It's no big freaking secret that the Miami Music Festival has its critics. And Will Lopez of Hialeah punk crew Guajiro is not a fan. He made the fact pretty clear with his sarcastic seven-minute animated YouTube video titled Miami Music Festival: A Primer.
"Aside from singing in Guajiro, I am also a stand up comic," he says. "So a good portion of the video I made was meant specifically for the purpose of getting a laugh."
As part of our research for this week's music feature The Sophomore Stage, we got Lopez's take on the MMF.
As far as you're concerned, what are the biggest problems with the MMF?
My biggest problem with this festival is the disconnect between the local Miami scene and the MMF. The roster of acts playing is not a good representation of the Miami emerging artist community. Besides that, I just do not think that the participating artists are getting enough bang for their buck. From a national level there are no significant headliners, no keynote speakers, no true industry, game-changing heavyweights of any kind.
In the video you made, you called the MMF application fees a cash grab. Why isn't $35 a fair price?
If over 400 bands applied. At $35 per [band] that is $14,000. Even if SonicBids took their cut, that is still a lot of money for a "selection process." Also, the $35 submission price is not a fair representation of what it costs to take part in the MMF. In order to get true benefit from this festival you need to attend the conferences, which is an additional $50 fee. That fee is a per member fee, not a band fee. So a four-piece outfit is in for $235 before they have even played a single note. For out of town acts, add transportation, lodging, and (gulp) parking (which will be an absolute nightmare at every venue not named Tobacco Road) and that fee just escalated greatly.
As a follow-up: Do you think the musicians should get paid?
Musicians playing a festival should not get paid, unless they are headlining the event as an invited guest. But the idea is to get something for your performance. Be it something that can be added to your resume, business contacts that you can make that will further your career, adding members to your fan base, etc. I simply don't think any of those things will be in high supply at this event.
Do you think the MMF is looking to help the local music scene grow?
MMF is about building MMF, period. They are about creating a festival. It is part of the general issue [that] I have with their philosophy. A scene is built organically. It grows from the underground, and eventually the scene demands a festival. These guys are trying to do it backwards.
Were you involved at all with the MMF last year?
Guajiro did not apply for the MMF in 2009 or 2010. We were invited to perform by a few of the different showcase sponsors. I just did not feel right asking our fans to pay $10 to $25 dollars to come see us play when they could check us out at Churchill's for five bucks the following week. From my research, I knew because of the clubs they had chosen that last year most of the shows were going to be a disaster. As it turned out, I was right ... Bad PAs, no experienced soundmen, no crowds. We just did not feel it was worth the effort.
I had the same reservations last year as I do today, but stayed quiet. When I saw that even after the disaster that was MMF 2009, they were in fact coming back for a second go around, and when I saw the press release which was full of the same peripheral PR nonsense as the year before (400 bands! 50 stages!), then [I] saw the schedule and performers list, I knew there was no way I could stay silent. So I decided to make the video.
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Do you think the festival's done enough to get the entire scene involved?
I can only speak from an indie rock and punk standpoint. But the lineup is absolutely not an accurate reflection of the local music scene. That is main problem with this festival. Yes, the Miami music scene is Transit Lounge, Suenalo, and ArtOfficial. But it is also Beings, Rachel Goodrich, the Postmarks, Guy Harvey, and many many more. How do you have a music festival in Miami and not have it center around Sweat Records? It's absolutely insane.