New Orleans (CNN) -- The population of New Orleans isn't big enough that local bands can play to a new crowd every week, so when New Orleans musicians want to make money and new fans, they usually hit the road.
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is an exception to that rule, with most local bands staying at home to take advantage of a crowd that -- this time -- comes to them.
For seven days over two weekends, Jazz Fest attracts more than 300,000 music fans to New Orleans. Spread out over a dozen stages, the fest hosts over 450 musical acts from New Orleans and around the world.
Such a large festival opens bands to a big audience, but it also means musicians have tough competition for fest-goers' time.
"At Jazz Fest, there are multiple bands playing at the same time," said Aaron Wilkinson of Honey Island Swamp Band. "You can't count on everyone seeing you at your Jazz Fest set, so you've got to give people opportunities to see you at other times throughout the week."
A relative newcomer to the New Orleans music scene, Honey Island Swamp Band started as a hobby when musicians Aaron Wilkinson and Chris Mulé found themselves marooned in San Francisco after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Now back in New Orleans, the band plays 200 shows a year, spending most of its time on the road.
During Jazz Fest week, they take advantage of more than 40 New Orleans clubs that host nightly shows in town.
"We'll play 15 or 20 gigs over this week," Mulé said. "Jazz Fest is very influential, because if you get a slot out at the fairgrounds, you have a better opportunity to get booked for a night show."
Of all the festivals Honey Island Swamp Band plays, Wilkinson says, his band gets the most impact out of Jazz Fest.
"We're not traveling, we're not worried about hotels, and we're in our hometown, where we know the music scene better than anybody," he said. "People come down here and want to take a piece of New Orleans and Jazz Fest home with them, so we sell a lot of CDs and T-shirts, and it adds up. It's a big financial help for us. We count on it."
The late-night club scene also provides opportunities for New Orleans musicians to share an audience as bands come together for various shows throughout the week.
"Every show we've played this week, there's been different New Orleans acts with us, and there are a lot of faces in the crowd that I don't recognize," Wilkinson said. "And that's what gets you excited as a musician, because it's great playing for your friends, but you need to play for your friends-friends, and for strangers every night. You need to get a new audience to grow."
With hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the country and around the world, a daytime festival that lasts eight hours and a club scene that lasts until sunrise the next morning, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival provides the audience; the bands just have to get a piece of it.
"It's an honor just to get in to play Jazz Fest," Mulé said. "And wherever we go all over the country, at every gig we have, people say, 'I saw you at the Jazz Fest.' "