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Where the Downtown Music Festival Went Wrong

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On the weekend of May 10th and 11th, the Downtown Music Festival hit the Lower East Side. The festival is only a few years old and has some obvious kinks to work out. But even with big names like Kendrick Lamar, I wasn’t sold on the Downtown Music Festival experience. In the end, there were several issues that the Festival had working against it.

1. The venues.

Some of the spaces were wonderful. Capitale was large and could pack in probably 100 more people than it did. But for every fantastic space like Capitale, was a small, club-style environment, which are great if you’re into the club scene. But for those there for solely the concert experience, the Downtown Music Festival was less than ideal. The artists felt like glorified DJs when it was much too easy to slip into the drinking and dancing club mode.

2. The timing and ticket prices.

The Downtown Music Festival just happened to fall on one of the same nights as another much larger music festival, the Red Bull Music Academy. The Red Bull was better advertised, more cohesive, and expanded across a wide range of genres. The Downtown Music Festival was little competition. When you add the absurdly high price of $45 for a single ticket, it really stood no chance against other festivals.

3. The lack of promotion.

Any time you walked down a popular street or passed a bus in New York City, you were likely to see an advertisement or two promoting the Red Bull Music Academy (if it wasn’t being occupied by an Arrested Development sign). In fact, the only time I ever encountered anything with the Downtown Music Festival logo was on a balloon outside of the venue I was going to. Even the box office was tucked away in a nondescript building that I walked past several times before asking for directions. Because of the lack of promotion, the crowd sizes remained small, sometimes only filling half a room at best.

4. The inconsistencies

It makes sense that there will be some minor inconsistencies when your music festival is spread across the Lower East Side. However, the security and crowds differed so widely from venue to venue that it didn’t even feel like the same festival. At one club, security was insanely strict. My pen was confiscated and as an underage festival goer, I wasn’t even allowed in the same room as alcohol. By the next venue, the bartender looked at the large X on my hand and offered me a drink anyway.

5. The Vibe

My biggest complaint with the Downtown Music Festival was the vibe. Never did I feel like I was at a concert or a music festival. Every club that hosted an artist felt distinctly like a club. I came for the music. I was given dancing and drunkenness.

Mackenzie is an Alabama native attending NYU and studying Journalism and Dramatic Literature. She hopes to one day live in London and write for the BBC.