Monday, April 24, 2006

Delightful OSMF festival goes underappreciated

Not having attended other highly regarded Texas festivals such as Kerrville or Austin City Limits, I can't rightfully call Old Settler's "the best little music festival in Texas," but after returning today from a magical weekend in the hill country outside of Austin I can say those others would be hard-pressed to equal the musical excellence, production quality, and site comforts of this really fine event.

The problem is that the Austin-area fan base has so many choices that not enough of them showed up for the organizers to break even on the event, a reality that threatens the festival's future. Official attendance figures were not available, but festival president Randy Collier was candid in telling me that the total gate was down from last year despite fine weather, a great lineup, and a sustained marketing effort.

To be sure, thousands of festival-goers did show up and several vendors I spoke with were satisfied with traffic at their booths, but as an attendee I never had any trouble getting great seating locations, prime campground space, or quick service on the festival shuttle bus. Those are nice things for attendees, but are problematic for the promoters. The festival could easily have handled 50 percent again as much gate without stressing any of the systems. An equivalent event in many other parts of the country would certainly have drawn better.

Hopefully, the light turnout will not discourage Collier and the other organizers from proceeding with plans for a 20th annual event next spring. After enjoying this festival so much, Festival Preview will certainly be back in 2007.

I'll have lots more about OSMF on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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