Made in America festival looks to go beyond music

Made in America festival looks to go beyond music
Riggers work to build a stage located on the steps of City Hall during the preparations for the Made in America Festival. (Robert Gauthier, Los Angeles Times)

In the next few hours, tens of thousands of fans will descend on Grand Park for the first day of the Made in America festival.

The two-day event that could attract up to 50,000 fans during the Labor Day weekend isn’t just an experiment for downtown, which has never hosted an event of this scale. It's also a test for the logistics of the Jay Z-curated festival itself.

With acts playing at the inaugural L.A. edition and in Philly, which is hosting its third Made in America this weekend, this event marks the first music festival to be anchored in two cities at the same time.

“We were very happy with what we accomplished in 2012, and [last year] we saw some tremendous increases in the popularity of the festival from those who had attended and the livestream numbers,” said Mike Thompson, brand manager for main festival sponsor Budweiser. “What we wanted to do was bring a similar kind of experience to the West Coast.”

While fans pack Grand Park to see acts like Imagine Dragons, Iggy Azalea, Kendrick Lamar, YG and Capital Cities, acts such as J. Cole, the National, Chromeo, Steve Aoki and Kanye West will be performing more than 2,700 miles away in Philadelphia,

Aoki and West are among several acts that will pull double-duty and play the inaugural L.A. edition of the festival as well as Philadelphia.

“You’re basically booking double the talent on the same weekend,” said Omar Al-Joulani, vice president of touring at Live Nation. “You’re really struggling with talent [availability], routing and finding [acts] on Labor Day weekend while competing with different events across the country, in Europe and other things going on in the L.A. marketplace. [There is] inherent competition that exists on festival weekends. But it's been fun to be able to build two shows.”

More than just sharing acts, the festivals will be connected digitally as well.


Festivalgoers will be able to interact with head-to-toe LCD screens, known as "window walls," that will allow them to see fans at the opposing festival in real time. And one of the L.A. beer gardens will feature a "Taste of Philadelphia," where concertgoers can watch performances from the Philly lineup as they are livestreamed (those completely missing the festival can stream performances from both cities online).

Made in America's efforts also go beyond music.

An area dedicated to nonprofit organizations, dubbed Cause Village, will feature more than a dozen charities including Jay Z’s Shawn Carter Foundation, Skid Row Housing, Dogs Without Borders and Imagine Dragons’ Tyler Robinson Foundation. The festival also partnered with American Eagle Outfitters to create custom merchandise, with proceeds from T-shirt sales going to the United Way. For both the L.A. and Philadelphia festivals, additional proceeds from the event will be donated to the area branch of the nonprofit.

Elise Buik, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, said the charity had high hopes for its association with the festival.

"United Way has been a traditional charity about helping those most in need. Primarily our outreach has been in workplaces but the world is changing dramatically," said Buik, who hopes the organization raises $500,000 this weekend between proceeds and on-site donations. "This is a different way for us to reach young people where they are and that is what we are hopeful about."

The partnership between United Way and Made in America continues the organization’s relationship with Jay Z. United Way New York hosted a benefit concert with the rap mogul at Carnegie Hall.

Budweiser's imprint will also be impossible to miss this weekend.

The brewing giant will bring a high-end bistro, a mobile brewmaster experience, an interactive "playground" featuring artistic interpretations of beer ingredients and retail tents that will sell a newly debuted capsule collection with Alife.

The courtyard in front of Starbucks and Justice Urban Tavern at the corner of 1st and Los Angeles Streets was transformed into an outdoor beer garden, and the DoubleTree hotel a few blocks away was taken over by Budweiser. The hotel’s glass doors now sport a decal bearing the festival’s logo and the lobby bar also got a full makeover -- neon signs were hung, bar stools feature Budweiser-branded seats and there were familiar bowtie logos on just about every surface.

It’s an unapologetically corporate look, but Budweiser promises it won’t be a distraction from the music.

"When you look at the way that we've activated onsite and marketed the festival, the ultimate goal for us is that the focus of the message is on celebration, which is a lot of what the brand stands for," Thompson said. "It's really about celebrating this generation of Americans who are trying to make it every day in this country, and I still see that in the messaging."

“It’s about a celebration and we think beer is a great way for people to celebrate,” he said. “We’re trying to do things that are entertaining and not necessarily corporate speak or preachy.”

Twitter: @GerrickKennedy