Something for discussion - The Guest List

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Claire Armbruster

Oct 31, 2023, 9:28:37 AM10/31/23
Happy Halloween!

Scary is the enormous artist guest list that festivals manage each year. Many artists send their list in advance. Some guest names are provided at the last minute, which is fine. We deal with it, but more often than not, there are requests that come at the gate, after the list has been made. At that point, it's difficult to turn someone down. In an effort to manage our expenses, who we feed, and how many comps we give out, I'm asking what other festivals require. If you're comfortable sharing this information, I'd love to know. 

Below is the guest policy we use for both the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival and Earl Scruggs Music Festival.

Please provide the festival with a list of band personnel and guests before July 10. Each band member receives one guest pass for the day(s) that they are performing. Guests traveling with the band will receive backstage (all access) passes for the day(s) band is performing. Names of guests left at will call (not traveling with the band) will receive day passes for the day(s) that the band is performing.  

What's your policy?


Planning Stages
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205 N Johnson St.
Brevard, NC 28712

Bryan Sutton's Blue Ridge Guitar Camp, Director, Brevard, NC, May 29-June 2, 2024
Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, Producer, Oak Hill, NY, July 18-21, 2024
Appalachia Sessions Television SeriesTalent Consultant, Knoxville, TN--fall 2023 through spring 2024. 
Earl Scruggs Music Festival, Producer, Mill Spring, NC, August 30-September 1, 2024

Kevin Slick

Oct 31, 2023, 10:02:03 AM10/31/23
to Claire Armbruster,

Happy Halloween to you as well,

The policy you listed is similar to many I've encountered. Midwinter in Denver uses something like this although the guest pass doesn't necessarily include green room access. Rockygrass has backstage or all access passes which I've used as a photographer or band guest but food is another type of pass, so I would guess the actual "cost" is less and then the issue becomes more one of managing the amount of people roaming around backstage.
I'm curious as to how folks count the costs of comps. Are they counted at face value? My assumption has always been that most people who come in as guests would not otherwise be buying a ticket but maybe that's faulty thinking.

-Kevin Slick

Musician, composer, visual artist.

“Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.” - Pete Seeger

"Take it easy, but take it!" - Woody Guthrie
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Stephen Ruffo

Oct 31, 2023, 11:43:14 AM10/31/23
to Claire Armbruster,
Wintergrass basically has the same policy as stated by Claire for Grey Fox.  Major difference is we do not allow Guests backstage.  Unless approved  family members. Our backstage areas are various sizes and not all can accommodate guests. Exceptions can be made by the Backstage Manager. 

Also we have a date deadline for Guest submissions.   We are in Indoor Festival and have a limited capacity of ticket numbers. If we sell One or give to a Guest it reduces our capacity.  Every seat has value.  And the hardest act of all is for us to get the Guest List by a certain date from Artists.  I am not sure Artists/Managers realize how much post work it is to add a guest to the list after our cutoff date.  Most are great but there are some that show up with their guest list at Ticket sales. All of us in this business know that our greatest asset is good planning. 

Thanks Claire for sharing this with us.

-- Stephen Ruffo,  Director of Operations
Wintergrass Music Festival
Feb 22-25, 2024
360-531-1240 (cell or txt)


Austin Scelzo

Oct 31, 2023, 3:13:28 PM10/31/23
to Stephen Ruffo, Claire Armbruster,
Hi all,

Just food for thought coming from the perspective of a digital native/ previous school teacher who worked with Google services daily in the public schools.

I would imagine the guest list procedure could be made more manageable with editable google sheets. This way, all guests are automatically being organized/tracked in the same place, artists can add guests last minute that would appear instantly on the sheet and not have to make last minute email/call requests. 

Volunteers at the gate can either have a printed copy updated from the morning OR look on their phone/computer to monitor last-minute updates. 

In this scenario, a google sheet would be sent out to artists who are given editting privileges so that they can add their guests directly to the sheet. This would also make it easier on bands to visually see who has submitted what guests and avoid accidentally submitting twice or not being able to confirm who has already been added. 

Screenshot 2023-10-31 at 1.06.21 PM.png

Dewey Boyd

Nov 1, 2023, 10:01:28 AM11/1/23
to Bluegrass Associations and Event Production
I LOVE the idea of an editable Google sheet.  Having an instantly updatable list is great, especially at festivals with wifi infrastructure and/or good cell service.

Coming at this from the TM and/or crew side (I'm FOH with Ricky Skaggs and TM for Dan Tyminski), I can anecdotally confirm that guests are most often family members or people who wouldn't otherwise be buying a ticket.  So unless the guests are diminishing the capacity of the paying crowd and/or gobbling up lots of consumable resources, it may be helpful to think of them as an advertising opportunity (future ticket buyers).  

As a TM, even when I'm diligent to give the band guest list deadlines, I almost always get a last minute request.  So I appreciate all of you who've been gracious and accommodating of that.
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