The last two years have played havoc with people’s lives. Covid has been disruptive in a way few of us have ever seen: jobs lost, connections broken and the way in which we socialize disrupted. Now, as a result of science and vaccines, there is promise that the danger is receding. As a consequence, live events are returning and music festivals are resuming with full fields.
Most music festivals run the same playbook: sell tickets and use the money to pay for the acts and the infrastructure. Make your money on sales of alcohol, food, merchandise, sponsorships and sometimes by selling special “VIP” access at a stiff premium.
When the event is finished and the accounting completed, the idea is for there to be a profit to make the whole undertaking worthwhile. Usually the money is split between the promoter who owns the festival and the financial backers who financed the undertaking.
John Largay had a different idea. What if a music festival could be used to make the city where he lives better? What good can be delivered by taking the profits from the festival and donating them to charities in the local region? After all, the money was coming from the mostly local people who were buying the tickets to get in and spending money while there.
This is a rarely seen instance of a local businessman recognizing his success is a product of the people who surround him, and those people in great part live where he does.
After sitting out the past two years, the M3F festival returns to Phoenix this year for two nights on March 4th and 5th. The lineup looks fun.
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So, how does this work? Unlike most festivals, this is a party which John Largay is throwing for his city. Largay owns WesPac, a general contractor doing about $100 million in annual revenue with a team of 100 people. He began looking for a project which his team could do together to give back to the region. What they began turned into M3F. Still now Largay’s festival team are mostly volunteers from WesPac working to put together the infrastructure for the event. The artists booked are arranged by Largay’s 32 year old son.
Because Largay’s business is construction, he has all the knowledge, equipment and resources to build a festival village inside a city park. And, his friends, partners and vendors are also from related fields, so there is little complication or expense in building the tents, rigging the stages and delivering the materials needed to create a fully articulated festival. And when you think about it, there are a lot of details to be handled: power, water, sanitation, refrigeration, fences, and all of the permitting which each of these requires. Who better to handle this mélange of essential elements than a contractor with a team who are used to working these issues at scale?
However, at the end of the event, everyone is waiting to see what the amount of money net of expenses turns up to be, not because they want to get their share, but instead because they want to see that money go out into the greater Phoenix area to address need. It’s a true demonstration of how art can help build community while reducing pressure points. The people who attend the festival know this, so they are just that much more willing to spend money inside the gates knowing the profit is headed where it’s best able to help those less fortunate. M3F is the product of what vision and ability can produce to knit community and strengthen the social safety net. M3F’s 2019 festival raised over $500,000. Largay’s 2022 goal is to be able distribute at least $1 million to over forty charities.
M3F missed two years because of the pandemic. Below is video from their 2019 event:
My conversation with John Largay is below in both video and audio podcast format:
I think that Largay’s idea is both simple and visionary. He, his staff and their counterparties across the region are joining forces to do something which is good for the community and fun for them. What a potent combination. Tickets are still available. Buy some and go see what it feels like to be in an environment where everyone shares the common bond of humility and decency.