Growth of IndieCraft music festival a driver for tourism, continued expansion

With the third IndieCraft just about two months away, the wider reach of the once one-night indie music and craft beer festival can be felt in the expanded venue space, the sought-after talent and the buzz both among the Greater Springfield community and people from other cities and states.

“When we first started talking about IndieCraft about 4 years ago, we wanted it to be like the idea of South by Southwest in Austin … that was always our template,” says Chris Schutte, vice president of destination marketing and communication for the Greater Springfield Partnership. “We didn’t want to charge because it was a test template. The first one was a one-night event, and about 2,500 people showed up at Mother Stewart’s.”

Last year, the event expanded to add a second day and add musicians to Mother’s new outdoor stage. The crowds didn’t slow, and according to Schutte, having bands like Motherfolk and other indie favorites on the rise continued to help draw people both locally and from other cities.

And the momentum pushed organizers to take another step forward this year. IndieCraft 2022, presented by Benjamin Steel, will see the addition of a third day, an added location, and a headliner who named Springfield among its list of other tour locations that include stops at major musical venues and festivals, such as Shaky Knees Music Festival in Atlanta.

The event will take place Friday through Sunday, May 13-15, at both Mother Stewert’s and at a stage being designed for the COhatch Springfield alleyway.

“There’s a ripple effect – or you could call it a domino effect – when we’re booking these outside artists, it gives validity to the music scene in Springfield,” says John Kelly, downtown events coordinator for the Greater Springfield Partnership. “It really highlights Springfield’s receptiveness to new music.”

Guided By Voices will lead the charge as a ticketed show Friday night at Mother’s, with the tickets being necessary to control the crowds in case the weather doesn’t cooperate, Schutte says.

The original 400 tickets to the show – costing just $10 a piece – sold out quickly when they were posted a few weeks ago. But, Schutte is hopeful that another 100 tickets will be able to be sold if good weather looks promising as the event gets much closer.

By selling tickets, Schutte says the Partnership was able to track where some attendees will be coming from on IndieCraft weekend, adding that there are many ticket holders from other states, including New York, and people who have reached out from Georgia with interest in additional tickets.

“When people are coming to Springfield for something like this, they look up other amenities, too,” Kelly says. “They’re not just coming for one event. They come to shop and dine and spend their time here. Maybe they’ll stay at a hotel and take time to visit the Westcott House or the Hartman Rock Garden.

“And, when they go back to where they’re from, they become an ambassador and an extension of further positively promoting Springfield and what we have to offer.”

Schutte says those positive interactions and perceptions are the goal not only for guests but also for performers. He says there were bands seeking to secure a spot at IndieCraft and that the bands the Partnership sought out had heard positive things about the past events.

“This is a natural jumping off point for us if we are going to become a regional destination music festival,” Schutte says. “The model in our mind is that we want to continue to expand. We want to expand to National Road Commons and continue to add venues.

“This year, COhatch will have its own stage. Next year, we would like there to be equal-level headliners on alternate stages.”

Securing more significant musical talent, however, requires additional funding, Schutte says. Though the Guided By Voices concert is ticketed, he reinforced that the cost is nominal and for crowd control, not to cover costs of the performers. And, as some bands - like Motherfolk - that have used IndieCraft and festivals like it to grow their careers, draw a greater following, they become harder and harder to book in the future without financial backing.

Benjamin Steel has stepped up to be the festival’s major sponsor this year, and Schutte says that for the event to continue growing with the same momentum, it will take other local companies to invest in financially supporting those efforts.

“If we want to really make this a community event and not have to sell tickets to every show, sponsorships are what (IndieCraft) will continue to require in the future,” Schutte says.

Kevin Loftis, co-owners of Mother Stewart’s Brewing Company agrees.

He says with places like the brewery and COhatch taking a chance on events like IndieCraft are what’s needed to continue expanding.

“There’s a big expense to these things, a big overhead, and we have to be able to reach beyond our regulars,” Loftis says. “Not everything works, but we’re always open to try. Making these investments pays off in other ways, like putting us on the radar of numerous booking agencies.”

And he says it’s all about striking a balance of being able to attract the bigger acts, while still finding ways to afford them without having to make every weekend a ticketed event.

“For us, we’ve kind of found our footing in a music and event-driven existence,” Loftis says. “We by default have become an event-driven craft brewery. It’s been great working with the Convention and Visitors Bureau … and getting into heavier events now.”

The additional foot traffic Downtown will also lead to some infrastructure updates to continue meeting parking and safety needs, Kelly says.

The current gravel lot across from Hatch Artist Studios will be paved and the area of Columbia Street near Mother’s will get a streetscape makeover that will include “bumpouts” to help keep traffic speed in check.

More details about the music festival, including full artist lineups, food trucks, and craft breweries soon. For the most updated information on IndieCraft 2022, presented by Benjamin Steel, follow the Facebook event page.
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Read more articles by Natalie Driscoll.