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June 24, 2009

Virgin Mobile FreeFest is a coup

virgin mobile festivalHere's a question: How do you scale back one of the region's biggest music festivals and keep it from being a disappointment?

The answer? You make it free.

That's what Virgin Mobile did with this year's Virgin Festival, renamed the Virgin Mobile FreeFest.

The headliners, Blink-182, Weezer, Franz Ferdinand and Public Enemy don't have the star power of previous acts such as the Who, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kanye West and the Police. It's only one day: Aug. 30. And the venue, Merriweather Post Pavilion, holds about half as many people as the infield at Pimlico Race Course.

But all 35,000 tickets for this year's festival will be given away for free. (You can find my piece about the fest, with more details and ticketing info, here) ...

"I suppose people will thing that there must be a catch, but there really isn't," said festival producer Seth Hurwitz. "We just wanted to put on a show that would make people happy."

All I can say is, wow.

Everybody was ready to bash this year's festival. The announcement didn't come until really late in the festival season, after all of the big festival lineups were out. Bloggers and music fans wondered if it was even coming back at all. And the lineup, long rumored to be Blink-182 and Weezer, was less impressive than previous years.

But in previous years, the festival cost nearly $100 a day. This year, it's free. Sir Richard Branson, a brilliant marketer, strikes again! 

"In a time of economic challenges and daily sacrifices, we wanted to throw a fantastic party so people could let loose and have a great time - on us," Branson, founder and president of Virgin Group, said in a statement.

Merriweather is being outfitted with multiple stages and a dance tent, and expanded to hold nearly 35,000. If they were charging money for the festival, I doubt they would get 35,000 people. With the festival being free, that won't be a problem at all.

I'm still marveling at the move. A free Virgin Festival? What an awesome idea.

(Sun photo by Patrick Smith)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 6:54 AM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival


I went to the show in 2006. Does that mean they'll be contacting me abotu getting free tickets? Or is that just for people who bought ticket's to last year's show?

Has there been any information in regard to how we can score a couple of the 35,000 free tickets?

I have the same question as ananymous, but I bought tickets in 2007 instead of '06. I'm looking on Ticketmaster and there is nothing about the show on there yet.

you know, if people ask questions as comments its good practice to answer them. i hope you plan to follow up more on the process

It's free, but with headliners like Blink-182 and Weezer, you'd have to pay me to go. And it's a bad time for me, so I'll end up missing Virgin Festival for a second year, but feeling a lot better about it.

still not going

I dunno even for free I cant see them being headliners

Good lord people, give me a minute here. We were up until midnight working on this thing, and today, I'm doing a follow up. So as soon as I get more details, I'll post them. Until then, stay tuned.

Who's he going to get the answer from to a question like that at 8am? Seriously, chill the heck out. He usually just posts his own comments when he has answers.

And you call yourself a reporter, Sessa. For shame.

Huge fan of the Hold Steady, so I'd go just to see those guys.
I've been a fan of the Vfest since it started back in '06. It is well-run and highly enjoyable event. More about the music, then the booze and the partying. But a question to the Midnight Sunners out there: To me the $100 ticket fee kept the event safe and enjoyable. The demographics and the ticket price always made it skew a little older. My fear is by making it free it'll turn out to be like what the old HFSestivals and Preakness became. A cheap, drunken, fight-filled, crazy event. For this purpose I might not go even if it was free. What impact does everybody think the free admission will have on the event?

branson pulls a radiohead!

*chuckle *

i will go if i can get tickets, but prob wouldn't stay the whole time. what's up with it being on a sunday?

One impact...a lot more people are going to get tickets with no intention of going for the sole purpose of trying to make a buck when tickets "free" out. With the cost and size, Virgin Fest was not going to sell out at Pimlico so waiting until the day of to get tickets allowed naming a cheaper price to the buyer. When these go, the prices will get silly.

Crowd will probably be very young, and by young, I mean, under 18

I'm gonna try to get a ticket for free. I'll probably go regardless, but should I decide against going, someone will be getting the ticket from me for free.

I believe the timing may have to do with a previously "open" date on the Blink/Weezer tour.

Sam, what's the presale password?

Are people going to be lining up for these tickets? I think it would be a good show, and I'd probably even pay for it, but the energy it would take to get 2 of those (less than) 35,000 tickets that go up on Saturday is way more than I care to expend. I'd rather pay $20 or $30 and not have to be up Ticketmaster's butt at 10am. I will be waking up and stumbling across the street to the Starboard for my first drink right around then, haha.

Wonder what the secondary market price will be like?

Is Eddie Vedder going to be there?


are you serious? those bands aren't impressive? blink 182, taking back sunday, and weezer are three of my favorite bands.

Hey guys, here is how the ticket situation works

Some of these comments are unbelievable. People complaining about the bands not being great, or it not being as big as the years past, or the 5 dollar convenience charge on ticketmaster should really take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

True, the festival isn't going to be as big as previous years, and yeah Weezer & Blink 182 aren't RHCP or The Police. But they are cool bands, and so are all of the other bands. Oh and, IT IS FREE! That is unheard of these days. Any day filled with music, good times and friends is a good day in my book. I am for sure going, and everyone I know is excited about it too.

I'd like to give a big THANK YOU to Virgin Mobile!

Uh Julie, just because somethings free doen't mean I have to think its awesome.

I'm not gonna go see the local drama club perform miss saigon just because it's free, im not gonna go to the profesional womens hog calling festival, just because its free.

Just like Im not going to go to a free concert with mediocre bands play just because its free.

I want a report on how much a bottle of water costs and how much a hot dog is at the concert.

I would much rather pay for a good lineup then go for free to a crappy lineup.

Going to Virgin Mobile fest is an experience. I've gone there every year and it's become a sort of tradition for my brother and me. And now this year, by cutting the number of attendees in half, we won't get to go because tickets are sold out. The ticket decision was more stupid than the choice of headliners in my opinion.

Public Enemy isn't star power? Uh hello, original pioneer's of social-political rap and 1/2 of the show "Flavor of Love"!!

I feel like making this concert free was a horrible idea. It was obviously in the favor of publicity rather than helping the people. I sat on ticketmaster waiting at 10 AM on Saturday and still didn't get tickets. Now, since I still want to go, I'll get to pay some jerk an unreasonable amount of money for free tickets...that's if I'm lucky. Thanks for nothing?

What is the deal with Virgin as of late? It's cool that they're offering the concert for free, but lately it seems that everything they are doing revolves around helping the poor. For example, they are offering some kind of card for people on welfare or the unemployed. It's $10, but you have to be preapproved and its not available to everyone, i.e students or part time workers and not worry so much about people who dont fall under their original customers. I think rather than offering all these things for free for certain people, they should just lower the prices for everyone across the board. Give us ALL a break Virgin!!!

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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