Music Industry Quarterly compliments the good folks over at Airborne Tickets, which recently hosted the L.A. Soul Music Fest. The three-day music festival was held in mid-July on the park grounds of the Gene Autry Museum, adjacent to the Los Angeles Zoo. This was the inaugural year, which boasted some 15 national artists: a line-up headlined by JOE, Jazmine Sullivan, Eric Benet, Lalah Hathaway, Melanie Fiona, Marsha Ambrosius, Angie Stone, Loose Ends, Rahsaan Patterson, Eric Roberson, Goapele, Vivian Green, Avery Sunshine, Conya Doss, and Lyfe Jennings. Each artist along with their respective bands roughly performed a 40-50 set, in front of an evening audience of 4,000 to 6,000 audience members. There were plenty of vendor kiosks, food trucks and beer & wine bars for families and folks of the grown and sexy persuasion to partake.
Jeff Weber, one of the principal producers of the L.A. Soul Music Fest, was certainly elated about the immediate success of the first-time event. “This is our initial foray into Los Angeles, and a lot of that is due to the vision of Mark Douglas, CEO of the L.A. Soul Music Fest,” says Weber. “Mark believed that Los Angeles was still an under-served market when it came to this genre[of Soul music], and wanted to explore some opportunities within it.”
Several observers including artists like Lalah Hathaway mentioned that events similar to this are typically billed as Jazz Festivals, even though the line-up is chock full of R&B/Soul artists. “Soul music has so many definitions and involves so many styles of music,” says Weber. “This particular genre can be a combination of neo-Soul, and traditional Soul. There are a lot of those ‘Jazz festivals’ out there, and rarely any Jazz. We’re calling this what it is…Soul music. We wanted the consumer and attendee to have an experience that allows them to feel comfortable, enthusiastic, energized and engaging enough to tell their friends…and all under the banner of soul.”
In addition to providing a talented line up of great artists, Weber says that, “We’ve done a lot of unique things that the market hasn’t seen before – a next generation festival where it’s a cashless event. Attendees received a wrist band with a chip in it. They can apply money to it via cash or credit card which allows attendees to purchase beer, wine or food. There are 18 food trucks and various beer vendors, so by having a cashless system it provides another layer of security. We’re doing somethings with social media that’s kind of cool…like having roving photographers that will pass the camera over a wristband and will take a picture of you and your friends having a great time. It’s immediately uploaded to all of the social media outlets that you have.”
So, when asked if the L.A. Soul Music Fest will be expanding to additional markets, Weber says there is a certain level of interest. “We’ve been talking about it. But most likely we will be here in L.A. The Gene Autry Museum is a good venue for us. We chose this venue because of the [open] space, and it’s free parking. It’s kind of a hidden gem, and unlike every other event in Los Angeles, you have to pay for parking, but not with us. We wanted to make this an evening event, where people could relax, have some great food, drink some wine or have a beer, and not melt in the sun.”
Music Industry Quarterly is already looking forward to next year’s event.