Made In Philly
From parades, festivals, concerts to conventions and conferences, Philadelphia’s capacity and willingness to hold large scale events is incredible. For the past three years, America’s birthplace has hosted a huge — and hugely popular — event: the Made In America festival.
Made In America is a two-day music festival, created by rapper Jay Z and sponsored by Budweiser, that takes place over Labor Day weekend. For the past two years, the festival has taken place in Philadelphia. The Benjamin Franklin Parkway was turned into a large-scale paid party, with multiple stages and dozens of performers from various genres such as hip-hop and rock.
Festival in the making
The first installment of what is now becoming an annual event attracted a crowd of more than 40,000 each day. Since it is a paid event, an eight-foot-high double-fence was built and monitored by security to keep out non-paying observers. This is a change from the normally free events held on the Parkway like the Philly Fourth of July Jam, various cultural parades and the Live 8 benefit concert in 2005. Talent at the 2012 festival included Drake, Pearl Jam, Prince Royce, Calvin Harris, Jill Scott, Run DMC, and Jay Z himself. Ticket prices ranged from $75 to $350. One arrest was reported.
According to Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said the festival generated $10 million for the city. Nutter also said that the event did not cost taxpayers any money because the festival promoters, including Jay Z, paid more than $500,000 to cover all municipal costs.
According to Desiree Peterkin-Bell, City Representative and Director of Communications, the festival drew more than 57,600 people on the first day. Rolling Stone stated the ticket sales increased by 50 percent, selling 120,000 tickets for the two-day festival.
Last year’s festival included performances by Beyonce, Nine Inch Nails, Miguel, Queens of the Stone Age, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Imagine Dragons, Wiz Khalifa, 2 Chainz, and Solange. One arrest was reported, like the first year.
Third time’s the charm?
This year, the City of Brotherly Love is simultaneously hosting the festival with Los Angeles, Calif., on Aug.30-31. Performers for the Philadelphia festival include headliners Kanye West and Kings of Leon, J. Cole, Pharrell, The National, Tiesto, Awolnation and De La Soul. The Los Angeles line-up includes Imagine Dragons (who performed last year in Philly’s M.I.A.), Juanes, Afrojack, Iggy Azalea, John Mayer, Weezer as well as Kanye West. Tickets are $106.70 for one day and $168.70 for a two-day pass.
Like anyone would expect for a first time event, the 2012 festival had quite a few hiccups.
Von Colln Memorial Field, a staple for the surrounding community, was damaged by the heavy equipment used during the first festival. The field underwent a $30,000 renovation, which was planned prior to the festival. In the second year, Councilman Bill Greenlee and Council President Darrell Clarke called for the field to be off limits during the festival. In 2013, Clarke told CBS Philly, “If that field is used again, as it was this past time for Made in America, it would be a disaster for that field. It would basically just destroy it again, and all that good city money that was put into it was wasted after just one year.”
Prior to the second festival, Peterkin-Bell announced that the festival promoters were required to keep heavy equipment off of the field, and were also responsible for paying for repairs.
Parkway residents who remained in the city during the festival had various headaches to deal with including noise and parking problems.
David Searles, President of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, told CBS Philly that the soundchecks did not follow the city sound ordinance. Searles explained that the soundchecks were held early in the morning and lasted late into the night, which disturbed the neighborhood. City Rep Peterkin-Bell said the hours of soundcheck would be restricted.
Despite soundproof fences, the music from the festival could be heard as far away as and the Parkway. “You’re in the concert. Even if you weren’t outside, it was so loud you could still hear everything that was going on. You’re part of it whether you like it or not,” explained resident Shana Fladger.
On the days leading up to the festival, streets were shut down, causing parking problems for area residents.
“For those three days, you’re not allowed to enter or leave where you live,” Fladger said. “One day when I was coming home, there were cones there and I got into an interaction with a police officer. I actually have out-of-state plates and it was a big deal because he didn’t believe that I lived in the building so I had to have an argument with the officer to explain that I lived right there,” Fladger said.
Fladger also described the disorder after leaving the festival. “Leaving was very chaotic. They made everyone leave at the same time. It was a mass hysteria. The security in my building got a little crazy because people were cutting through the building and the property and you’re supposed to show identification ... so that was a big deal.”
Lack of Latino presence
The first year, Bachata star Prince Royce was one of the performers. This year, there are no Latino performers in Philadelphia (Juanes is performing in L.A.). Philadelphia and its surrounding region has a dynamic, and young Latino population that is not being represented. “I don’t think they are doing a good job job attracting Latinos. This year's line up has no Latinos,” said 16-year-old Joshua Rodriguez of Philadelphia. When Jay Z’s representatives were asked for a comment, we received no response.
Benefits to the community
Since the start of Made In America, community based organization United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey has benefitted from the festival. The fundamental goal of the festival is to have a positive impact on the communities involved. The money made from the festival is invested into the community in order to positively impact the education, income and health of the people in need. Last year's festival generated $300,000 for United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey’s education and talent development initiatives.
“We want to ensure all students graduate high school on time and are ready for college or careers. We want to help provide them with work that enables them to have a family-sustaining income,” said Kevin Dow, Senior VP Impact and Innovation at United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. “We see the money helping. We see it benefit the graduation rates, greater emphasis on career and technical schools in the school district and more career/academy tracks.”
In previous years, United Way has been stationed at the festival with a booth in the “Cause Village.” There they offer information and volunteer opportunities. “We want to connect with the next generation of advocates and volunteers. Being a part of this festival is a great avenue to help achieve that,” Dow added.
The mega-concert benefits the city by putting a positive spotlight on the city in terms of how others see us, even if there are inconveniences for residents and workers. The festival also financially helps the city’s business, tourism and community through organizations such as the United Way. Only time will tell whether this festival is a truly great benefit to the city of Philadelphia or simply a great hassle.