The Upstream Music Fest and Summit, created by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen as a way to showcase diverse talent from the Northwest and beyond, announced Wednesday that it won’t be back in 2019.
In an email to fans, the Upstream team said it was “taking a break” after two years of organizing the event to “think through the best format” for putting on a “unique music experience for the community.”
Upstream was first staged in 2017 and attracted 30,000 attendees and more than 360 performances in a three-day event across multiple venues in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood. Allen called the inaugural year, which mixed concerts with workshops and speakers focused on the music industry, a success.
Jeff Vetting, executive director of Upstream, said in a 2017 news release that “Seattle has always benefitted from a vibrant music community, but more than ever this music community deserves more exposure, resources and attention.” He said that Upstream was “intended to help fill a void, with a festival for music lovers of all ages to discover and support emergent artists — and a summit that brings the industry together for thoughtful conversations around the most pressing issues and opportunities facing artists.”
Upstream returned in June of 2018 with The Flaming Lips as a headliner.
Questions about the future of projects launched or backed by Allen have lingered since the passing of the billionaire philanthropist last October. Allen had his hand in everything from professional sports to the arts, science and medicine, environmental conservation, museums, real estate and more. His sister, Jody Allen, was named executor of his estate and said at the time that she would “ensure that Paul’s vision is realized, not just for years, but for generations.”
Just last week, the Seattle-based space venture Stratolaunch, created by Paul Allen seven years ago, announced that it was scaling back operations. More than 50 people were reportedly losing their jobs as the result of a streamlining strategy.
Upstream wasn’t alone in trying to attract music fans and their money. The Sasquatch! Music Festival, a long-running event at Washington’s Gorge Amphitheater, announced last summer that it would not be returning in 2019, ending a 17-year run. And Seattle’s beloved Bumbershoot festival saw a decline in attendance, too, with The Stranger reporting that 48,024 people attended the Labor Day weekend event in 2018.
Here is Wednesday’s Upstream email in full: