As it turns out, making it in Philly doesn't mean that you can make it anywhere. Or, at least that's what the critics of Los Angeles' Made in America festival are saying.
The Los Angeles Times today posted a blog detailing the myriad problems the city is facing with throwing this weekend's MIA, saying in part that the idea to have a West Coast version was inspired by the success we saw with the festivities last year. Unfortunately, though, it looks like that success just isn't translating:
In its favor, Made in America has L.A.'s top public official — Mayor Eric Garcetti. He pointed to the estimated $10 million the festival pumped into Philadelphia during its first year.
"Los Angeles has needed a great music festival for so long," Garcetti said. "But people leave here to go elsewhere, either Coachella or they go to Austin for South by Southwest. One of the things I campaigned on — it was time to make L.A. a cultural destination too."
Garcetti, who has been criticized for getting the festival approved so quickly, without much public debate, said he also wanted to change perceptions that City Hall can't move quickly.
Move quickly it did, though the population of L.A. didn't seem to respond in kind. Of the 50,000 tickets slated for sale for L.A.'s MIA, roughly 36,000 have sold, and, what's more, StubHub is currently listing passes for below face value. Apparently, many L.A. residents — including those in the music industry — didn't even know about MIA's presence in the city:
Many locals — even those involved in the music business — were unaware of the festival mere days before its launch. "Made in America?" asked one L.A.-based record producer, who didn't want to anger industry colleagues and asked that his name not be used. "Sounds more like a John Cougar Mellencamp album than something in downtown L.A."
Other music industry observers have questioned the appeal of the lineup, noting that the key acts — which also include L.A. alt-rockers Weezer, South L.A. rapper Kendrick Lamar and superstar DJ Steve Aoki — have vastly different fan bases. There is also some puzzlement over the naming of the festival stages after pop icons of yesteryear: Marilyn Monroe, Bob Dylan and James Dean.
As for national recognition? Eventbrite, an online ticketing and registration platform, scanned more than 20 million online conversations over the last 12 months to identify the nation's 25 most-talked-about festivals. Made in America didn't make the cut, but Coachella, HARD Summer and Outside Lands were ranked as the most popular in California, according to the study released this week.
And then, of course, there's the public good concerns. Residents of downtown LA have come out against having L.A.'s MIA in Grand Park, citing concerns about crime, noise, traffic congestion, and crowd control, among other elements. Promoters, however, have been working to assuage these problems:
According to the promoters, beer will be sold only in five restricted "beer gardens" and must be consumed in those areas. No hard liquor will be sold. They also say there will be a robust presence of law enforcement.
Approximately 240 Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies will be present on the county-owned park grounds along with a private security firm, while the Los Angeles Police Department will have around 285 officers working the streets surrounding the festival.
A special LAPD team measuring decibel levels will also be spanning out into neighborhoods affected by the event. Lt. Rick Stabile of the LAPD ensured residents at the community meeting that officers will be closely monitoring activity outside the festival, paying close attention to gate-crashers and tailgaters.
But why exactly is Made in America such a perfect fit for Philly while being a relatively bad option for L.A.? Well, it comes down to our pedestrian lack of major music festivals in the area, apparently. As the L.A. Times post states:
Some note that though Made in America festival has done well in Philadelphia, the Southern California live music scene is much more competitive.
"The big question is going to be the site and how people like going down to the park," said Gary Bongiovanni, chief executive of the concert tracking firm Pollstar. "The thing in Philadelphia is a really unique idea, and it sounded like a totally unique experience for the locals. Los Angeles is a very busy market, and in many ways the fans in L.A. are spoiled with the number of options they have. They have their work cut out to establish themselves."
Perhaps a larger question is whether Los Angeles has room for another multi-day music festival, given that the city and its environs are already home to festivals including HARD Summer, BET Experience and FYF, which was held last weekend at Exposition Park and the Sports Arena. Then of course there is Coachella, just a two-hour drive from downtown.
So, there you have it, folks: Made in America is good for Philly because we simply just don't have another option in that ballpark. L.A., on the other hand, more or less has major music festivals beating down its door for residents' attention. Comparatively, we look almost quaint.
Which, of course, may help explain why even L.A.'s biggest MIA supporter — Mayor Eric Garcetti — isn't sure about next year, despite the event not even having happened yet:
Perhaps one final question surrounding the event: Will it be back next year?
"We'll see how it works out," Garcetti said.
And, indeed, we will: L.A.'s Made in America kicks off at noon Pacific time tomorrow — three hours after our edition begins. Good luck, Angelenos.