What's going to happen to Bumbershoot?

November 8, 2019

Hot Bodies In Motion perform at Bumbershoot 2013 - Photo by Steven Graham

What’s going to happen to Bumbershoot? That seems to be the big question after news broke last week that festival producer AEG Presents would not be renewing their contract.

AEG took over producing the event five years ago after many years of One Reel at the helm. They brought massive booking power to the Labor Day weekend music and arts festival that had been struggling for some time. AEG Presents, one of the biggest concert and festival production companies in the world, couldn’t get the event back on track as ticket prices increased and attendance suffered year after year.

After 49 years of being a staple in the Seattle music landscape, it looks like there is a very real possibility; Bumbershoot may not return for its 50th anniversary. As heartbreaking as this sounds, it wouldn’t be all that unusual considering what we’ve seen around the region in the last few years. Major festivals like Sasquatch! at the Gorge and Upstream here in Seattle shut down within the last year.

If Bumbershoot is going to come to back in 2020, it's likely going to have to look very different and change a great deal in order to survive long term. It was free once before, could it be free again? With the right type of community support and some adjustments to our expectations for the lineup, some version of a free or more affordable Bumbershoot might be possible. But can the city of Seattle create and execute that plan in a matter of months? That might be a stretch.

Could another production company possibly have seen this coming and swoop in with a plan to save the day?

One way or another the answers to these questions will no doubt be coming in the next few months. Until then I’ll have my fingers crossed hoping that somehow we see the return of a sustainable Bumbershoot in 2020.