the music festival business

Late one morning in the middle of the night, I was doing a little research, wondering if our website showed up when and if people looked for festival footwear.  Suprised, to see, that our site was not mentioned once, not that it really matters much, we have been saving feet at festivals since the first bonnaroo, and step back before that to the grateful dead tour and some Phish tour.  Remember “coventry”, that phish festival, where everybody lost their shoes? That was the only event we have ever sold out of shoes at ever!  or that 3rd bonnaroo when all those shoes were stacked up in front of our booth, you could play king of the mountain on top of the name brand footwear that were tearing up peoples feet, that just got left in front of our booth.  So many festivals, so many good times.

I stumbled upon this article called “footwear news”, one of those magazines that somehow i got on their list- maybe because i manufacture shoes?  They actually wrote about us about 8 years ago, funny article, i felt way out of place being in that magazine, but realized some people had taken notice of our fabulous footwear.  This article i stumbled upon, talked about the shoe business, and marketing of shoes at festivals; which as a small family run footwear brand – i’ve seen the big money come flying in over the past few years of big footwear manufacturers- sponsoring the event, giving away shoes- yes, thanks teva- for giving away sandals at a big event for us that gives us cash flow to employ people for the year- thanks alot…. Giving away shoes at a huge retail event, i guess thats when you realize you have more money then you need, when you can afford to give away sandals at a retail event… cmon- there are events especially made for that…

But anyway this article, was hilarious.   I was a bit dismayed by the some of the comments.  i will pass them on here:  pay close attention:

“According to Nielsen, festivals tend to attract a large and youthful audience. Its latest figures estimate that approximately 32 million people attend at least one U.S. music festival each year, with 46 percent of them between the ages of 18 and 34”.  (recognize now, that the Nielson ratings have moved to festivals)

“From Coachella and Glastonbury to Bonnaroo and the Governors Ball, footwear brands are tapping into this vibrant world for marketing and consumer outreach, as well as trend-watching”.  (they are “tapping” into us, i feel like this is a quote right out of the movie, They Live, if you havent seen that movie- please check it out- its a classic)

“For (insert name brand mentioned here) second year at the festival, the brand produced a limited-edition Bonnaroo sandal and DIY kit — available only at the event — that allowed festival goers to personalize their sandals. “On the first day, we had 90-minute lines to buy the sandals, and by day four, it seemed like every other person was wearing a pair,” said (this guy at the name brand mentioned above), marketing manager for “(the name brand)”.— (90 minute lines?  Evidently, they don’t know how to get shoes on peoples feet, or perhaps, the 90 minute lines, was the year they were giving out sandals to the first 100 (?) people per day? At our Nomadic state of Mind booth we would have people showing up in the morning asking us if we were the booth giving away sandals?  Our replies went along these lines: 1. No we work for a living, or 2. i think that is next to the free hotdog booth, 3.or- why don’t you try these on?.   But who passes up on free stuff?  We have weathered the storm for the past 20 years, we were at bonnaroo when those really ugly shoes, were popular- what were they called?  For 2 years we went neck and neck with this company- well as neck and neck as a hippy shoe company is going to go- we just sold all their employees sandals so when they go off of work they could put something comfortable and not ridiculous looking on- well, i’m sure there are some people that think our “air jesus” is ridiculous, but we are not for everybody, we know that.  On the second comment of the “other shoe company’s” marketing guys statement, “by day four it looked like every other person was wearing a pair”- where were they looking?  at the people in their booth?  Funny, but i like them being there, i just wish they didn’t give away sandals, that is a little unfair to us.  I mean, there are 100,000 people at bonnaroo, i know everybody doesn’t want our rope sandals, and for the 3 or 4 people who don’t, they should go visit the other sandal booths…..

“There’s a ton of downtime. People are curious, and you have a captivated audience, but you also have a smart
and savvy captivated audience,” he said. “If you try selling to them, you’ll end up hurting the brand, but if you enter into a two-way dialogue, giving them a utilitarian benefit, it’s a lot more powerful.”  – i just thought this quote was pretty funny.  They are calling us, smart and savvy, but at the same time….. they don’t.

This article just cracked me up, and kind of pissed me off a little too.  My little fun lifestyle of my sandal habit that supported my musical addiction for the past 20 years is being infiltrated with big money.  This article was all about money and marketing.  I sold sandals at shows and festivals to GO SEE LIVE MUSIC, this article didn’t really mention that at all, and the big money seems to be just after that.  Now, i am a capitalist of sorts, so don’t take it the wrong way, yes Nomadic state of mind, has been the unofficial official festival footwear for most for the past 2+ decades, and yes we do make money at festivals (sometimes), and yes it is marketing, but I LOVE MUSIC, i think that is why we are all there.  It just a little sad watching our fun little industry “grow up” into the money machine.  Sponsors?  How we used to sponsor an event was to be part of it, ok there was a few years where Nomadic State of Mind sponsored all the port a toilets.  Yes, some people- with no relation to Nomadic state of mind, before the shows, used to  put a sticker inside the port a toiled before the event started- that was grass roots sponsoring- so when you went into the toilet- which everybody did at a show, they would see our sticker.  Thanks, to whoever did that … i heard your name was cortney, Fred b sandalman, Hoot, and the wook:) If you see these characters, don’t invite them over, they will live on your couch forever…

I guess everything “grows up” or changes, we now employ over 35 hard working people, some part time and some full time, which has turned into a pretty big responsibility for me, so music festivals are still my fun outlet, mixed with a little work- which keeps me from going off the deep end.  Although i see that changing as larger company’s attempt to buy their way in and buy their way to festival footwear.  Fortunately, word is out, our sandals are bad ass, and one of the best for festivals….


here’s a few shots from our grass roots beginning.  check us out at




  1. Hoot Gibson March 9, 2018 Reply

    ..and will be saving people’s feet with a lil’ nomadic soul for years to come!
    On the flip side of that, you’ve most definitely saved a lot of people’s souls, by putting Nomadic State of Mind sandals on their feet!

    I’m happy to testify to the power of a Nomadic State of Mind!

    “Fred B. Sandalman” is my hero!

  2. Deidre March 16, 2018 Reply

    Thank you so much! those aare amazing tips!

  3. Robby Dew May 24, 2018 Reply

    I bought a pair of your sandals at the Summer Camp festival in Illinois 6 years ago and have worn them to many festivals and shows since and I am still wearing them today.Their quality and toughness is obvious by the fact that after all the many miles of concrete, gravel, dirt paths, and muddy trails they have traveled, they show no signs of falling apart or wearing out. I’ve had literally hundreds of compliments from people saying they like my sandals. That’s not a overestimate of the compliments. Just a run to the grocery store can gather from 2 or 3 compliments up to 10 or 12. I wish that I knew how to get a good bulk price on them because I guarantee I could sell a semi trailer full without even trying. You guys have a great product keep it up 👍✌️

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