THE BLOG
05/02/2012 17:15 GMT | Updated 06/04/2012 06:12 BST

A Camden Crawler's Guide to Festival Management: Week 2

It might seem like running a festival by committee is like taking up herding cats as a hobby, but in some ways it makes things much easier. Our committee is made up of grizzled veterans of the grassroots music scene, and they know what they like - so the element of democracy this approach brings can also cause a few headaches.

I wrote last week about two concepts at the heart of our festival which I think are very closely linked: the Crawl's central purpose is to offer an exciting, eclectic line-up that allows people to see the next big things alongside established alternative acts; and, as I mentioned briefly, we use a committee system to decide who should play our festival each year, and where.

As big a music nerd as I am, it's impossible for one person to stay on top of today's music scenes. We try to be as wide-ranging as possible - pulling in everything from metal to skater to folk - and if we tried to do that without the input of the people who know those scenes best we'd just wind up looking silly.

So each year we establish a committee consisting of a list of that year's 25 or 30 curators, each of whom chooses a venue to populate for the weekend. These promoters, labels and artists are the people who across the country are promoting the best new music (whether it be on the radio or in the clubs) - week in, week out, all year around. They know their backyard inside out, see all the new bands before anyone else, and have the sort of knowledge any festival would kill for. (Maybe not literally. Most of the time.)

It might seem like running a festival by committee is like taking up herding cats as a hobby, but in some ways it makes things much easier. We ask our committee to draw up a wishlist each, and we put these together a around mid-November. Following this, each of the curators 'vote' on the full list of nominations. What this provides is the best possible list of the most exciting acts in a whole range of genres and fields. It's then my job, and that of the team, to go away and make this voted shortlist into a line-up.

Our committee is made up of grizzled veterans of the grassroots music scene, and they know what they like - so the element of democracy this approach brings can also cause a few headaches. But from my perspective as a festival manager it's what separates the Crawl from other festivals which don't take this sort of time, and make this sort of effort, to listen to the experts: I couldn't put together line-ups like the Crawl's without this kind of help. It enriches the festival.

All this makes for necessary extra co-ordination - but that's the price you pay for being the kind of festival you want to be. Around late February or early March, the most chaotic part of the whole affair takes the form of what has become known as our annual 'bunfight': the whole committee gets together in a room, and each curator picks one band in turn. We go around the room in stages until all the bands have a home for the weekend - and each year one curator will pick another's favourite band before they get the chance. At times like this, festival management most resembles conflict resolution.

Mostly, though, everyone's a winner: each curator usually gets at least two of the bands they most desperately wanted on their venue's bill, and, most importantly from my perspective, the festival gets the most diverse, best informed line-up it could possibly have got. For all the madness, I wouldn't run the festival any other way.