How Will Treefort Music Fest Manage Growth?

Apr 22, 2013

Boise’s Treefort Music Fest made some big strides in its second year. A month after the festival wrapped up, organizers say the festival grew more than was previously thought.

Credit Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Three thousand people bought four-day passes; that’s three times as many as last year. Another 3,300 tickets were purchased by non-pass holders for individual shows. On Saturday alone about 2,000 peopled wandered into the beer tent – aka “Alefort” – to sample craft beer from local and regional breweries.

For organizer Drew Lorona, the numbers justify months of stress and long hours. But bills are still being paid, and Lorona says it’s not clear yet if the festival broke even. He says Treefort is still getting its financial footing.

"We are for-profit but the idea is definitely not the maximization of profit," says Lorona. "The world does not need another music festival like that. In fact, it needs less of them. We’re still in a ‘starving artists’ phase as a festival.”

Organizers say turnout didn’t suffer despite temperatures that dipped into the 20s. Lorona says if anything, it made smaller indoor venues like The Crux more appealing and helped spread out the crowds.

He says sponsorship will be key to keep attracting bands that bring in those crowds.

“Our biggest goal moving forward is to try to bring on some long-term sponsorship partners," Lorona says. "That’s really what’s going to help Treefort stick around.”

But Lorona is wary of going the way of much larger festivals like South by Southwest. He says such events rely heavily on big corporate sponsors, and that would hurt Treefort’s indie roots. 

“We’re not really at the point where we can charge Doritos $150,000 to build a giant Doritos bag stage. We don’t want to get to that point. So we’re having to get creative.”

That creativity showed up with The Modern Hotel donating rooms for artists. Piehole Pizza provided $5,000 worth of food.

And Lorona thinks the boost in four-day passes means organizers’ outreach campaigns worked. Positive press from outside the Treasure Valley also helps to attract more indie music fans to Boise.  

“The benefit of doing an event like Treefort is it grows the local scene and the local musicians really pay off from the national exposure.”         

Organizers say they'll soon begin to make plans for next year's Treefort Music Fest. Next year’s event is set for March 20th-24th.

Clarification: We had originally been told by Treefort organizers that 4,500 four day passes had been sold. That number is incorrect. Three thousand four days passes were purchased.
Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio