PHILADELPHIA (CelebrityAccess) — 2018 appears as if it will be the final hurrah for Jay-Z’s Made In America festival, at least at its current home on Ben Franklin Parkway in the heart of downtown Philadelphia.
First reported by regional news site Billy Penn, a rep for the city told the publication that the city planned to relocate the festival in 2018 to a new venue. While an exact location for the 2019 edition of the festival has not been announced, it will likely not be located in an urban center.
“I love Jay-Z,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said at a news conference. “We love the concert and we want to keep it.”
The festival has been staged on the Parkway since its inception in 2012. According to city spokeswoman Sarah Reyes, it was originally located there to help drive tourism to the city’s center on Labor Day Weekend, which had traditionally been a slow time for the tourist trade.
However, as Reyes told the Philadelphia Inquirer, tourism has since picked up in the city, and she noted that “the need for an event of this scale at this location may no longer be necessary.”
Admittedly, it is not entirely surprising that Philadelphia may be leery about staging a music festival like “Made In America” in the heart of a major city. As many as 50,000 people turn out for the festival, creating congestion, and according to the Inquirer, drawing noise complaints from some neighbors.
It is also a major expense for the city to stage the festival. Last year, Philadelphia spent more than $1.1 million on various city services, including police overtime, EMS coverage, cleanup and general Parks & Rec support on the event, Billy Penn reported. Of that amount, Roc Nation picked up $600,000 of the tab and will make an additional payment of $80,000 later this year.
As well, the festival lost its major sponsor in 2018 — Budweiser, owned by Belgium-based Anheuser Busch InBev. While Roc Nation told the Inquirer that the loss of its title sponsor would not impact its operations, part of the festival’s financial surety comes due to expenses for the event for Roc Nation being capped at $600,000, the Inquirer said.
Following the news of the city’s plan to move the festival, the event’s founder, Jay-Z, penned an open letter in the Inquirer taking the city to task over the decision.
“We are disappointed that the mayor of the city of Philadelphia would evict us from the heart of the city, through a media outlet, without a sit-down meeting, notice, dialogue, or proper communication. It signifies zero appreciation for what Made In America has built alongside the phenomenal citizens of this city. In fact, this administration immediately greeted us with a legal letter trying to stop the 2018 event,” Jay Z wrote.
The Roc Nation boss went on to note that the festival has had a positive $102.8 million economic impact to Philadelphia, and the festival has paid $3.4 million in rent to the city in the past 6 years.
He also pointed out that the festival employs more than 1,000 Philadelphians and that 85% of its partners are local companies.
“We consider this stance a failure on the mayor’s part. Is this an accurate representation of how he and his administration treat partners that economically benefit his city? Do they regularly reject minority-owned businesses that want to continue to thrive and grow alongside his city’s people?” Jay-Z added.
Update: Live Nation has issued the following statement in support of Live Nation and his festival:
Live Nation wholeheartedly supports Jay-Z and Roc Nation’s bid to keep the Made In America Festival at its home on the Ben Franklin Parkway.
We have yet to hear a compelling or plausible explanation for why the festival cannot return to the site where it has successfully been housed for six years and generated $102.8M in positive economic impact to the city.
From Billie Holiday to Will Smith, Patti LaBelle, Jill Scott, The Roots and countless others, urban music is an indelible part of Philadelphia’s culture and history. By handicapping Made In America’s ability to bring the best show possible to the best site possible, this administration makes a statement about how it values the arts and plans to protect and expand the city’s vibrant musical heritage.