Fans Help Choose Performers for next season’s SummerStage Festival

Before the advent of the social media craze, fans had a pretty limited capacity of communicating with their favorite artists. They could send them a bit of fan mail, they could wait outside one of their shows, or, (strictly for hot girls) they could hang out near the bouncers and hope to get the green light to go backstage.

However, even with social media, if fans want to request a certain favorite artist to come do a show in their hometown, their options are still pretty limited. It’s not always likely that an artist will come out because of 140 characters asking them to.

New York​ City’s​ SummerStage ​performing arts​ ​festival wants to change that during its upcoming 30th anniversary season. In partnership with the website and app We Demand, fans will have a say in which artists will perform during the festival next summer.

SummerStage, which operates as a ​program​ of the nonprofit ​City Parks Foundation in New York, is the ​New York City’s ​largest free performing arts festival, with music, dance, ​theater, ​family, and circus performances. From June to August, they put on over one hundred free shows in every kind of music​al​ genre from indie rock to African​ or Latin, in boroughs throughout NYC. Aside from free shows, they also host ticketed events as fundraisers. Last summer, Beck, Neon Trees and Counting Crows performed at events like these.

“We’re here to serve community.We try to keep a balance of what’s tried and true​ and what​ people want. ​For example, ​H​ip-Hop and latin [performances] do well because there are pockets of people who like that. Basically, we give people what they want and what they don’t know they want yet,” explained Ian Noble, director of Arts and Culture at City Parks Foundation.

Noble joined City Parks Foundation this past April; he has worked in the live music and entertainment industry since 1989. Throughout his 25-year long career, he has worked as a producer, in talent booking and even as a drummer in a rock band. Most recently, he worked as a senior executive at Metropolitan Entertainment.

Because of Noble’s background as producer, he still likes to remain a major part ​of the​ talent booking​ process​ and speaking with managers and artists. However, he knows to let everyone do what they do best. He’s not a one man team. Within​ City Parks Foundation’s​ Arts & Culture department​, there are four programmers to select talent for music, family and circus, theatre and dance performances.

For the 30th anniversary, Noble is planning a theme of “where we’ve been and where we’re going.”

“I haven’t gotten too far into next year yet, but I will be talking to people I have connections to. The idea is to juxtaposition some old and new acts – that have some link, of course,” Noble stated.

SummerStage has produced shows along this theme in the past. This past summer, they had Dr. John and ​Hurray for the ​Riff Raff perform on the same ticket. Both performers are from New Orleans; however, ​Hurray for the​ Riff Raff is a relatively new performer, while Dr. John has been around since the late 1950’s.  To help choose some of the performers, SummerStage is using the help of WeDemand. We Demand approached them last summer with a proposal to work together.

“Its our job to know what people want to see but its not scientific – you have to a feel for these things and we got a lot of information [from WeDemand,]” Noble said.

Throughout the spring, SummerStage will work to bring in whatever top artists that they can. To fundraise, SummerStage relies on donations, ticketed events and corporate sponsors like Time Warner and Disney.

“There are some gigs, like Beyonce, that we know are not going to happen in the realm of possibilities. We can’t guarantee the act but we will try to book the acts that people want to see and of course it depends on money and vendors and a whole bunch of things​, ​however there are variables beyond our control,” Noble stated.

Aside from the WeDemand campaign, the 30th Anniversary will also ​feature​ bigger shows in ​all of NYC’s​ boroughs. “Summerstage in Central Park gets all the press and all of the glory. We want to focus on our city-wide events. We’re re-allocating our budget to have some bigger shows in the other boroughs.”

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