The 2015 Fall Line Fest has been canceled, citing "limited time and funding" on its website.
The festival goes the way of a similar attempt in the mid-'90s (was it called Route One? I can't even find a mention on Google) for an alternative fest and industry conference that quickly tanked after its inaugural year. Plenty people want their own version of South by Southwest, but few succeed in the crucial early years.
The all volunteer-run Fall Line Festival began at various venues around the city in 2013 and had branched out from music to fine arts and food events in conjunction with the weekend, which was slated to move to early November this year.
"A couple of us still have some bands that are confirmed and booked that we don't want to get rid of, so we'll still try to do something on one day -- maybe 10 to 15 bands," says co-founder Stephen Lecky. "We don't have much info other than that. It won't be under the name Fall Line though. But we'll still hopefully have some good groups."
Lecky explains that a big reason for the cancellation had to do with inability to attract sponsors. The festival has been limited in scope and size the first two years by the smaller sizes of local venues involved.
"This wasn't the kind of centralized event we're used to, where a huge amount of people could show up. Two thousand people [at various clubs] is a small event compared to others," Lecky points out regarding the appeal to advertisers. "The cost to use places is tough, getting funds takes legwork and time, it's almost a full-time job asked of volunteers who have other full-time jobs."
Lecky, who also runs the successful Friday Cheers event for Venture Richmond, says Fall Line board members are hoping the event can bounce back in some form or another next year. But he says it wouldn't hurt to have someone with "deep pockets" take an interest.
The original plan called for an organic, snowball approach to building a local music festival -- but it didn't work in this case. The festival could not afford the kinds of bigger bands that would generate buzz and national media coverage.
A model of shared cost and benefit seems essential to organizing a festival these days. For example: If you have seed money and a parent organization with a paid staff (National Folk Festival), you make your festival free to attend, family-friendly, with a huge local volunteer force (Richmond Folk Festival), then the chances for success are strong. Anything else is going to take some major elbow grease and maybe a rich relative or two.
The Fall Line fest was initially intended to piggyback on touring bands headed to-and-from the successful Hopscotch Festival in Raleigh, NC, now in its fifth year. That larger festival, which features three nights of major acts downtown and hundreds of other bands in its easy-to-navigate club crawl, was started by an entrepreneur in conjunction with the local alt. weekly, the Independent.
Here is what that founder, Greg Lowenhagen, had to say about the economic impact of that alternative festival on the city in a 2014 interview with the Triangle Business Journal.
How does Hopscotch benefit local businesses?
"From the direct feedback I’ve received from downtown business owners, Hopscotch is one of the most lucrative weekends for businesses in Raleigh. We haven’t done an official economic impact study since our second year in 2011, but at that time, the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau estimated our impact was upwards of $2 million. I’m in the process of submitting updated data to the GRCVB for a new number, and I expect it to greatly exceed that figure. We sold tickets to fans from 42 states last year, and we have attendees from England, Germany, Australia and all over the place. That said, one cool thing about Hopscotch, and one that also lessens the GRCVB’s estimate, is that our fan base is still predominantly local. Roughly 70 percent of our ticket buyers are from the Triangle, and the GRCVB’s model doesn’t account for dollars being spent by residents of Wake County in Raleigh. These two facts lead me to believe our overall impact for three days in September is pretty huge.
It was just announced yesterday that the Moogfest of Asheville, NC -- celebrating acclaimed synthesizer man Bob Moog -- is moving to Durham in April of 2016. Clearly it's a good town for music fests.
Below is the official announcement of cancellation from the Fall Line Festival's website:
"Due to limited time and funding, this year's Fall Line Fest will not take place. We'd like to thank our volunteers; the participating venues, bands, restaurants, and galleries; the city of Richmond; our sponsors; and, of course, all of the attendees for their support over the past two years. It's been an honor bringing over 100 bands to nine different venues, hosting awesome community-built art projects, and highlighting just some of the excellent food found in this town. None of it would have been possible without the hard work of our all-volunteer board and amazing network of supporters.
While the 2015 Fall Line Fest will not take place, you can still help us achieve the primary goal of the festival: to fill and support Richmond's venues, restaurants, and galleries. RVA has--and will continue to have--excellent and innovative music, food, and art. Go out and enjoy it!
Early Bird ticket purchasers will be refunded by 07/17/15. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.