Trio Presents | LLC – Roots N Blues Festival
After Tracy Lane and Shay Jasper formed their own company, Trio Presents, LLC, in December of 2019 and bought the rights to operate Columbia, Mo.,’s 13-year-old Roots N Blues Festival, the duo addressed the issue of gender inequity in a big way: with a pledge that 100% of the fest’s 2020 artists would be led by a woman or nonbinary musician.
“The initial response was overwhelmingly positive,” Lane said. “We announced the initiative and two of our headliners, Brandi Carlile and Mavis Staples, when tickets went on sale in late 2019. The initial onsale broke all previous records for this festival.”
Though the pandemic pushed back the 2020 festival to Sept. 24-26, 2021, the duo was able to re-book nearly every single artist for 2021 with a lineup that also featured Brandi Carlile, Sheryl Crow, Mickey Guyton, Lennon Stella, Tank And The Bangas, Betty Who, Larkin Poe, Nikki Lane, Natalie Hemby, Shemekia Copeland and more.
When putting together the list of artists it was also important to the producers to feature a range of genres and expand what Americana/roots really means, including adding mariachi and more pop acts.
Whereas Roots N Blues’ ticket holders had primarily been 45-65 years old and older and heavily male, data on demographics for the 2021 edition saw the event’s fanbase expand with more female ticketholders and a boom of attendees age 35 and younger, including the 18-22 bracket.
When it came to bringing about change for women representation, Jasper and Lane didn’t stop with the lineup.
“In our planning, we had candid conversations with women who have toured extensively about what they’d like to see differently. The unanimous response was a safer working environment. Many of the women we spoke to expressed their concerns around being the only woman backstage. Having done some touring as a crew member in the past, their concern was achingly familiar to me,” Lane said.
“Shay and I implemented changes to make everyone feel safer, both backstage and front-of-house. This included contracting with a 50% female-owned event security company whose employment practices prioritize race and gender diversity.
We also moved the needle forward with regard to safety and equity behind the scenes by hiring a diverse staff that included women and non-binary individuals in security, artist relations, and production roles.”
To ensure Roots N Blues is a multi-generational experience that welcomes the whole community, the promoters enhanced their ADA on-site transportation to include 20 accessible carts and drivers to assist fans with limited mobility or vision, provided a nursing mothers’ station with multiple separate bays, and donated over 300 free week-
end passes to local low-income families.
Jasper and Lane are gearing up for Roots N Blues’ 2022 lineup announcement and onsale in the spring, with the festival set to return to Stephens Lake Park in Columbia Oct. 7-9.
While the 2022 lineup will not be 100% female, Lane notes that all of the practices and protocols they’ve established “in support of a safer and more inclusive music festival experience will continue to be the centerpiece of our vision for the future of Roots N Blues.”
Jasper adds, “The company that Tracy Lane and I created is working every day to ensure that our initiatives go beyond the names on our lineup posters. The dollars spent in our community matter to us. The money coming out of the pockets of this industry should be going to Black and queer creaters at a higher rate, an equitable rate to those that benefit the most in music spaces.
“We all have much more work to do in order to ensure that the folks benefiting in this industry look like the consumers, that there’s a vast range of genuine lived experiences in this storytelling format and that they’re paid for their content.”