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Treeline Music Fest canceled for 2023, citing 'higher than expected expenses'

A man in black clothing is standing behind a barricade, looking to his right. There is a stage behind him, and a crowd gathered in front of it. An orange traffic sign is in the foreground.
Amanda Sohaney
Treeline Music Fest was founded as Roots N Blues N BBQ Fesitval in 2007. Before this year's cancellation, the music festival had only canceled one other time: during the pandemic in 2020.

Treeline Music Fest organizers announced online Thursday that this year's festival has been canceled.

A message on the festival's website and on X, formerly known as Twitter, cited higher than expected expenses to put on the event.

"We are facing significantly higher than expected expenses that have made it impossible to produce this event to the standard the community deserves," according to a statement on the Treeline website.

The festival was originally scheduled for Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 at Stephens Lake Park. Featured acts planned for the event included Salt-N-Pepa, MUNA, Ethel Cain, Japanese Breakfast and Jo Dee Messina.

According to the post, refunds will be processed automatically within 30 days. No action is needed by ticketholders.

Hear from a Treeline Ticket Holder
Veronica Mohesky graduated from the University of Missouri in 2020 and works as a television producer in St. Louis. She said that Roots N' Blues Festival never really piqued her interest, but she was excited to return to Columbia to see artists like Ethel Cain and MUNA at the newly rebranded Treeline Music Fest.

The announcement comes as independent music venues and promoters nationwide struggleto rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Running independent venues and being an independent promoter was never easy. It is definitely harder now than ever before," Dayna Frank, president and CEO of First Avenue Productions in Minneapolis, told PBS in an interview that aired this summer.

"We've seen a number of changes post-pandemic, one being our insurance costs have doubled, tripled."

Philip Rothschild, a professor of entertainment management at Missouri State University in Springfield, explained that unlike Live Nation, independent producers don't have a large capital base to fall back during tough economic times.

"They don't have that capital that they can use to absorb the losses," Rothschild said.

"There is a significant risk in covering those expenses through ticket sales and through sponsorships," he said. "So there's a possibility that the ticket sales and/or sponsorships did not come in at the levels they needed to cover those significant costs associated with putting on a music festival."

The music festival began in 2007 with a break in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, the organizers of the fall music festival rebranded Roots N Blues to Treeline, saying it reflected the festival's move to expand the genres of music.

The absence of the three-day event will be a loss of revenue for the city, said Amy Schneider, director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. She estimated that the total economic impact was more than $1 million in business sales alone.

“The Treeline Festival, formerly known as Roots and Blues, has a big effect on our city,” Schneider said. “People come in and they spend money in our hotels, our restaurants, shopping, buying their tickets, coming to the festival.”

Hunter Pendleton, drummer for the Columbia-based band Post Sex Nachos, said he was looking forward to performing but recognizes the complexities of organizing a festival and the work that had already taken place during the planning stage.

“Throwing a festival is really hard,” Pendleton said. “Organizing logistics is a gargantuan task, so to see so much work kind of get thrown away a month out from the festival, we were obviously pretty saddened.”

Live music promoter Richard King, who owned and operated the festival for 10 years, said in a text message that he was "deeply saddened to get the news about Treeline."

In 2019, King sold the business to Tracy Lane and Shay Jasper, who promised to create a refreshed look and feel to the festival, as well as a broader sound.

"Shay and Tracy are good friends that have battled through COVID and all sorts of roadblocks," King said. "My hope is that they will survive. I know they will."

The Columbia Missourian is a community news organization managed by professional editors and staffed by Missouri School of Journalism students who do the reporting, design, copy editing, information graphics, photography and multimedia.
Tadeo Ruiz is a Freshman in the Missouri School of Journalism from Mexico City. He's a reporter and producer for KBIA.
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