From Slinging Beer to Co-Ownership: Why We're Going to Create a Music Festival with a Mission
Last August, Casey Berry and I sat on the patio of Raíces Brewing Company in the Sun Valley neighborhood.
To our left was the Platte River. Denver’s Meow Wolf loomed behind us. And as we would soon discover, an exciting new partnership was in front of us.
I had approached Casey, Founder of the Denver-based entertainment company Two Parts, to talk about the Underground Music Showcase (UMS), Denver's largest multi-day music festival, which Berry's company had owned since 2018. Casey and I immediately bonded over the challenges of leading forward-looking organizations during the pandemic, a time of uncertainty for both the nonprofit and music industries.
Youth on Record and the UMS have been connected for many years. We were among the festival's first nonprofit beneficiaries, and our volunteers (and I) have spent many summer days slinging beer for donations at the main stage. Dozens of Youth on Record-affiliated artists, from founders to staff to teaching artists and students, have performed at the UMS.
I wanted to take the relationship to a new level by focusing the festival on community impact, both economic and social.
“We’re interested in buying the UMS,” I said to Casey, even though the UMS was not for sale. “There are three things that can happen. We buy it. You walk away laughing. Or we join forces.”
On March 22nd, 2022, Casey and I met on South Broadway to sign a deal bringing Youth on Record and Two Parts together as co-owners of the UMS. When the festival returns to South Broadway July 29-31, it will be under our co-leadership and management of the UMS, including operations and financial oversight.
You can read all about it in today's Denverite story by Kyle Harris.
Over the last eight months, Casey and I discovered that our visions were much more similar than we originally thought: We both want to build a model for music festivals of the future, rooted in making a positive impact for artists, music fans, and the broader community. In fact, I’m hosting a discussion about this very thing at Treefort Music Festival – a fest I admire and look to as a model for a mission-based approach.
For Youth on Record, the move is part of a larger strategy to expand our impact, create a career pipeline for young creatives, diversify funding, and increase our national visibility. The investment is part of a Mission Aligned Investment Strategy, which positions Youth on Record to make more investments like this one in the future.
Nonprofits have to start thinking differently. When MacKenzie Scott gave us $1M in unrestricted funds last year, we were already building a new way of doing business. That funding gave us an opportunity to actualize our vision and build what’s next.
The UMS is a big part of what's next.
We're excited to bring philanthropy and government resources to the table, and are betting on a bold idea that music festivals with a mission are actually community resources and not simply entertainment.
Music festivals have the unique power to bring huge groups of people together. Nothing else does this: not concerts, not art exhibitions, not conferences, not plays. The UMS is an incredible opportunity to reach, activate, connect with, and serve a large number of people, which is central to Youth on Record's strategy for innovation and change.
I hope you'll find this news as exciting as the Youth on Record team, Board of Directors, and I do. If you'd like to learn more, visit our website. I'd love to hear your thoughts and questions.
More to come, and see you at the UMS in July!
Executive Director, Youth on Record
Co-Manager, Underground Music Showcase