Downtown Bozeman Association Music on Main Forum Follow-Up and Survey Results

The Downtown Bozeman Association Releases Details and Survey Results from the Recent Member Forum and Survey Sent in Regards to Music on Main.

The Downtown Bozeman Association (DBA) has recently held a forum and sent a survey to its members in hopes of gaining valuable feedback about its Music on Main concerts series held 8 Thursday evening through the summer.  As the event continues to grow over the years, so does the importance of taking measures to continue making it a safe and fun event for all attendees.  

The DBA is a 501c6 non-profit organization whose mission is to promote Downtown Bozeman as a center of business, culture, and entertainment and to conduct and promote activities and events that build a strong local economy and contribute to the well-being, growth and vitality of downtown Bozeman.   In order to uphold its mission through the events and programs it host, the DBA budget is broken into two funding categories: membership and events.  Membership income directly pays for membership benefits and programs like the popular Downtown Dollar program, the Downtown Bozeman Partnership website, email marketing, many printed and electronic directories, and more.  While all DBA-hosted events are self-sustainable and are 100% supported through either event “participation fees” or “sponsorships,” DBA members are given the choice of which events you they would like to support, which in turn are the events that directly benefit their businesses.  Every event is intended to support the businesses that support it, which helps to sustain the event’s own future. 

Below is a brief history of Music on Main, including location changes and growth in security and safety measures over the years.

Music on Main began in 2000 as a small concert held in a back alley-way in downtown.  In 2001, the DBA was approached to take “ownership” of the already growing event and moved it to South Bozeman Avenue where it continued during Bozeman’s transition to the adoption of a statewide open container law and grew in attendance from tens of people to several hundred.

In 2004, after being developed by city staff and approved by the commission, an “open container waiver permit” was available for events like Music on Main or other events on “city-owned” parks and streets.  So this was the first year the DBA requested an “open container waiver” from the City of Bozeman which allows open containers within a certain area during a certain time.  The first waiver obtained included all of Main Street and the side street of South Bozeman during the event hours from 6 to 9pm.

The event quickly grew from a several hundred in attendance to upwards of 1-2,000, and after three more years on South Bozeman, the need for additional security and safety measures also grew.  So in 2007, the devoted event sponsors as well as city staff and Bozeman police officers all met to decide the future of the event.  It was decided amongst this group to move Music on Main to Main Street within a two block area to allow for growth but also keep a condensed area of the event to make it easier to monitor and patrol.  Several policies and procedures were also developed including: 8 staff members with one at each of the 8 entrances, several roaming staff members, expansion of the “kid’s area” for a family-friendly atmosphere, weekly colored wristbands to be given out to all licensed establishments to use during the event to help prevent underage drinking, signage about the open container waiver policy to be posted at all licensed beverage servers as well as around the event area.  Also, no glass, cans, dogs, coolers or backpacks were allowed in the event area. The group also recognized that due to the nature of having an event on a public street with additional entrances besides the sidewalk entrances, some of these policies would be difficult to enforce, so the DBA worked closely with the Bozeman Police and Fire Department to make sure we had backup and additional patrol within the event area. 

In 2011, the City of Bozeman received complaints from community members living in the adjacent neighborhoods to Downtown Bozeman about disruptions from people leaving downtown in the several hours after the event.  The Bozeman Police Department requested the same group of sponsors, licensed beverage servers, and city representatives get together once again to discuss the possibility of adding additional security for the hours after the event.  All establishments within the event area who were open during these “after-hours” agreed to pay into a security fund totaling an estimated $4,000 each year to fund additional officers from 10pm to 2am.  The DBA agreed to coordinate the collection of these funds and pay the Bozeman Police Department directly.  The same group of licensed establishments, event sponsors, Bozeman police officers, and city representatives continue to meet prior to the event series each year to discuss the importance of the policies we have in place and to review our game plan for the upcoming year. 

In 2014, there continued to be significant growth with several of the events seeing crowds upwards of 5,000 attendees.  The DBA and the event sponsors continue to take the policies that have been set and enhanced over the years very seriously and attempt to run a well-conducted, safe, and fun event but also recognize the need to continue expanding efforts and listening to DBA members and the community to throw a successful event which is fun and safe for all attendees. So when a concerned business owner approached the DBA staff and board about concerns he had with possible over-consumption of alcohol, the DBA decided to hold a member forum as well as send a survey to all DBA members, city staff, and event sponsors to allow the voices of the members to be heard.

Over 30 city representatives, business owners, and managers attended the forum held on August 27 at 2pm in the Bozeman Public Library Conference Room.  Babs Noelle, President of the DBA Board, gave a 10 minute introduction including the mission of the DBA, the history and budget of the event, and a shortened review of the survey results.  She then moderated the forum explaining that all DBA members were welcome to speak for a maximum of 3 minutes to allow time for everyone to be heard.  Thirteen individuals spoke in regards to their opinion on the event as well as suggestions for the future.  Of the 13 speakers, one was an officer with the Bozeman Police Department relaying some of the concerns about the issues with attendees several hours after the event and mentioning the importance of a “controlled area” for the event to monitor the activities within.  Nine who spoke were very complimentary of the event and explained the importance of having a thriving downtown community, including welcoming our younger demographic to our city core while also creating revenue for the downtown business community.  One person spoke about the concerns they had heard from community members and employees but had not attended the event in several years.  While the remaining two were adamantly against the event and the over-consumption of alcohol they feel is happening at the event resulting in problems after the event.  The forum overall was very positive, and the DBA Board felt they were provided valuable feedback from the speakers and attendees to use moving forward.

The survey sent to the DBA’s 337 members as well as the City Commissioners, additional city representatives, and event sponsors also provided valuable feedback.  Of the 81 respondents to the survey, 42% are retailers, 26.5% are restaurants or bars, 20% are service businesses with the remaining percentage comprising ”other” types of businesses.   

Of the businesses open during the Music on Main event hours, over 50% enjoyed either typical or higher than usual sales, brand awareness, “come backs,” and sidewalk or walk-in traffic on Music on Main nights as compared to other nights.  While less than 15% reported lower than usual sales, brand awareness, “come backs,” and sidewalk or walk-in traffic on Music on Main nights as compared to other nights.  

43% of the respondents reported unusual issues they believed to be related to Music on Main events.  Of those 36 respondents, 8 reported items they considered chronic (primarily being trash, inebriation of patrons coming into their establishments after the event, and cars remaining in lots overnight).  The remainder said any problem they had was one-time, no different than any other summer night, or something they considered, on balance, to be quite tolerable.

As for general comments or feedback: 3 of the 81 survey respondents (less than 4%) would like to see the event retooled pretty comprehensively, 11 of the 81 respondents (about 14%) saw the event as needing minor tweaking (including having beer gardens or changing the open container waiver policies, changing the music, adding security measures etc…), and the remaining respondents were complimentary of the event and/or mentioning the importance of revenue generated by the event and the added vitality of events and activities in general.

The DBA Board will analyze all the data from the survey and from the member forum, as well as continue to encourage DBA member businesses to share information directly with the DBA Board and staff.  All that input will determine how the DBA Board will approach the crafting of any changes deemed necessary to keep this popular community event running smoothly, thereby adding to the vitality of Downtown Bozeman.  The DBA Board seeks to have the Music on Main event series serve well a majority of its member businesses, and thus the Downtown Bozeman community. The DBA Board will continue to keep the DBA membership and the Bozeman community updated on any changes that will be implemented. ​