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Trend: Large Music Festivals in City Parks

Zilker Park, Austin, Tex.

In recent years, city parks have become home to several music festivals featuring such bands as Radiohead, Cat Power, Kings of Leon, The Roots, Atmosphere and other mostly indie groups. The Bonnaroo and Coachella festivals, set in rural areas, have catered to this genre for quite a few years, but recently more of them have sprouted in the middle of population centers — and parks are a natural, open location for the events, that can draw thousands. Chicago has hosted the indie-music website Pitchfork’s festival in Union Park and the larger Lollapalooza in Grant Park. There’s Outside Lands in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Jersey City hosted the All Points West Festival in Liberty State Park, and concluding just this past Sept. 26 to 28 was the Austin City Limits (ACL) Festival in Austin’s 350-acre Zilker Park.

Austin360 picks up on the events’ financial contribution to city parks, and the benefits of them to bands:

The successes of ACL Fest and Lollapalooza — each earmark part of the proceeds to the respective parks departments overseeing the events — inspired the City of San Francisco in August to allow the Outside Lands Festival, a concert by another promoter, to operate after dark at Golden Gate Park for the first time. C3 Presents pays the Austin Parks Department more than $200,000 a year and has pledged an additional $2.5 million for park improvements over the next seven to 10 years. C3 pays the Chicago’s Parkways Foundation $1 million a year for the use of Grant Park for Lollapalooza.

While cash-strapped city parks departments have warmed to the festival format, so have the artists. Because CD sales have declined in recent years, acts have to hit the road to make money. Festivals can also provide great exposure. At a panel at the Americana Music Association conference in Nashville last week focusing on the flurry of festivals, C3 partner Charlie Walker said “every band playing ACL this year will sell more tickets the next time they come through town.”

Whether the trend lasts is not known, and the events do essentially take away use from the general public for a couple days. But in some cities it presents an opportunity, if wanted, to draw some money and attention to city parks.

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