Common Ground Music Festival Strengthens Greater Lansing Area

Marking its 17th year appearance, Common Ground Music Festival (CGMF), a multi-day outdoor music festival, comes this year to downtown Lansing from July 5-10. Each July, A-list talent entertains more than 40,000 people across three stages along the banks of the Grand River at Adado Riverfront Park. The festival has highlighted more than 450 artists, including 36 Grammy Award winners and 21 Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame inductees; showcasing national and regional music performers of many genres including contemporary and classic rock, pop, alternative, country, hip hop, rhythm & blues, soul and more.

This year’s headliners feature critically acclaimed rap and hip hop artist, A$AP Rocky, country music heartthrobs, Dierks Bentley and Tim McGraw, and R&B, pop sensation, Jason Derulo.

A Year-Round Process

Many people do not realize what goes into planning a major music festival. For Meridian Entertainment Group, the six-day festival requires a yearlong planning process. From bookings to attaining sponsorships all the way to show operations, a great deal of work goes into getting the elite on-stage in Lansing.

According to Jenna Meyer, marketing director of Common Ground Music Festival and Meridian Entertainment Group, when deciding whom to book, the team has a number of factors they must consider. Typically, the nights that have the most attendance include country, hip hop, rap and pop, as these genres have well-known performers and draw a larger audience. However, when booking, it all goes back to who is available and what makes the most sense for the venue.

“First we need to determine who is touring that summer, their availability and routing of their tour, market size and demographics of Lansing, and then we have to evaluate the price of the artist and whether their potential gross can cover their cost based on our capacity,” said Meyer. “And that is just on our end! There are a lot of negotiations with agents and managers, and whether they think the event is a good fit for the artist’s brand.”

So far, Common Ground has achieved an excellent track record for booking up-and-coming bands on the side stages. Meyer stated that history has shown that two to three bands from each year become extremely popular within three years of their performance in Lansing. Several examples include country stars, Eric Church and Old Dominion, and pop stars X-Ambassadors and Walk The Moon, as well as other bands from different genres.

Show operations and security are other defining factors that make up a major part of the festival’s planning. Many departments help build the festival grounds, and as a whole, it takes nine days to set up the festival and three and a half days to tear it down.

“The operations team consists of 12 individuals who are called upon to assist with many festival tasks,” said Tristyn Wright, vice president of the Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Authority. “They are responsible for setting up tables and chairs, lining the field for seating, pulling trash, hanging lights in the tents, positioning signage and scanning tickets at the front gate.”

As for safety measures, the festival has a contracted security team that strives to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for music lovers attending the event. The security team consists of 60 individuals where, from start to finish, the team logs an astounding 4,000 hours.

“I enjoy this job because I get to work with different people, and it’s nice to see a community coming together for fellowship with one another,” said Wright. “Common Ground is great for the state of Michigan, as the festival is not just about one type of music; it represents the culture and diversity of Lansing.”

Growing Audience, Growing Economy

The festival attracts many age groups and demographics from the greater Lansing area, and even from across the state. Meyer stated that about 50 percent of the ticket sales comes from outside Ingham County, and depending on the year, about 5 to 10 percent of the sales comes from outside the state of Michigan.

“From these statistics, it’s safe to say we have a balanced mix of Lansing area residents and those traveling to Lansing solely for the festival,” said Meyer.

Each year, Common Ground continues to make a significant impact on the greater Lansing area’s economy. In fact, using the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau formula, the festival provides an estimated economic impact of more than $4 million annually to the region and, in the past 16 years, it has achieved nearly $65 million in economic impact. In 2015, the economic impact numbers of Common Ground reached a significant milestone with more than 20,000 people from out-of-the county attended the festival.

“CGMF plays a large role in our downtown community,” said Chris Meyer, director of strategic partnerships. “In addition to the local families that have been attending the event for over a decade, we also draw a large number of people from outside mid-Michigan who contribute to the positive economic impact CGMF directly has on local businesses.”

The Radisson Hotel Lansing, a partnering hotel for Common Ground, agrees that the festival encourages business in the downtown area, and even finds that Common Ground draws a crowd to the hotel.

“The Radisson Hotel Lansing is proud to be a founding sponsor of Common Ground, and our team looks forward to the event every year,” said Kenric Hall, general manager of the Radisson Hotel. “We have been involved since the inception and have had the privilege of welcoming many performers and fans alike throughout the past several years.”

Giving Back to the Community

Common Ground Music Festival not only concentrates on bringing the best in music to the stage, but it also focuses on building a sustainable community, which is all possible thanks to ticket sales and sponsorships. Last year, more than 140 volunteers participated in the festival; totaling approximately 1,700 volunteer hours for the six days, leaving good impressions on the visitors and promoting the culture of volunteerism in the community. Additionally, last year more than $7,000 in tickets and merchandise was donated to 36 different charitable auctions, raising much-needed funds for causes in the area.

Chris Meyer also noted that without the sponsorships received from businesses, Common Ground would not exist. Since day one, Miller Lite remains the presenting sponsor, greatly supporting the festival. Other business sponsors include Auto Value, Sparrow Health System, Jackson National, CASE Credit Union and many more. Recently, Red Bull, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and Über were added as new sponsors for 2016.

“For sponsorships, it’s a year-round process that involves ongoing communication with past, present and potential sponsors,” said Chris Meyer. “It’s hard work, but come July, when we see tens of thousands of people having a great time listening to live music in downtown Lansing, it will make everything worth it.”

Ticket Information and Where to Purchase

Ticket prices to the Common Ground Music Festival range from $35-$350, and can be purchased on Common Ground’s website at commongroundfest.com. Festival passes are $20 per day, which is less than $2 per band. The festival passes are transferrable, meaning different individuals can use the pass over consecutive nights.

Don’t miss out on the city’s iconic festival. Come enjoy your favorite artists from an attractive, intimate venue, with state of the art production, making it the most anticipated music event happening in the mid-Michigan region this summer.

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Amanda Denomme

Amanda Denomme

Amanda has been a freelance writer for the past 5 years, covering arts and entertainment in West Michigan and Lansing. Describing herself as a shoe & fashion enthusiast, Amanda loves attending Broadway shows, dancing, and keeping up with the latest reality T.V.

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