Music festival review site is first of its kind

By Charlie Weinmann
On April 11, 2014

  • The first website dedicated to music fest. reviews

Taking a road trip in a van packed with your buddies who haven't showered in a week may not seem like "a good time to be had by all." But if you are driving cross-country to see your top-five favorite musicians perform over the course of a few days, a few smelly friends are not really a big deal. 

Sometimes deciding which festival to attend can be the most difficult part for fans. That is, until Dan Swain became determined to create a solution for this void in the industry.  

Swain is originally from the small town of Wakefield, Rhode Island. He is a recent graduate of Northeastern University, with a music industry degree; through Northeastern's Co-Op program, Swain was able to start working with music festivals. 

"I realized it was a part of the music industry that's growing, and not crippled by piracy and declining record sales," Swain said. 

After working for a company called Noise Pop in San Francisco, CA, he fell in love with the festival industry. 

"I decided that was what I wanted to be a part of," Swain said. 

  That led him to The Newport Folk Festival, where he currently works seasonally as a productions assistant. After a few years of working for festivals, Swain realized that there was a lack of communication among festivalgoers. There needed to be a place for conversation, where the quality of all of these music events could be discussed. 

"It became apparent to me that festival fans needed a place to voice their opinions," Swain said. "A lot of people will post on a festival's Facebook page, or tweet at the festival, but with thousands of fans, it can be difficult for festivals to acknowledge those posts."

The answer was Obfessed. It is the first and only music festival review and rating website. It allows users to share their experiences, helping festivals figure out what they're doing right, and what they could improve upon. It was founded in 2013 as a festival news source and is essentially a Twitter account reporting lineup announcements and ticket information.

"It just made sense to create a site where festival [managers] can have a clear sense of what their fans like and what they're not crazy about," Swain said. 

The Obfessed team currently consists of just two people: a back-end programmer and Swain. They also have a few writers who contribute "featured festivals," festival news and editorial content.

 Many young websites make good money from paying advertisers, but Swain says money was never the main focus. 

"Monetary profit was never the goal," Swain said. "There is definitely potential for advertising revenue to be made. In the same way people use Yelp to find good restaurants, Obfessed is used to find good festivals. This can be especially valuable to small festivals that might not have the budget to run full-scale marketing campaigns."

The values behind Obfessed cater to the entirety of the festival industry, and many members of that community are reaching out to support the site. 

 Swain mentioned that a number of live music and rave blogs have helped spread the word. The creators of Obfessed also teamed up with certain festivals to run giveaways and contests. A couple of weeks ago, Obfessed offered a deal where if you reviewed the festival, Kahbang!, which takes place in Bangor, Maine, you would receive a code that allowed you to buy tickets a week before anyone else.

  It is obvious that Swain pays attention to detail when it comes to his website. The page for Obfessed is visually stunning. Swain said that Hurtig Technologies, a web development company based in Boston, did a lot of the back-end work, while Swain did most of the design and front-end tasks. 

"The photo of Coachella on the front page was taken by Andrew Swartz, an amazing photographer, also based out of Boston," Swain said. 

 The site features a top ten, highest-reviewed festival list.

"It's great to see a small festival most people haven't heard of right next to Bonnaroo's and Coachella's [reviews]," Swain said. "That's what Obfessed is all about; exposing the 'little guys.'" 

 Swain says there are thousands of festivals in the U.S. alone, so even though there are over 300 festivals currently featured on Obfessed, they still have a long way to go. 

"We hope to be at 500 festivals by the end of May, just in time for festival season," Swain said. "For me personally, I like festivals with distinct personalities, ones that aren't trying to be just another 'massive-mega-festival.' I tend to go to small or medium sized festivals like Newport Folk, or Treasure Island out in San Francisco."

 Swain has received a generous amount of support from his peers in New England. His friends do their best to spread the word. 

"I think it's a really innovative idea," Mary Chamard, a close friend of Swain's, said. "It could really take off if it gets the right attention. It would help if music festivals promoted it too ... I think it'll work out for him in the long run."

One main goal for Swain is that his website will have a positive impact on the live music and arts industries. 

 "For me, the best part is seeing a small festival gain exposure through great reviews and high ratings," Swain said. 


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