Partners turn festivals into online small busines
By Dale Neal, (Asheville,
Kurt Irmiter calls
himself a serial entrepreneur. Starting out with ice cream, he's ended up
with the Internet. (Festival Network
knows the festival business inside and out. He started dishing out homemade
ice cream in the early '80s at weekend festivals across the Southeast. He's
run craft booths, booked performers and managed stages.
But Irmiter and
his partner Connie Morris were frustrated getting the necessary details about
entry fees and deadlines to plan for upcoming outdoor arts shows and music
festivals and other events.
Why not build
From that brainstorm,
Irmiter and Morris have built a burgeoning business that survived the dot-com
crash of the late '90s, and showed yet another way to make money on the Internet.
In the early '90s,
Morris collected some 2,000 entries for different festivals, and together
they began publishing a regional printed guide for artists, musicians, jugglers,
comedians and vendors — anybody who needed the information.
But the business
really took off with the advent of the World Wide Web, Irmiter said. "We
grew from a couple of thousand entries to 10,000 entries by the time we launched
on the Internet in 1997."
Now Irmiter and
Morris are no longer making the festival rounds, but work full time with
Festival Network Online (festivalnet.com),
the nation's largest real-time Web portal for information on festivals across
the United States and Canada.
The Web site
now sees more than 35,000 visitors each month with one million searches.
The site has just added a new "radius" search that allows visitors to check
out the festivals within specified distances of a certain zip code. Basic
information is free to casual festivalgoers.
who want more details on deadlines, entry fees and other information subscribe
for annual fees of $49 or $89, depending on the access.
Irmiter runs the
database on a simple dial-up modem out of his Weaverville, N.C., home. The
database is stored on a server farm in New England.
Morris also works
online with two researchers, collecting more information each week. Irmiter
is not sure how many festivals, music events and other shows are out there
to be documented.
"It may be as
high as 30,000," he said. "There's a real industry with all these people
Irmiter sees the
Web site perhaps partnering with the tourism departments of various states
who see the attraction of festivals to bring visitors and money to their