Beale Street Music Festival suspended, say Memphis in May officials

Published: Oct. 12, 2023 at 1:24 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 12, 2023 at 10:31 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The 2024 Beale Street Music Festival has been suspended, according to Memphis in May officials.

In an email Thursday sent from Kevin Grothe, Memphis in May’s Vice President of Sponsorships says the Board of Directors made the decision. Grothe says several factors played into the decision, including record financial loss in 2022, and a 2023 decline in attendance, increasing costs of artist fees, “thus greater risk to Memphis in May” and the $1.4 million dollar bill to repair Tom Lee Park from Memphis River Parks Partnership.

President and CEO Jim Holt said in a press release, “Obviously, Memphis in May has built a very authentic brand beginning with the name and location of the music festival with a pending lawsuit and the event now unwelcomed in the new Tom Lee Park, future Beale Street Music Festivals will face fundamental challenges.”

Memphis Tourism President & CEO Kevin Kane says he knew the move was being contemplated and hopes it’s short-lived.

“It will be significant if we cannot find something to replace that weekend,” said Memphis Tourism President & CEO Kevin Kane. “It will be a big loss.”

Beale Street Music Festival
Beale Street Music Festival(Action News 5)

In 2022, Holt said MIM had a $149 million economic impact pre-pandemic.

“We’re very disappointed,” said Kane. “Tourism, hospitality, music fest weekend was one of the busiest weekends of the entire year. It really was the kickoff of our traditional tourism season, the first weekend of May.”

Memphis Mayor-elect Paul Young says they’ll find a way to bring BSMF back, but in the meantime...

“It’s going to be difficult to fill the void, because we know there are a lot of hotel rooms, a lot of restaurants get business as a result of that weekend, but I also know we have a deep run in playoffs with the Memphis Grizzlies that have a significant impact on Downtown,” said Young. “We find creative ways to host other events in Downtown so other organizations like the Downtown Memphis Commission will partner with Memphis Tourism and other groups to find what those opportunities look like.”

Young says the Downtown Memphis Commission, Memphis Tourism and other groups will be working together to host other events Downtown, hoping to make up that profit.

Beale Street Music Festival
Beale Street Music Festival(Action News 5)

“My hope is that we’ll see other creatives step up to fill the void,” said Young. “We know Memphis is a music city. We know we are a hub of arts and culture. I firmly believe we have the creativity to fill that void for our community.”

“We go to get busy,” said Kane. “We go to find something to fill that first weekend of May. We got less than a year to come up with some solutions to make that up.”

Memphis In May and Memphis River Parks Partnership went back and forth on a lease deposit to cover the damage done to Tom Lee Park during events.

The City of Memphis eventually got involved to help pay the million-dollar deposit.

A lawsuit was filed in September claiming Memphis In May has not paid for $1.4 million dollars in damages caused to the park.

The lawsuit is named as one of the reasons Beale Street Music Festival will not return next year.

Beale Street Music Festival
Beale Street Music Festival

A spokesperson from MRPP told Action News 5: “This is not our event so it’s not our place to comment. I’d recommend you ask festival organizers rather than the Partnership.”

Grothe says Memphis in May will continue two events: the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, which will be held at Liberty Park May 15-18, and the Great American River Run, which will take place May 25 in Downtown Memphis.

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