I just wish they would have released the whole lineup at once like they usually do. I would be all over this again if it didn't sell out so quickly and I could have seen a whole lineup. I'm not in a position at this point in my life to drop hundreds of dollars on a whim. I need some significant substance before I commit. I mean it worked fine for Newport. Just damn, I'm kinda getting sick of this trend of festivals selling out before a lineup even is announced.
Not many fests "sell out" before the lineup - the closest that really does this is Coachella, and they still have a few tickets left post-lineup. Others do massive pre-sales. And I agree that it can be somewhat annoying because, at least for these larger fests, there are people who buy tickets lineup unseen just because it's cool to do so (I think Coachella is a prime example of this). Personally, I enjoy it, simply because it makes the anticipation that much better.
Even with this in mind, NFF is somewhat different. A lot of people who go to NFF are going to go no matter what. It's a pretty good bet that if you like the lineup in 2012, you'll like it in 2013. There may be more "wow" acts per your personal tastes from one year to the next, but it's generally a pretty similar vibe. Also, from what I can tell it's a VERY regional fest: there aren't a ton of people who make this their "big" summer fest and travel from far away to see it, like they would with something around the lines of Bonnaroo, Coachella, etc. Therefore, an early sale makese sense for most people because it's easy to plan for.
You're right that most fests don't sell out before the lineup. ACL is the one I was thinking about that does pretty much every damn year. Sasquatch sold out almost immediately after tix went on sale this year. Coachella usually does this too. It's just kinda mind blowing for someone that has been around the block a few times when it comes to festivals. I'm seeing a larger sea change though in the "indie" and "folk" scene. Even smaller shows here in Philly that I never used to think would sell out, are doing so.
I feel like as the youngins that have grown up in the digital age and have been groomed to find their music online rather than the radio, as they get older they are increasingly flocking to "indie" and "folk" bands(I use those terms broadly). As these youngins get to festival age they flock to these fests and they sell out quicker than some of us are used to. I don't have any hard evidence to back this up, but it feels in my heart that this is what's happening more and more. It's exciting and frustrating all at once.
Jul 7: Steely Dan / Steve Winwood (Mansfield MA) Jul 16: Hall & Oates / Sharon Jones (Mansfield MA) Jul 17: Paul McCartney (Boston) Jul 22-24: Newport Folk Aug 19: Ghostland Observatory (Philly) Aug 20: Prophets of Rage (Camden NJ) Sept 24: Copenhagen Beer Celebration (Boston) Oct 20: Die Antwoord (Boston)