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City Councilman David Oh: A Major Philadelphia Music Festival in 2013?

May 31, 2012

G.W. Miller III talks to first-term at-large City Councilman David Oh, who wants Philadelphia to host a massive, week-long, city-wide music festival in 2013.

It sounds like you have big  plans. What do you have in mind?

It’s not so much that I have big plans. I’m on a new City Council committee, which is the committee on global opportunities and the creative/innovative economy. What I see is that our city is really kind of poised on the cusp of becoming something – or not becoming something. Call it a crossroads. As the world’s kind of tightening our economy, Philadelphia has to identify what we can offer in this global world.

What are the things that government can do to foster the creative economy?

There are a number of things. One of the things that could come right away is for government to be the glue that brings everything together. For example, the city spends a certain amount of money on tourism. Is it productive? Do we get more out of spending a dollar for music, making a music destination point or creating more concerts and opportunities for live music, than we do by spending it on tourists who aren’t coming to Philadelphia and spending their dollars?

We can also use our public assets to have concerts. We can have a large, international music festival.

If there would be a major festival, what would be the city’s role?

You need the big name artists and they need to be able to make money. We can enhance that by making it a music week, inviting international musicians and tourists to come and participate in Philadelphia’s big, international music week. For musicians who want to play and need a public stage, we can provide them opportunities for them to play – at train stations, our bus station, our public areas. We can put a concert on at the Art Museum area and have free concerts for people.

By the city promoting and putting itself behind a big music event, we’re trying to do  a couple things. One is to generate the dollars that will bring people to the city during times when the city really isn’t that active, like during the summer months. The second thing is that we want to make Philadelphia a place where the creative and innovative workforce likes to be, where they will want to make their home. That workforce is very mobile and has the ability to choose where they live and work, based upon the environment that areas have.

This idea about music, the arts and the creative economy – is it a recognition of something that we have or something that we need?

It’s a recognition of something that we have but we have not really taken advantage of in the way that we should.

There are a thousand attacks going in their own direction. By having a big event, we can kind of galvanize them and give them an opportunity to start pushing out the things they have been doing.

You are assembling a music advisory board. Who are the folks involved?

We’re collecting representation from a wide breadth of music. As a legislator, in order to create laws, we need to know what’s happening. If I don’t talk to international investors and manufacturers, I don’t know what they liked about our city or what they didn’t like. Without knowing, you can’t really adjust. Same thing with the music industry. We’re going to talk to musicians, producers, everyone. If these folks come behind having a big music festival, we can come behind that.

In what way?

One, by having it. By putting advertising dollars behind it. By coalescing it around this one week where we get optimal mass.

What would a success look like?

It would have to be big. The size of it is one of the issues. We have done smaller music festivals and those are fine. To have a signature event for the city, it would have to be large. We would need the highest level performers. We’d need five or six major performances. We’d need people coming from out of town, staying for the weekend or the week.

We’d have to line up hundreds of acts throughout the city.

Do you have an idea when it will happen?

We have a ballpark timeline of June or July of 2013.

That’s not that far off.

It’s not that far off and maybe it won’t happen then. But we’d then look at 2014.

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