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How one artist thinks Upstream Fest will change the Seattle Music Scene

You’ve heard of Sasquatch!, SXSW, and Bumbershoot, but this spring, there’s a new music festival making waves nationwide - and it’s right here in our own backyard! The Paul Allen-inspired Upstream Music Fest + Summit is partnering with KEXP for the purpose of highlighting what makes our city great - our unique music scene. Upstream’s main goal is to bring a very large spotlight to Seattle’s upcoming artists. Being a local artist emerged in the Seattle music scene myself, I wanted to examine what this festival will mean for our city and music community.

The entire Upstream team seems dedicated to using all our city’s resources to support local music as much as possible. With a goal of booking 75 percent local artists to make up the entire bill, Upstream will take place all over; including over 25 venues in Pioneer Square, the WAMU theater, a free stage in Occidental Park, and of course - a beer garden. With the expected attendance projected to be around 40,000 people, this festival will be the biggest city-wide party we’ve ever seen!

Not only will there be an abundance of amazing bands (specific lineup TBD), but Upstream Music Fest + Summit, KEXP, and MoPOP are partnering to offer ongoing workshops to help emerging artists navigate the music industry. There will be FREE ARTIST WORKSHOPS to bring the tools needed to succeed in today’s music industry straight to the independent artists.

Can you tell that, as an artist, I'm excited about that?!

Upstream just announced it’s first workshop “Mastering the Hustle,” which will bring local and national industry experts straight to emerging artists, providing them with valuable information to help further their career. They also announced their keynote speakers for the Summit portion of the fest earlier this week; an impressive lineup of Quincy Jones, Macklemore and Portia Sabin.

Bands and artists that submitted to play the festival will be kept up to date with first workshops and opportunities as well as discounts even if they were not selected to play this time around.

I spoke with Jeff Vetting, the executive director for Upstream to break down the driving force behind Upstream.

“We’ve been partnering with local businesses like KEXP, Pioneer Square Alliance, and even Starbucks is on board to create partnerships always through the filter of how we can help the artist,” said Vetting.

As to what makes the festival unique, Vetting says, “definitely the conference aspect. The Summit portion of this festival should be very attractive for the artists. We also want to be future focused. What are the next steps in the industry? We want to promote bringing thought leaders together to discuss the future of music and how we can be a part of it.”

I asked Seattle-born vocalist, songwriter and Hendrix-inspired guitarist, Ayron Jones, what it means to have Upstream Music Fest + Summit in Seattle in his home city.

“Having a festival like this means a lot,” says Jones. “I’ve been playing music in Seattle for 13 years and I'm just now starting to gain national recognition. It can be tough trying to break out of Seattle and not because there is a shortage of talent, but because Seattle lacks the kind of business that music scenes in New York or LA benefit from. Upstream is an opportunity to build relationships and bring aspects of the music business that the Seattle scene wouldn't normally be exposed to.”

If Upstream Music fest + Summit and their partners' goal is to help the emerging artists, the buzz and excitement around those opportunities are already extremely prevalent throughout the entire local music community.

“I think this festival is the breath of life the scene has been waiting for,” said Jones.

From local artist to music lover and everything in between, it’s apparent that the first annual Upstream Music Fest + Summit will put Seattle’s music scene on the map in way that's never been done before.

Upstream will take place May 11-13th, 2017. For more information and tickets, visit