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Philly Music Fest Builds Community

In advance of this year’s Philly Music Fest, Cherry-Veen Zine spoke to Greg Seltzer, the festival’s founder, to get the inside scoop. This year, the festival will be hosted from September 25-28th at Milkboy, Johnny Brenda’s, and World Cafe Live, and will feature zine favorites Sixteen Jackies, Ali Awan, Foxtrot & the Getdown, Petal, Thin Lips, and many more. The impressive lineup for Philly Music Fest is a cross-section of the local scene. An avid concert-goer himself, Greg says the bands he chose to play are not only some of his personal favorites, but represent the diversity in background and genre that Philly has to offer. “It’s really important that this isn’t just an indie rock music festival,” Greg says. When he invited supergroup Sun Ra Arkestra to play, he knew they’d be one of the few jazz bands to perform. “The connective tissue of this festival is not genre. The connective tissue of Philly Music Fest is Philly,” says Greg.

Greg Seltzer, like many of the behind-the-scenes actors in the Philly music industry, does not have a background in entertainment. He started his career as an accountant, then went back to school to become a business lawyer. Now, he spends most of his time advising large and small businesses on law and contracts. Organizing Philly Music Fest, therefore, is a passion project for Greg. As a Philly resident, he recognizes the talent in this city and wants to highlight it. His background in business adds a unique perspective to the industry. Unlike other festivals, Philly Music Fest has no promotional fees, no employees, and is able to keep costs low while still compensating the artists above market rates. All the proceeds from ticket sales are donated back to musical education charities in the city.

Greg describes the mission of Philly Music Festival as a cycle. It starts by highlighting and supporting current bands, and ends with investing in the next generation of musicians in Philadelphia. Funding for public music education programs in Philly schools has been drastically cut over the last decade. This not only decreases the number of career musicians Philly will produce in the future, but also denies school children a healthy outlet for stress and creativity. Musical charities like Live Connections and Rock to the Future do their best to fill the void left by budget cuts in music education, but they’re severely underfunded. Last year, Philly Music Festival raised $25,000 for these charities, and hopes to exceed that number this year. “It’s all about investing money back into the kids who are going to be the next musicians in our city,” Greg says.

Another admirable quality of Philly Music Fest is its emphasis on community-building. The festival features not only local musicians, but food and beverage suppliers as well. All thirty taps at World Cafe Live are taken over by local breweries such as Victory, Conshohocken, and Levante. Stateside Vodka and Revivalist Gin are also contributing to the beverage program. La Colombe, Federal Donuts, and Di Bruno Bros. will all be donating food for the event. The generosity of so many of these companies was inspired by Philly Music Fest’s mission, because as it turns out, “so many of these places happen to be run by people who deeply love music,” says Greg.

Philly Music Fest also includes an opportunity for music fans to become more involved in the scene. “Inside Hustle” is a panel discussion hosted at World Cafe Live Saturday at 12:30 that features key voices in the music industry of Philadelphia. “The Philly music scene has a lot of parts, and it doesn’t always work together,” says Greg. The mission of events like “Inside Hustle,” therefore, is to bring together recording engineers, managers, agents, record labels, and music journalists alike. Greg hopes that Philly Music Fest will continue to inspire all actors in the music industry by promoting independent venues, highlighting new music, and encouraging collaboration. “Philly Music Fest is the anchor for all the pieces in music,” he says. Whether you’re an artist, a fan, or have any other role to play in the music scene, Philly Music Fest is for you. Cherry-Veen Zine will be there all four days, and we hope to see you there as well!

photo by Jenn Seltzer

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