"I went with the bands that made me feel something" - how to plan a music festival, feat. No Earbuds' Jamie Coletta

"I went with the bands that made me feel something" - how to plan a music festival, feat. No Earbuds' Jamie Coletta

Festivals! I love them. How do they work?? It takes a hell of a lot of coordination to get a healthy handful of bands to play on the same day at the same location, as I learned when I interviewed DIY festival producer Conor Alan, who puts together Fauxchella every year in Bowling Green, Ohio.

For another angle on the fest planning process, I email-interviewed Jamie Coletta, who runs the boutique PR and music consulting company No Earbuds, about No Earbuds Fest, which is coming up in just a couple of weeks (June 15th to be exact) in Pomona, California and has a stacked lineup: glass beach, Pool Kids, Jhariah, We Are The Union, many more. Read on for all the joys, pains, trials, tribulations and involved in booking a fest of this nature!!

Will you first share a bit about what your work entails for No Earbuds in general?

To put it simply, I build hype and momentum. Generally I work with bands either as a publicist, representing them on an upcoming release or tour and navigating how that story is told to the public, or I work with them as a consultant, having recurring calls and conversations about a myriad of things from shopping to labels, finding an agent, growing a social following, planning a timeline, building a team, etc.  Even when I'm working as a publicist on a record, I am generally fusing in aspects of consulting pretty naturally—and that's sorta the No Earbuds thing. I started the company five years ago as a freelance publicist that didn't want their website to just be firstnamelastname.com, but I think a lot of the bands that have worked with me in the past recognize that the experience they get with me is much different than that of most PR folks – no shade intended. Guess it just took me a while to catch up.

How did the idea for No Earbuds Fest first come to be?

Honestly? I got burned by the greater music industry once again and decided I was done letting them dictate my success. I had long had the idea to do a No Earbuds showcase and initially started off planning that, but it quickly turned into more. I couldn't decide on just a few bands, first off, but then I thought about the awesome memories I have at all-day fests like this and just that feeling of community that comes from a bunch of people hanging around watching bands all day. I loved Wrecking Ball so much. I love The Fest so much. I love Topshelf Records day parties at SXSW. I loved the SXDIY showcase we threw with The Alternative in 2019. So I decided to go all-out and recreate that vibe here in SoCal.

How long has the planning process been from start to finish?

Probably started in August 2023 as an idea / initial conversation and began properly materializing in October/November.

What kind of mood / vibe / genre were you going for with the artists on the bill? What kind of experience do you hope the audience has?

I tried to curate this lineup in a way that was complimentary—so if you like glass beach, you probably love Jhariah and I bet you'd like Perennial, too. If you like Pool Kids, you'll probably dig Queen of Jeans, Talker, Cheridomingo, and La Fonda. If you like We Are The Union, bet you'll dig Dollar Signs, Teens in Trouble, Grave Secrets, and J.R. SLAYER.

I also wanted to show off a unique class of bands that are at a headliner status in certain-sized rooms in certain cities but still categorize as developing or growing. Those bands usually get thrown on big corporate festivals in the 1 or 2pm slot—super cool for the one sheet but less so when it comes to engaging actual fans—but at No Earbuds Fest, they're the stars of the show.

Who else is involved in the planning + execution of the festival—how many folks would you say are working on it?

Maybe 10 or so? I have a booking agent who has been my right-hand from the jump; I have a management colleague who is my champion and encouraged me to do this; I have the promoter and their team helping to get the word out about the fest; I have a handful of designers and creators who've helped me make content; I have sponsors who are helping me get these rad little gift bags made for all the artists and the first 100 fans to show up. I have my husband who is helping with all things gear/sound/backline; and I have some homies helping me hand out flyers and hang posters around town.

Anything in particular to note about the venues where the fest is taking place?

For starters—the gig begins at The Haven, which is on the exact same block as The Glass House. They're both in downtown Pomona which is this rad little walkable area w/ restaurants, bars, shops, etc. But it's not super corporate / chain stuff – still feels like its own community which is a big part of why I love going to shows at The Glass House.

The Glass House itself is a super unique space, and it's got its own record shop right next door. The Haven is a smaller divey-ish spot around the corner and we'll start the day down there. About 4-5 bands in, the doors at The Glass House will open and then the show will wrap in that space with glass beach headlining.

I want to ask specifically about the branding/visuals for the festival that i've seen so far (which I love!)—how do you figure out branding? What goes into it that people might not realize?

Thank you so much! I am super proud of all of it. Sometime late last year I started working with a designer on a revamped website and overall logo direction; that was Faye Orlove and they killed it! I'm obsessed with my site and the new color scheme. At the same time, I was working on this updated animation with my favorite animator Sarah Schmidt. From there, I went to homie of all homies Mikaela Jane who mocked everything up into the main posters we used to announce the fest. It's a blend of all three of their styles that have influenced everything else, basically!

Having a clear idea for inspiration definitely helped all of these incredibly talented people deliver something that I felt accurately represented the energy of this fest. When I first got started with the idea of doing a fest, I basically made a Pinterest mood board and sent them a bunch of pics from Lizzie McGuire and random deep bits from The Office.

yesssss Lizzie

What's the hardest thing about planning a festival?

I decided to book this via an independent promoter, which means I don't get the luxury of a big fancy corporate overlord helping me sell tickets and get the word out. So I guess doing this on my own has been the hardest thing! Having to keep myself organized; finding time to entertain all of my #bigideas; creating engaging content to remind folks the fest is coming up; all the while maintaining a full client load for PR and management, and being a mom and wife, too. Social life? Hobbies? Never heard of them!

I also had a hard time choosing what bands to book! I definitely did not go with the bands that were the most popular or who I assumed would sell the most tickets. I went with the bands that made me feel something. Bands who have been important to the growth and development of No Earbuds. Bands that mean something to me and that I want to share with the world. There are SO MANY of those that it was really hard to land on a final lineup, but I'm very stoked with how things turned out!

What's the easiest thing about planning a festival?

I would argue that none of it's been easy, lol, but that's fine! I think it's important that people know that doing something like this requires a fuck ton of energy, passion, patience, creativity, and did I mention energy? I think the last time I felt this tired on a down-to-my-bones level was when I was pregnant and literally creating human life with my body. And this event hasn't even happened yet!!

What's the most *unexpected* thing about booking a festival?

Honestly, I've been really let down by seeing a lack of support from some people I considered very close friends or champions / colleagues. But at the same time I've been so surprised at the overwhelming response from others I never expected. People I've worked with here and there have been stepping up in major ways, and so have a ton of fans who I've known over the years just from being loud online. So that's been pretty rad and not something I expected to happen when I started reaching out for help!

What are you most excited for on fest day?

The Del Taco burrito I'm gonna smash at like 1AM when I'm finally leaving the venue to head home after it's all said and done.

now that i live in california, i take every opportunity i can to salute the beautiful Del Taco burrito

Thank you Jamie! No Earbuds Fest will surely be a kickass time—check out the website here, and buy tickets here (you can get 15% off with the discount code EARBUDDY through today!!).

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