? Did Bluesfest sell out too much over the years? We want to know.

Click here for the source article from the Ottawa Citizen.