There are a series of great festivals that have been going on over the past month. This has ranged from Arizona Best Fest, to the Strong Beer Festival, to the Phoenix Film Festival coming up in March. What is missing in the middle of those is a music festival that can bring the same type of draw of people from inside and outside of the state that many other popular festivals do. There is no shortage of chatter out there grieving over the inability to get tickets or a ride to the latest music festival bash. There are many states that host music festivals throughout their cities in Indio, California with Coachella, there is Sasquatch in George, Washington, Wakarusa in Ozark, Arkansas, the Hangout Music Fest in Gulf Shores, Alabama, Bonaroo in Manchester, Tennessee, and even Louisville, Kentucky has a festival coming up this summer The Forecastle Music Fest. The savvy music goer will recognize that many of the same bands are performing at many of these festivals because they are along the way of their tours. In April, music fans will recognize that Arizona venues from Tuscon to Phoenix will have a busy month, because many bands are going to hit Arizona while they are performing at Coachella.
Then we have a variety of music festivals that are conducted from Flagstaff to Tuscon, which often feature many folk bands. Then, there are the music festivals of lore that are now defunct like the Tempe Music Festival that took place at Tempe Town Lake that had some interesting line-ups in the past. Also, the Sedona Jazz on the Rocks event that canceled the event in 2009 and is in limbo at this point. Some might argue that it was the Sound Strike that hurt these festivals, encouraging artists to boycott Arizona due to SB 1070, but there is no real evidence that the boycott has had any real impact on performers coming to Arizona. Venues are still booking premiere artists throughout the state and they are selling out. The primary problem is that towns like Sedona and even Tempe do not have the locales to facilitate an event on par with Coachella or Bonaroo. The only saving grace and the highlight fest in Arizona is the The McDowell Mountain Music Festival, which is organized by John Largay who is the owner of The Compound Grill. And, there is even a very popular country music festival that takes place in Florence, Arizona that has a great draw and is very popular called Country Thunder USA, but it is event that operates in tandem with an event of the same name in Wisconsin. So, it is not a musical event that is unique to Arizona.
The problem with most music festivals are the lack of amenities. In order to create an event that has “Road Trip Appeal” to bring people from out of state is hotels, restaurants, parking areas, camp grounds, etc to be able to host festival goers from around the country. Phoenix is replete with all of the resources and hospitality that any city around the country, particularly in the Sunbelt can offer. Phoenix also has a unique window during the year to be able to host a comfortable experience, unlike other states with inclement weather. The winter time in Phoenix provides an opportunity to launch the music festival season before manys start in March, April, and throughout the summer. It can produce an economic impact that many other Arizona and Phoenix touchstones will be able to benefit and cross promote with. When it comes to Superbowl that will be coming to Phoenix in 2015, the economic impact comes every 7 or eight years. But a music festival has an annual economic impact that has a very real and measurable interest for tourism and businesses in the area. The economic impact from the Superbowl in 2008 was about $500 million dollars for one day. There are not many studies on economic impacts of festivals, except one study conducted by Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Ontario Arts Council and the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund in April, 2003. The expenditures ranged from $75,000 to $300,000 depending on the scale of the events in Ontario. However, the total GDP impact of a total of 97 festivals was $78 million dollars and brought in $31 million dollars in tax revenues in that city. Needless to say that the larger the event was, then the larger the economic impact.
Unfortunately, the City of Phoenix tends to be uncomfortable with cooperating with these events due to public safety or the potential property damage it causes. But, these fears can be allayed with the right education and public service outreach. Phoenix is ripe for a phenomenal music festival with strong supporters like Stateside Presents. It would be able to conduct a respectable event with a strong lineup that can take place in any number of locations in the Phoenix area, whether it is Steele Indian Park, Margaret Hance Park, or Piestewa Peak Park to set up stages and booths to facilitate a phenomenal musical experience.