Photo by LG Patterson

This year, Friends of the Festival, the nonprofit that supports Roots N Blues, is participating in CoMoGives, an annual online fundraiser that supports nonprofits across Mid-Missouri. You can make a donation to FOTF by clicking here.

FOTF was started to help save Roots N Blues when the pandemic shut down the music industry in 2020. Now, it continues to play a key role in helping us put on the festival, which in turn supports the local economy in the following ways:

Job Creation

Transforming a festival site from a park or field into a miniature city is no easy feat. Bars, restaurants, shops, eating areas, bathrooms, medical tents, and the occasional ferris wheel are common elements of festivals around the country, big and small. It requires more than a handful of people to both set up and tear down all of these things. During a festival’s run time, dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people are required to fulfill temporary roles, including security guards, box office attendants, stage hands, medics, and operations managers—just to name a few. Furthermore, the influx of visitors festivals bring to their host towns often require local businesses in the food and hospitality sectors to ramp up staffing.

Opportunities for Small Business Owners

While it is not unheard of to see national chains vending their food, drinks, and products at music festivals, many festival producers, especially those that oversee small or mid-sized festivals, make use of the opportunity to showcase the local, independently-owned businesses of the area. As many of the music festivals whose attendance reaches the thousands are held in parks or remote areas, patrons’ options for purchasing food and drinks outside the festival gates are limited. This creates a potentially highly lucrative opportunity for vendors over the course of the festival.

We are proud to say that the majority of Roots N Blues vendors come from Mid-Missouri, if not elsewhere in the state. While music is at the heart of the festival, the delicious range of food and drinks provided by our vendors are a beloved element of the event each year and selecting a wide range of local vendors to provide our festival-goers with dining and drinking options is among our top priorities.

Photo by LG Patterson

A Boost In Local Spending

Along with the dollars spent within the festival gates, music festivals generally create a boom in spending within the host town. Gas stations, shops, restaurants, bars, hotels, and even parking meters are some of the many things that see an increase in spending when a music festival is taking place nearby. In some parts of the country, business owners have even claimed that the money they earn from the individuals that come to town to work on the pre- and post-production of a music festival in the days before and after it occurs account for a hearty fraction of their annual earnings. Roots N Blues Festival’s proximity to downtown Columbia means that many patrons make use of the restaurants, retailers, and hotels that line the streets of the heart of our city, thereby benefitting not only the vendors that participate in the festival, but businesses all over town.

Taxes and Fees Paid to the Local Government

While certain elements of a music festival such as state, city, and venue will determine the exact numbers a festival pays to its local government, ticket sales alone guarantee that a substantial portion of any festival’s income will go toward its state’s sales tax. Furthermore, many states charge an additional tax on the sale of alcohol, which is a commonly served at music festivals. Public safety fees that cover things like police presence further benefit the local government. Finally, if a music festival takes place in a venue owned by the city—for example, Roots N Blues is held on the grounds of Stephens Lake Park, a green space owned by Columbia—a rental fee must be paid to that city. Along with paying Missouri sales tax, Roots N Blues Festival also pays an additional 2% in Columbia city tax and makes contributions to the local government for park improvement.

Social Capital

Though not an overt example of a music festival’s local economic benefits, the social capital created by music festivals certainly stimulates the overall wellbeing of their host communities. The planning and execution of a successful music festival requires the cooperation of many entities, from the local government to the local business owners to the neighborhoods that surround the festival grounds. When a music festival is carried out well, it creates a win-win. The festival gets to host their event with the help of their local laborers, government officials, and business owners, while the community gets to enjoy both the event and its economic benefits.

Roots N Blues is one of Columbia’s biggest draws for tourists, so we work with the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau to ensure that the influx of festival-goers benefits not only the festival itself, but the whole town. We are also in the process of developing programs to boost music education opportunities for local students and to make the festival more financially accessible to low-income families. When a festival and its host community care for one another, a mutually beneficial symbiosis occurs and maximizes the potential for both economic and social benefits.

To support Roots N Blues Festival, and in turn the city of Columbia, consider making a donation to Friends of the Festival during the CoMoGives season, which runs until December 31st. You can do so by clicking here.