Made in America 2015

Just like it has for the past six years, when Labor Day weekend rolls around this summer, the Ben Franklin Parkway will be transformed into the site of a giant music fest curated by superstar Jay-Z. But this will be the last time.

The 2019 Made in America festival will not take place on the parkway, Billy Penn has learned.

Roc Nation is adamant the fest will be returning to Philly next year anyway. A rep cites the city’s spirit and brotherhood as an essential part of the concert’s identity.

And the city is open to discussing alternate locations, a Philadelphia communications director said. The city’s official view on MIA, as relayed via email, is that when it first started in 2012, the fest provided a welcome boost on an otherwise slow weekend. But six years later, tourism has grown, so “the need for an event of this scale at this location may no longer be necessary.”


The scale of the event means the costs associated are not insignificant. Last year, the city spent more than $1.1 million on various city services, including police overtime, EMS coverage, cleanup and general Parks & Rec support. Of that amount, $600,000 was covered by Roc Nation, per the city, and Roc will make an additional payment of $80,000 later this year.

Roc Nation’s costs for the 2018 fest are similarly capped at $600,000 — which the production company maintains it will have no problem with despite losing its original title sponsor, Budweiser.

Yep: For the first time since it started, the concert is no longer sponsored by the Anheuser-Busch brand. The Bud name had become so closely associated with the event that in announcing the 2018 lineup, the Inquirer even called it “the Budweiser Made in America” festival, before realizing it was no longer true and correcting the error.

Credit: Brendan Lowry

Budweiser’s decision to leave MIA came because the company is concentrating more on country music activations, a Bud VP told Ad Age — internal research showed country music fans spend more on beer than attendees at other similarly-sized concerts. (Some in the local beer industry have posited another explanation: they say since it seems like the majority of fans who go to MIA are under the age of 21, it’s no surprise on-site beer sales were disappointing.)

Either way, Jay-Z is brushing his shoulders off about the separation. Per a Roc Nation spokesperson, the festival has the exact same amount of funding behind it as before, thanks to new partners that include PUMA, Abercrombie & Fitch, Citi and American Airlines. And the spending on the talent lineup, which this year includes Nicki Minaj, Post Malone and Meek Mill, is said to have actually increased. There are also discussions underway to expand to other cities.

So the ability to pay the municipal bill is not in jeopardy, organizers maintain. However, the payments haven’t covered the full expense for the event in some time.

In its inaugural year, Made in America paid Philadelphia $505,124, which Mayor Michael Nutter said covered all costs. He also boasted that the festival had a positive impact on local businesses equal to at least $10 million.

That figure has grown. Since it launched, MIA has generated $31.9 million in local economic impact, festival producers estimate.

In general, the Nutter administration appeared to be more interested in attracting and putting on gargantuan events — see Pope Francis’ visit and the DNC — and it was in that vein they courted Jay-Z and convinced him to bring Made in America here.

Not that the Kenney administration is against it. After Made in America’s original five-year contract expired in 2017, it was renewed for this year, and “we are interested in discussing the festival’s future with the producers and look forward to continuing a partnership,” the city spokesperson said.

Just not one that involves the Ben Franklin Parkway.

Danya Henninger is director and editor of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the membership program. She is a former food...