It’s getting harder and harder for many Americans to afford seeing their favorite artists live in concert, as the industry grows more volatile, and high profit margins for major events take away from the joy of gathering in community. Fortunately, one festival in Phoenix wants to do things differently.
It’s an unlikely story: A family-run construction company, Wespac, brought the M3F Festival to life in the owner’s backyards in 2004 as a way to give back to the community.
John Largay, the founder of Wespac Construction, figured that if he was going to ask people to donate money for the community, he’d need to give them something in return.
Largay, whose family still runs the show today, told Good Good Good that a party with music just made a lot of sense.
“A contractor had an advantage in creating a festival because the logistics are the same as a job site; The circus goes in, the circus goes out. The toilets, dumpsters, fencing, power, rentals are all the same. The only thing different was music,” he said.
“We call it ‘the 3 Cs,’ Community, Culture, and Charity. If you embrace your community and want to be an integral part, then all three become important. A festival embraces all of the elements.”
What is the M3F Festival?
The M3F Festival will take place the weekend of March 1-2 this year, in Phoenix, Arizona. Contrary to other exploitative music festivals, M3F is a registered nonprofit that donates 100% of its proceeds to charity. Since 2004, $4.4 million has been donated.
A large chunk of this philanthropic work has taken place over the past few years, with $2 million donated since 2022.
“In 2024, our hopes for the festival is once again to approach the milestone of raising nearly $1 million,” Rachel Blanchard, M3F Festival’s Manager, told Good Good Good.
“This financial goal is pivotal in sustaining our collaborations with a diverse array of charity partners. The festival serves as a unique platform, affording us the incredible opportunity to join forces with numerous impactful causes that are actively contributing to positive change both locally and globally.”
How the M3F Festival gives back
The community collaborations upon which the M3F Music Festival is founded are even more meaningful this year, with the streamlining of the M3F Fund. This opens up funding to the public, offering an application for nonprofits to submit detailed plans for funding, how it will be allocated, and its impact on the community.
“Over the past two decades, we have cultivated partnerships with numerous charities, some spanning several years, while also welcoming new submissions annually,” Blanchard explained. “The growth of our festival has enabled us to expand our impact, evolving from supporting four charities initially to collaborating with over 35 diverse charity partners today.”
This year's allocations included projects in four categories: Arts, environment, community, and education.
Beneficiaries include the Music Therapy Program at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Habitat for Humanity, Backline, Free Arts for Abused Children, and Phoenix Rescue Mission, among many others.
“The M3F Fund actively seeks opportunities to assist charities in unique ways that may set us apart from other funders,” Blanchard said.
From working with partners to organize benefit concerts, provide workforce training and education for youth interested in music industry jobs, and, of course, donate helpful financial contributions, M3F hopes to leverage its unique role in the community to support other organizations.
Grant funding varies; for instance, M3F made a $100,000 contribution to the Phoenix Children's Hospital’s music therapy program, as well as fulfilled a $2,000 request for local environmental group Let's Go Compost.
“At Phoenix Children’s, music and arts therapy plays an important part in the healing process as well as a welcome opportunity for children to have fun and enhance their creative spirit,” Tim Harrison, the hospital’s VP of Corporate Partnerships and Social Events said.
“This highly interactive program wouldn’t exist without the support from key partners like M3F. We are extremely grateful for the continued commitment and support.”
Blanchard said the M3F Fund hopes to continue fostering meaningful collaborations to deepen its ability to fund Phoenix’s community programs.
“Partnering with these remarkable organizations allows us to be part of initiatives that make a tangible difference every day. Their efforts resonate within our community and extend far beyond, illustrating the profound impact that collective action can have on addressing pressing issues,” Blanchard said.
Whether it’s providing over 100,000 meals to people in need, funding volunteer training for suicide prevention organizations, or supporting cancer research, ticket sales from music lovers have a direct impact on the greater community.
For instance, Eric Wolverton, Habitat for Humanity’s Executive Director, shared that the M3F Festival has contributed the funds to help construct five homes for families in need.
“Habitat for Humanity of Northern Arizona is grateful to be a recipient of the ‘every ticket counts’ approach through M3F,” Wolverton said.
In addition to these community supports, the festival is also committed to broadening its sustainability efforts.
According to EV charging company Energy5, music festivals often have significant environmental impacts. It is estimated that 23,500 metric tons of waste are generated annually from music festivals in the U.S. alone — and the average festival attendee produces approximately five pounds of waste per day.
To mitigate some of this environmental strain, M3F partners with Greenlight Solution to divert waste (in recent years, the festival has achieved an 80% waste diversion rate) through recycling and composting.
With vendors using compostable materials, a number of water bottle refilling stations, and reducing single-use plastic all around, Blanchard said she is “optimistic about surpassing this [previous waste diversion rate] in the upcoming year.”
Ultimately, festival organizers, community partners, and attendees are eager to be a part of another year of good music — and good actions.
“The amazing support from our audience shows the strength of our shared values and we are excited about the positive outcome as we continue to build a community that values both music and meaningful social impact,” Blanchard said.
“Our commitment remains in supporting these causes that inspire hope, create change, and contribute to a better world.”
Header image by Will Fenwick for M3F