The Jersey Shore Music Fest: An Interview with Joe Ciano

The Jersey Shore Music Festival is set to hit Ocean County on July 20 at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood, New Jersey. When I first heard that a music festival featuring local musicians was being held at a major commercial venue, my first thought was, “Okay, who got caught doing what on video?” But as “too good to be true” as it might seem, Joe Ciano and Tyler Culley have put it together with their business partners and made a simple dream work.

The Jersey Shore Music Festival is also not solely about the music. Although the music is the essence of something this large, this is also a promotional tie-in used to promote local business owners who call the Jersey Shore their home. There are even some businesses that are part of the music industry and cater to the soul of the music scene.

But for me, the music will always be my main reason to attend, and the list of performers they have chosen is fantastic. Headliners such as River City Extension, Papadosio, Brick + Mortar and The Hush Sound take the main stage along with local favorites such as Chemtrail, Only Living Boy, BlackOcean and The Battery Electric, who hold down the various sponsor stages that are provided.

As mentioned earlier, the festival will also be showcasing regional artisans and vendors. Over 200 designers, painters, photographers, sculptors and more will be on hand to enhance this festival experience. Also featured will be a good variety of culinary offerings from area restaurants and chefs. The promoters, in conjunction with FirstEnergy, will also provide free water stations (and cups) to beat the proverbial heat.

The Jersey Shore Music Festival started from a very simple idea, as Jersey Shore Entertainment was looking to give back to a scene that has done so much for so many music fans in NJ. In an industry filled with peripheral moneymaking positions, the entertainers seem to take a back seat in more ways than one. And yet, they’re the first ones to rally for benefits or fundraisers to help those in need. It’s great to see an event of this proportion believing in them and giving them their due.

I recently had a chance to ask Jersey Shore Music Festival co-founder Joe Ciano about the specifics of doing something this large and how he feels about the best music scene in the country. The transcription is below:

The festival looks to be one of the most visible and vital undertakings to date for promoting local artists. Did you ever think it would become this large when you first started looking for a way to call attention to the NJ scene?

When we first started planning almost two years ago, we had so many different ideas and so many different potential venues and set-ups. We realized what kind of potential an event like this had and we knew we wanted to showcase as many NJ bands as we possibly could, so we were well prepared. BlueClaws was the perfect venue; it allowed us the space to have more than one stage and be able to showcase 60 bands in 11 hours.

What is your history with New Jersey music?

I’ve been following a ton of different bands for years including many that are on the festival lineup, and I’ve been going to shows for as long as I can remember. As many people from Jersey, I grew up listening to Bruce and studying what the music scene was like back when Bruce was playing the venues many of the bands on the festival are playing today. I think sooner rather than later the NJ music scene is going to be thriving once again.

Do you have any standout memories about clubs or bands that have played a role in your current positioning as a promoter?

Over the last six or seven years, I have been to so many shows, big and small. I have so many memories. I keep all my ticket stubs for all the shows I have been to. I could probably tell you something from each show.

Original bands have always been our life’s blood and are responsible for supporting so many benefit causes as well as literally keeping quite a few venues in business during lean times. Still, many get less than stellar treatment. Many don’t get adequate payment (even when selling tickets) and have to deal with a “pay to play” mentality. Do you think that they’ve been recognized for what they’ve actually done over the last three decades?

I think you have a certain type of “music fan” that recognizes what these bands have done, but at the same time, I think their accomplishments are largely overlooked. With that said, one of the main goals of JSMF is to have people who wouldn’t normally come out to see these bands to stick around and check out all the talented artists we have here, which is why we have such a wide variety of music. There truly is something that everyone will enjoy at all times.

So we know there are some great national and local bands playing, but tell me what else we can expect at the Jersey Shore Music Festival.

Besides great music, Jersey Shore Music Fest will also showcase some of the Shore’s hottest restaurants, which will be showcasing their food. Each restaurant will feature a different cuisine. There will also be over 200 creative vendors such as painters, sculptors, jewelry makers and much more. Children under 10 are free and there will also be free access to a kids zone that will feature inflatables and other kids activities.

There are over 60 acts. How many stages will be going during the day?

Altogether, there will be six stages. Five are specifically dedicated to our area and regional bands, while the main stage will feature our national acts including River City Extension, The Front Bottoms, Brick + Mortar, Echo Movement and Turtle Soup, all of which call the Shore their home.

Jersey Shore Entertainment Group, Harrison Promotions, Halogen Media Works and TrendKiller Entertainment are the partners for this event. How did you all get together to present this event?

I met Cory Pedalino of Harrison Promotions back in 2011 through a mutual friend in Empire Escorts. He was the first person I brought on board. Cory is my right-hand man. He is in charge of overseeing the day-to-day operations and he also booked one of the side stages. He then introduced me to Justin Hoy from Halogen, who is in charge of our national talent, and Matt Burns of TrendKiller, who is in charge of booking four of our stages and vendors. I really couldn’t ask for a better team of people to be around. They are all the best at what they do.

Will this be an annual event that will stay here in NJ?

Jersey Shore Music Festival is here to stay and will be back. We are already in the preliminary planning stages of the 2014 show as well as a winter event that will be announced in the near future.


For more information on the Jersey Shore Music Festival, go to