How to organize a music festival?

Should you carefully arrange schedules and venues, contact and contract artists, negotiate payments and concern yourself with ticket taking?

Nah, it’ll be fine!

In 1982, Maurice Fleuret, in his capacity of Director of Music and Dance at the French Ministry of Culture, founded Fête de la Musique (Festival of Music) under the philosophy of “the music everywhere and the concert nowhere”. Discovering that statistically half of all children in France played a musical instrument, Fleuret designed the event to be open all to musicians, amateur and professional alike, and encouraged all attendees to “Faites de la musique”, a homophone meaning Make Music!

Fleuret was an interesting individual, a man devoted to music his entire life. Opinionated and unafraid to take risks for the sake of exploring music, when he began writing as music critic for Nouvel Observateur (now L’ Obs), a widely circulated French news magazine, he famously refused to cover classical music – “the three B’s” as he put it, Brahms, Bach and Beethoven. Instead he wanted to report only on contemporary music. Such a stance might reasonably cause one to assume he only was interested in modern music, yet he also made over thirty trips to Africa and Asia as an ethnomusicologist and organized a number of concerts of traditional African and Asian music in Europe. He spent his final years devoted to the Gustav Mahler Music Library, France’s first private music library, founded together with Mahler’s biographer Henry-Louis de la Grange. The library has tens of thousands of musical assets, all of which are free to the public.

The Fête de la Musique was an enormous success and across the years has spread all over the world. The primary characteristics of the festival are this: that all performances be free to the public and that all artists donate their time; a tradition that most of the 1000+ cities that currently host the festival follow.

Make Music Day came to Beaumont in 2021 via newsletter. That is, the Downtown Beaumont Cultural Arts District (DBCAD) Executive Director Sue Bard and President Jes Prince were discussing a newsletter they received announcing the festival in other cities, and both decided that Beaumont was a prime fit for the event. (So to all you non-profits out there weary of creating newsletters month after month: keep at it! You never know who is looking.)

The DBCAD board has several members with close ties to the local music scene, and Beaumont businesses proved keen to the idea. During planning, a decision was made to make the event multiple days, rather than one, and it turned out to be a great success.

Encompassing Juneteenth, election day and Father’s Day, Make Music Day was held everywhere from polling stations to Tyrrell Park, in restaurants and in theaters for a total of at least 40 venues with over 50 musicians performing.

Due to the voluntary nature of participation, it’s difficult to know exactly how many musicians and businesses were involved and how many audience members attended. However, the Tyrrell Park event had hundreds in attendance and DBCAD’s Facebook Live broadcasts attracted over 3,000 viewers, with the lion’s share of hits going to blues legend Barbara Lynn, who streamed from her home.

Other performers ran the gamut of musical styles from rap to country to rock and roll and came from all ethnicities and ages. A four year old played “You Are My Sunshine” on a ukelele, and Lynn turned in the festival’s most distinguished performance at 80 years old.

Make Music Day is always on June 21, so in 2022 it will fall on the third Tuesday of the month. DBCAD is currently planning the festival and will likely make it a multi-day event again since it worked so well the first time.

June 21, 2022

Videos from last year’s festival
also available on Facebook