Research quantifies music festival’s boost to economy

The Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival drew 180,000 people to Golden Gate Park during three days last August, but a new SF State study found the event brought much more: over $67 million to the local economy.

A photo of Patrick Tierney.

Patrick Tierney is chair of the Recreation, Parks and Tourism department

Patrick Tierney, chair of the Recreation, Parks and Tourism Department, surveyed concertgoers at the Aug. 12-14 festival and later online to determine how the event affected the local tourism and job market. Tierney has conducted similar research on visitors to national parks and was asked to study Outside Lands by the festival’s promoters, Berkeley-based Another Planet Entertainment.

The yearly event -- billed as a combination music, food, wine and art festival -- started in 2008, but no extensive data had yet been collected on its impact on the local economy.

“I don’t think that the general public appreciates how much of an impact a short-term event can have on the city,” said Tierney. “It’s important to get that information out.”

Using surveys from 3,551 respondents, Tierney determined how much attendees spent and then used a unique multiplier to estimate total spending. Spending by San Francisco residents was excluded in order to focus on tourism the festival attracted.

There were a number of notable findings in the data:

• About $60.6 million was spent in the City of San Francisco, while $6.6 million was spent in other parts of the Bay Area.

• 683 short-term, full-time-equivalent jobs were created in San Francisco, and another 73 in the greater Bay Area.

• The average concertgoer spent more than $400 over the course of the weekend.

• Seventy-two percent of respondents live outside of San Francisco, mostly in Southern California.

• Eighty percent of respondents stayed overnight outside their home for an average of 3.8 days.

• The event organizers have donated $4.3 million of ticket sales to the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department over the four-year lifespan of the festival.

An aerial photo of concertgoers at the 2011 Outside Lands Music and Art Festival.

The Outside Lands Music and Art Festival brought 180,000 people to Golden Gate Park from Aug. 12-14, 2011.

Tierney noted that city residents might be quick to notice the “inconvenience factor” of the festival, including increased traffic, noise and transit needs. The economic benefits, although large, are not immediately evident.

“It’s good to see now how the whole community benefits,” said Tierney. “People spent money all over the Bay Area, although San Francisco clearly got the biggest benefit.”

-- Philip Riley