WMC: How We Got Here & How You Can Help

  • May 28, 2013
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WMC Fest aims to be the premiere design and music festival in the midwest. Three days and 70+ performances from August 16-18. We’ve got until June 5 to raise $7,000 on our Kickstarter. We recommend pledging at least $50 because you get various rewards such as $200 in design resources, tickets to the festival, t-shirts, limited edition posters, etc. Go here to make a pledge and choose your reward. If we do not reach our goal, we do not get any of the funds! You can help us reach our goal.

WMC: How We Got Here

My name is Jeff Finley, and I’m an artist with a vision. In 2010, I woke up with the compelling urge to start my own fest. At the time, I had been going to other punk rock fests to satisfy my musical passion while hitting up events like SXSW to fuel inspiration for my career as a designer. I was also inspired by the DIY nature of my friends, who played in bands and pursued their own creative side projects. They created their own way of making a living as an artist. They were weapons of mass creation.

I longed for an event in my own hometown that was NOT expensive, yet still catered to those three passions: Music, art, and entrepreneurship. What would a weapon of mass creation do? They would defy the hand they’re dealt.


In essence, I wanted to bring in bands and artists that inspired me so I could share that inspiration with my community. I love to inspire people and show them that we can all do this together. I wanted the artists to share their experience and show people they were more than just an avatar on the internet with an amazing portfolio. They are real people with real struggles just like us. They are down-to-earth, honest, passionate, and, above all else, eager to share and collaborate.

Our very first year!

Our very first year!

A Growing Festival

The very first WMC Fest took place in May 2010. Despite last-minute cancellations and catastrophic venue obstacles, we made it through. I quickly found out it wasn’t just me who wanted this to happen. Dozens and dozens of people both locally and nationally were helping out. In fact, we may have even had more people volunteering at the festival than actual attendees! Embarrassing, but also cool if you think about it. There would have been no WMC Fest had it not been for the support of the community. While there was lots of positive support for the fest, I did face some criticism: Was this a design conference with bands or a music festival with design-related speakers? It should have more of this, or less of that. I was even criticized for “not being DIY enough” or the odd combination of punk rock music and DIY culture with commercial art. It was a rough start, but there was enough positive feedback to keep going.

Jessi Arrington showing me how to lead the parade

Jessi Arrington showing me how to lead the parade

Despite spending more money than we earned, we had to do it again. WMC Fest 2 took place a year later, with Aaron Draplin keynoting and Dan Christofferson painting an epic mural in the gallery. Jessi Arrington threw an impromptu rainbow parade for my 29th birthday — one of the best moments of my life. Aaron Freeder captured some of the festival’s positive energy in his short film and the entire world got to get a glimpse into the magic we were able to create together. WMC 2 saw a dramatic increase in expenses despite getting more help from volunteers including Joseph Hughes and Jesse Sloan, who both put in countless hours booking speakers and bands. Once again, we were happy just to break even on expenses. People loved it and we had no plans on stopping!

WMC 3 took place last summer and we started being taken seriously by the local community. We drew more than 1,300 people, earning the attention of local news and NPR! The core team expanded to 4–5 dedicated volunteers and we had over 70 volunteers on-site. Lots of great vendors helped by donating goods and services and attendees chose to donate to our Kickstarter campaign as a way to show support and get their tickets at the same time.

Not enough seats last year. Something we are changing this year!

Not enough seats last year. Something we are changing this year!

Becoming Self-Sustaining

Despite the immense joy we get from WMC, organizing a national caliber event like this is a strain on our day-to-day lives. While we LOVE doing it, it doesn’t exactly pay the bills. In my ideal scenario, WMC Fest pays for itself and pays a modest living wage for the small core team that organizes it.

My goal is to become self-sustaining. To continue to grow organically over-time and to make incremental improvements to the quality of the experience without putting too much of a strain on our lives. To continue booking top-notch bands and speakers. To grow the influence that our creative community has on the region at-large. We want to give exposure to artists that they couldn’t get otherwise. We want to bring the WMC lifestyle to the masses on a scale that is doable in the long-term.

I think our goal of becoming self-sustaining is very possible. Most of this is going to come from larger sponsors, but Kickstarter is a way that individuals like you can support the event — and get perks while doing it. If you’re going to buy a ticket, why not get some recognition and help a good cause while you’re at it?

WMC gets most of our revenue from sponsors, donations, and lots of help from volunteers

WMC gets most of our revenue from sponsors, donations, and lots of help from volunteers

Why we need the funding?

Right now, WMC Fest is a $175,000 event that takes year-round planning from myself (Jeff Finley) and a core team of dedicated and passionate creative people. WMC is a passion project for us at Go Media, too. We do it because we love it. In order for us to KEEP doing it, we have to find ways to make WMC Fest pay for itself through sponsorship, tickets, merch, and donations. Half of our budget comes from in-kind donations of goods and services from sponsors and volunteers. We can only sell so many tickets to the event and our top priority is to keep the event affordable for attendees, unlike other big conferences and music festivals.

Why Kickstarter?

Someone asked us why we’re using Kickstarter again. Wasn’t our event Kickstarted the first year? Well, it depends on your definition of what Kickstarter does. Many Kickstarter campaigns exist for projects that are already started. They just allow fans to get the product (whether it’s a book, album, ticket, merch) that they would buy anyway with the added bonus of getting a little recognition and additional perks.

Attendees listening intently to their peers giving talks

Attendees listening intently to their peers giving talks

I was actually planning on not doing it this year, but some attendees told me keep it because it keeps our community involved. I’ve realized our attendees are not just casual observers but folks who actively participate and collaborate. They help out. They are great supporters of the entire creative community. So this Kickstarter is for them as much as it is for us.

What’s new for 2013?


A bigger venue that’s all in one place. More seats for speakers! No more having to walk down the street to see a band when you can just walk down the hallway. Everything will take place inside the beautiful Cleveland Public Theatre. There are going to be four stages and attendees can have much more freedom to explore!

Live recording of the Adventures in Design Podcast. After all the speakers are done on Saturday, the famous Adventures In Design podcast will be recording a live show at Weapons of Mass Creation! Mark Brickey, Billy Baumann, and James Flames will all be in attendance on the big stage doing what they do best … bullshitting about the industry that we all love so much. Be on the lookout for special guests and fun audience participation games. If you’re not familiar with the AID live show, imagine Late Night with David Letterman but all about design.

The Execute Lounge! After you’re inspired, head over to the Execute Lounge upstairs and get things done. Plenty of space to work and charge your devices. Inspired by Josh Long’s book Execute, which encourages us to act fast when inspiration strikes.

Workshops: Something new this year we want to add are workshops. Breakout sessions that are separate from the speakers for a separate admission cost. These workshops are intended to be smaller, with more participation from the audience. Keep an eye out on the schedule page for exact times and details.


20 Speakers: Jon ContinoJaqui OakleyBrandon RikeLisa CongdonAlonzo FelixKristy TillmanNick DisabatoAdam GarciaAnn FriedmanDylan LathropJohn JenningsThese are ThingsChristen CarterStewart Scott-CurranRena TomKern and BurnCaroline MooreStephanie LandesTroy Deshano, and more TBA!

30+ Bands: BraidAstronautalisF StokesWhirrSignals MidwestAnnabel, The Appleseed Cast, Tristen, William Tyler, Des Ark,  The Spring Standards, The Sidekicks, Football, Etc., Nothing, Deer Vibes, Shisho, Kitty Hawk, Outer Spaces, Glish, Cherry Cola Champions, Ages, Metavari, Ma Jolie, Cayetana, Worship This, Barrow, Living Room, ApartCitycop, The Modern Electric, Muamin Collective, Freeze-Tag, Extra Medium Pony, Seafair, Filmstrip, So Long Albatross, Leah Lou & The 2 Left Shoes, Two Hand Fools, Ohio Sky and Regular Shoulders

20 Designers: Strawberry LunaMark BrickeyDerrick CastleLauren MarxAndrio AberoKatie ParlandNicole MelvilleAndrea PippinsDan DicksonJessica Paoli, and more.

The WMC Breakdance BattleBreakdancing (aka b-boying) has been a major part of WMC Fest since WMC 2. Last year featured lots of freestyle cyphers, a 2-on-2 battle for a $500 cash prize, and a kids’ battle that was a huge hit with fans. We are upping the ante with a $1,000 cash prize and a live band performing classic b-boy breaks! Look for the breakdance event first thing on Saturday afternoon.

What kind of perks do I get?

  • High five club! You’ll get your name written on a hand graphic that will be on display at the festival for all attendees to see.
  • Reduced price on 3-Day Fest Passes
  • WMC shirts, stickers, and buttons.
  • WMC limited-edition screen printed posters.
  • Freelance Survival Kit from Go Media.
  • VIP Access
  • Custom Dribbble Shot designed by Jeff Finley as a thank-you
  • Vendor Tables

Ready to be inspired?  Head over to Kickstarter now! (Donations starting at $1)

For more about WMC:  Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Vimeo | YouTube

About the Author, Jeff Finley

I'm a partner at Go Media, a Cleveland web design, branding, and design studio. I started Weapons of Mass Creation Fest and wrote the book Thread's Not Dead, teaching artists and designers how to start a clothing company. I'm also writing a new book called Wake Up: The Morning Routine That Will Change Your Life

Discover More by Jeff Finley


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