Are free festivals a thing of the past?

The upcoming (and always free) Bayou Boogaloo will be forced to charge a $5.00 admission on Friday, and on Saturday and Sunday a $10.00 admission fee after 3 p.m. The Fried Chicken Festival has established a fund to help pay musicians (the French Quarter Festival did this a few years ago). Satchmo SummerFest now has a $5.00 cover charge. This year, the Oak Street Po-Boy Festival created a pay-up-front wristband to help to defray the costs of putting on the festivals. There has been talk of an admission fee for certain areas of French Quarter Fest (though this has never come to fruition).

Producing even a small event festival is an enormous amount of work, costs a lot of money and requires a ton of man-hours. All of which means money.

Think about it: the Jazz Fest is the “New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell.” Shell Oil’s financial support is obviously important to the success of the festival, in addition to the ticket charges. It’s a great festival, but it seriously requires a lot of money to deliver the goods.

So-called sponsorship money for smaller events has been apparently getting scarcer.

Are the days of larger-scale, and even small—but free—festivals coming to an end in New Orleans? More to the point: do we have too many free festivals for sponsors to actually support for “exposure” to an audience that, for the most part, are the same locals?

There are only so many “sponsors” to go around, after all, and a growing number of free festivals that need funding.

Is charging a nominal gate fee the answer?  Will that change your festival-going habits?

  • NancyNooneBroussard

    Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette has an “Amis” program that seems to works well. Friends of the Festival have access to luxury porta potties, shorter lines, and at higher levels, shaded seated for viewing, backstage access, and more. I don’t know how well it works financially, other than lines for the nice porta potties get longer every year!

  • G E. Guido

    Hold it. Wait a minute. Didn’t I just see multiple blog posts from you advocating closing doors on Frenchmen St. clubs and charging people a set cover charge to go in and listen to music?