2017 marks the first year that Seattle had the opportunity to host Upstream Music Festival and Summit, but hopefully not the last. Upstream Fest transformed the historic Pioneer Square neighborhood into what they described as a “walkable mixtape.” In addition to the main stage at CenturyLink Field’s North Lot, a free public stage in Occidental Park presented by KEXP, there were over 25 more intimate stages throughout the neighborhood. They also booked 300+ artists to perform in this year’s production.
For most festivals, this would be above and beyond the call of duty. I find that many organizations only focus on booking hot talent to grace a few large stages. They book the biggest bands, set up the largest stages, and sell as much alcohol as possible. Upstream was both refreshing and unique in its approach to a festival with its addition of a summit. Not only did they go all out for creating a festival that included all of Pioneer Square … but they also took over WaMu Theater. For all of Thursday and Friday, summit attendees could expand their minds through various outlets including keynote speakers, mini break-outs, and BrainDates. Attendees heard about the experiences of keynote speakers Macklemore, Quincy Jones, Portia Sabin, and Ron Jones. They elaborated on how the industry is shifting from traditional to more dynamic business models and how to make it in today’s music industry
Have you ever heard of BrainDates? Before Thursday I hadn’t, in fact, I was a bit pessimistic. I booked my first BrainDate and instantly fell in love with the experience. Imagine a few thousand people offering up 30 minutes of their time for free in exchange for your attendance. It was one of the most exciting things I’ve had the opportunity to witness. At breakfast, we have group meetings in 21 cities … this is huge. However, the idea that music industry professionals could be meeting 1-on-1 on a regular basis seems like a game changer. I’m excited to see what E-180 does with BrainDates. I also feel inspired to imagine how Balanced Breakfast could learn from the success of Upstream and mimic some of their strategies when we host our first summit. Be sure to attend upstream 2018, you will not be disappointed.