Beale Street Music Festival ‘Paused’ For 2024

Cardi B at Memphis in May BSMF 2019
Beale Street Music Festival pictured in 2019 during Cardi B’s set. (Courtesy Memphis In May)

The long-running and large-scale Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis, Tennessee, will not take place in 2024, with organizing body Memphis In May saying the event lost $3.48 million last year.

“In 2023, attendance at the Beale Street Music Festival suffered a significant decline to its lowest level in over 30 years,” the statement from Memphis In May reads. “As a result of multiple factors, the organization reported a record financial loss of $3.48 million from the 2023 festival operations.”

The event is on pause in 2024 “to explore all options to present an event in the future that meets the standards and authenticity expected of the brand.”

The nonprofit also cites challenges in producing the event, which has drawn up to 100,000 attendees, at Tom Lee Park, as well as uncertainty around a lawsuit from the riverfront management agency claiming the festival caused $1.4 million worth of damage to the site.

“Obviously, Memphis in May has built a very authentic brand beginning with the name and location of the music festival,” said James L. Holt, President & and CEO. “With a pending lawsuit and the event now unwelcomed in the new Tom Lee Park, future Beale Street Music Festivals will face fundamental challenges.”

The 2023 event was topped by The Lumineers, Greta Van Fleet, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Earth Wind & Fire, HARDY, Jazmine Sullivan, The Roots, AJR and 311.

Other Memphis In May events will proceed in 2024, according to the announcement, including the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest at Liberty Park May 15-18 and the Great American River Run in downtown Memphis on May 25.

The loss of the festival is a blow to the city. In 2019, Beale Street was coming off of record attendance and seeming upward momentum, known as a music-first experience taking place in a city steeped in music history, with an affordable ticket.

“It’s real, it’s kind of a purist environment – we don’t have Ferris wheels or fireworks and major art exhibits and things like that,” Holt told Pollstar at the time. ” We are probably the most affordable festival in the country. A three-day pass is $135 right now. 

“We operate on an incredibly narrow margin – we’re a community nonprofit. Our average operating margin is 2 percent, and that doesn’t include weather contingencies that can easily wipe that out.” 

Earlier this year, the long-running jam-heavy Summer Camp music festival announced a hiatus, citing unspecified challenges in producing a large-scale music festival as well as post-COVID conditions.