Shining Support

Shining Support

Community raises up local musicians with new festival

When Ryan Woodland got his start in the Northwest Arkansas music scene some two and a half years ago, he found other artists in the area struggling to support their art in the same way he was. A disparity exists, Woodland realized, between artists’ worth and the price of their creativity. Less than six months after gauging community interest on a project to support and benefit local musicians, the Limelight Music Festival comes to fruition April 7 with eight musicians taking the stage and myriad vendors, sponsors and community businesses contributing to the inaugural event.

“There was so much support for [the festival] and people who not only love the idea, but artists who really could benefit from an event like that,” Woodland shares, “that it just ended up happening this quickly because of everything and everyone coming together for it. And because of the fact that there is a strong need for it in the area.”

The short term goal of this new festival, Woodland reveals, is to raise money for the participating artists to record and produce their music. Even in an area with costs of living as affordable as Arkansas’, recording music professionally can often cost more than $1,000 a song, Woodland says. By banding together with a big push from the community at one large (annual, or even semi-annual) event, the hope is to provide enough funds for each of the participating artists to then immediately record at least a five-song EP to send to producers, sell at their shows and further their names.

“The more long-term goal is to raise awareness for the artist lifestyle,” Woodland says. “In the way [servers] in a lot of restaurants only get paid 3-something an hour and are dependent on tips for the majority of their income, being an artist is similar, except artists get paid a minimum of $0 an hour. So, not only raise awareness for that and create an environment where artists can thrive, but also help the artists understand the value of their own time and effort, and realize themselves everything that goes into what they’re doing.”

More than 1,000 people showing interest just on the Facebook event, and even a few out-of-state ticket-buyers, has Woodland confident that his objective of getting all the artists in to the studio is more than attainable. This goal is also supported by Red Barn Studio in Springdale offering a steep discount to the Limelight artists after the festival. But Woodland’s secondary purpose is going to take a bit longer to influence venues, those consuming music and even the artists themselves.

“You have to start valuing your own work as a musician. If you’re talented and you’re putting time and effort into this work and other people are benefiting from it, you need to stick up for yourself and stop giving away your work for free,” Woodland says, discussing a conversation he had with fellow Limelight performer Will Gunselman. “There’s been kind of this devaluation of artists’ work in the music scene as a whole. [But] there’s a lot more that goes into playing shows live than just the two or three hours of the musician’s time at an actual venue.”

The eight names performing at the inaugural Limelight were chosen organically. Woodland and his team simply reached out to artists who had blown them away at their live performances; inclusion wasn’t based on votes or an audition process “where somebody can prepare really well for one song.” In chatting with each musician about where they are in their music, and if their current situation was a good fit for the festival, Woodland has already started building the greater camaraderie among Arkansas musicians he was seeking when he was starting out.

“[It’s] just the coolest thing ever to be able to see that family growing, and people really getting along well and connecting and chatting about music and jamming. That’s been one of my favorite parts of putting on the festival is being able to get to know these artists and these people that are going to be a part of it.”



Limelight Music Festival Premiere

WHEN — 3-10 p.m. April 7

WHERE — Bentonville Brewing Co. in Bentonville

COST — $10-$125


FYI — The festival includes raffles, yard games, auctions, food and alcohol for purchase, and more.

Categories: Cover Story