Indie takes a hit

IndieFest producer Alicia Champion says, “We think we can bounce back” from this year’s low turnout.
  • IndieFest producer Alicia Champion says, “We think we can bounce back” from this year’s low turnout.

“Yeah, turnout was our lowest in a few years, actually,” Alicia Champion reports to the Reader via email. Champion is the executive producer of the San Diego IndieFest. In 2010, IndieFest peaked in North Park, where security had to turn away nearly 1000 fans, by some estimates. The festival moved to a larger space at Liberty Station in Point Loma. But this year, a visitor couldn’t help but notice that crowds were thinner.

“I think a few things came into play, particularly moving the event to August this year. There’s just so much going on in the San Diego summertime, that it’s hard for a community event like IndieFest to compete with longstanding large-scale venues like Del Mar, for example.”

IndieFest started in 2004. “The first event was at the Abbey in Banker’s Hill. It drew about 500. Until this last year, we were pulling an average of about 4000 fans...and probably more in 2010 because so many were turned away.” Champion breaks down Fest attendance by pointing out that there is a split between free admissions and hard ticket sales, such that in the final analysis, actual crowd numbers are estimated by the San Diego Police Department.

“I don’t know that I’d call [this year’s low attendance] so much a fluke, because in retrospect, I understand why certain things took place. Danielle [LoPresti, Champion’s partner] and I weren’t nearly as present as we’ve been in the past. We had to hire outside contractors to do a lot of what we normally handled ourselves, and the move from March to August clearly increased competition.”

One wonders also if the future of live music is headed toward the YouTube graveyard or live streaming from clubs directly to iPads and iPhones. Are music fans just not leaving home?

“People are definitely leaving their homes for live music, but it is right to acknowledge the curveball that live streaming represents. I certainly don’t have the answer to what the future holds, but I think that people will always treasure the experience of live music and that it will always have a market, however evolving it may be.”

For Champion, what’s the biggest lesson learned from this year’s event?

“That producing IndieFest and fighting cancer in our home simultaneously is really, really hard and probably shouldn’t be repeated.” LoPresti, Champion says, is battling a particularly virulent and fast-growing type of the disease at present.

Sources close to the event say the producers took a financial hit this year. Will the future of live music in San Diego include another IndieFest?

“Yeah we took a hit. I don’t think the actual figure is all that important for press. But if we’re talking about coming back again next year, it’s clearly something we think we can bounce back from.”

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