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No teenage wasteland at Musikfest as students plan performances

(Photo source: Musikfest.org) Weezer is coming to Musikfest 2014. I think Weezer is cool, but I am old.
(Photo source: Musikfest.org) Weezer is coming to Musikfest 2014. I think Weezer is cool, but I am old.

I remember being 14. It was a year or two ago, I think.

One day I was watching a television interview with a musician, whose name I can’t recall. He said he didn’t want to be remembered as some guy who sold records to 14-year-olds.

I was very offended.

I was 14 and my money was as good as anybody’s. Besides, who could possibly be more passionate about music than a young teen.

I understand now that he meant he wanted to be known for more mature, profound music versus mass-marketed pop, but I never forgot the quote. And I have never forgotten how much music meant to my peers and me during my teens and early 20s.

In that vein, I’ve always been a bit disappointed – even after I left that age demographic – that Musikfest never did more to schedule bands with more of a teen appeal.

To be sure, the music festival in Bethlehem has been better in recent years scheduling a pop or indie band or two to attract a younger, hipper crowd, but I always felt that it fell short in that area.

But now, for the second year in a row, the music festival is not just reaching out with more music that appeals to a younger crowd. It’s reaching out to the youths themselves and letting them help pick who plays at the annual event.

Students taking a marketing class at Freedom and Liberty high schools have been working with staff at ArtsQuest, which manages the festival, to put together two days of Musikfest musical performances that they choose.

Students researched which bands would have the appeal they were looking for, managed the bookings, negotiated payment and now will be working to help promote the bands.

They’ve been given a small advertising budget, but they’ll also be asked to explore other means of promoting the musical acts through social media and whatever other avenues they can explore.

It’s a great educational opportunity for the young people whose experience in promoting new music may have thus far been limited to sharing their Spotify play lists.

(For the record, I had to ask a 23-year-old in the office how young people share music today – I made mix tapes.)

But it’s not just the young people who are benefiting. Musikfest will get bands that may not have been on its radar and an insight into the minds of those younger music fans.

You see, those younger fans may not be the big-money donors the festival relies on today, but in the future they could be.

Establishing a relationship with young people now will give them the buy-in they need to become lifelong supporters of the music festival. Perhaps someday when they can spare the $100 or more that membership costs, they’ll see the value and be dedicated volunteers and financial supporters of the organization that brings such a significant quality of life to our area.

It’s a good lesson for any for-profit business in the Greater Lehigh Valley to learn. Don’t just look at who your customers are today, but who they may be tomorrow – and welcome them into the fray.

Give a young man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him how to book Phish – and he’ll get you a music festival.

Let’s get those kids started on promoting their bands – here’s a list of the bands and when they’re planning and where you can follow the teens’ progress in promoting them:

Aug. 2, Plaza Tropical

Presented by Freedom High School

The Blue Wave Theory – 2:30 p.m. (surf rock/instrumental/garage)

Briar Rabbit – 3:30 p.m. (folk/soloist)

Lines in the Sky – 4:30 p.m. (modern rock)

Arc and Stones – 5:30 p.m. (rock)


 Aug. 9, Plaza Tropical

Presented by Liberty High School

Grandpa Rage – 2:30 p.m. (jam band)

The Romantic Era – 3:30 p.m. (pop-rock)

Cedar Green – 4:30 p.m. (punk-rock)

Bushmaster – 5:30 p.m. (modern/blues rock)

Musikfest 2014 is Aug. 1-10 throughout Bethlehem. For more information, visit www.musikfest.org or follow both schools on Twitter: @FHS_AtTheFest and @LHSMusikfest.

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