As festivals overload, Fest300 seeks to curate experiences

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

NEW YORK (AP) — The myriad of festivals seems to have gotten more dizzying over the last decade: Whether it's a weekend of music performances, a foodie meet-up or a health-and-wellness gathering, there seems to be a "fest" happening somewhere around the globe at any moment.

It's almost enough to cause festival overload. But Fest300 — a site launched this year by entrepreneur Chip Conley — is seeking to not only enhance, but also curate the festival experience by sifting through them all and pointing out the best from the rest. He likens it to the festival version of the website Trip Advisor, where travelers go when they want to plan the best trip.

"We're trying to outline what we think are the best festivals because people have more choice, and the more choice you have, the more you want someone to curate your choices for you," Conley, an executive at AirBnB, said in a recent interview.

The site's ultimate list of the top 300 festivals in the world contains the familiar — including Coachella, Lollapalooza (which kicks off Friday) and the Cannes Film Festival — and also those that may not be as well known, like the National Cowboy Poetry Festival in Texas (mark your calendars for January) or the Rainforest Music Festival coming up in August in Malaysia.

There's also a steady stream of articles. A recent check of the site had one that included which festivals had the most germ-ridden wristbands, and another on going to festivals from a woman's vantage point.

Conley says the site's advantage, and its biggest challenge, is the broad swath it aims to appeal to.

"Usually when you create something new you actually go after a certain niche of people and you just serve that niche really well and grow from there," he said. "What we've decided to do is the opposite. We said, let's actually create the most comprehensive festival website ever created and focus on just the cream of the crop across all types of locations and festivals."

Fest300 enlists festival-goers for their input to give ratings of their experiences, but is also working with festivals like Bonnaroo for behind-the-scenes videos and other exclusive content. The site's business model includes sponsored content and advertising from tourism bureaus.

Taylor hopes to grow the site to more than 500,000 unique views per month, and given the popularity of festivals, believes it's an achievable goal.

"Part of the reason why I think festivals have grown so much — they're just popping up all over — is because people want that in real life experience," he said. "We spend so much of our time connecting with each other through iPhones and Facebook, but doing it in person makes a big difference. I do think the reason why Fest300 the site is necessary is because there are so many new choices."