Cincinnati music festival is back

CINCINNATI — It’s been called the largest urban music festival in America, and the Cincinnati Music Festival is back after two years.


What You Need To Know

  • Paul Brown Stadium turned into a giant concert stage in a matter of days, but organizers have been waiting for this for two years 
  • Janet Jackson will be the headliner, and performers like Fantasia, Charlie Wilson, and several others will take the stage, too
  • Officials expect 40,000 concert-goers Friday night and 40,000 more on Saturday night

 From the seats to the signs, every detail is being prepped and checked for back-to-back concerts. The concerts are expected to bring a crowd big enough to fill Paul Brown Football Stadium.


It’s those details keeping Fran Santangelo-Dibattista very busy.

“From permitting and safety and staffing to volunteers, to seating, rows, seat numbers, stickers that go on the chairs, it’s just, it’s endless,” said Santangelo-Dibattista.

She’s the marketing director behind the Cincinnati Music Festival. She helps organize the event they call the biggest urban music festival in the country.

“It goes from a football field, first we put a big tarp down covering, cover it with some field covering, the plastic covering that keeps the greens safe for the Bengals, next comes our stage, a bunch of semis delivering all our stuff and before you know it, it looks like a real concert set up,” said Santangelo-Dibattista.

She said it takes dozens of crew teams to do it, many of whom they hired from within Cincinnati. 

“We don’t have to outsource to companies out of town, we use a ton of Cincinnati people, a few of our vendors went out of business for the last few years which was awful to see, but we try to stick with as many people as we can,” said Santangelo-Dibattista.

In fact, the Santangelo Group, the production company she works for, was nearly in the same boat. 

She said without the music festival for the last two years, there was no work, but now they’re making a big come back. 

“Our concert’s been on sale since 2019 and we postponed two times to lead us to now  which is 2022, so when the doors open on Friday, some people are gonna show up with their tickets that say 2020 on them, the barcodes still work, and it just makes it all that much more exciting to be welcoming everyone back together after a two-year break,” said Santangelo-Dibattista

It’s not just inside the stadium that’s expected to see big crowds. A short drive from the stadium at Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati, vendors from across the city are set up banking on the crowds. 

It’s Katrina Bell’s first time as a vendor at an event this big. She’s helping to cook on her brother’s food truck ‘513 Good Eats.’

“It takes a lot of prepping, a lot of sourcing, we’ve been setting up for like two weeks, yeah, we’ve been doing this for two weeks, trying to get prepared for this so hopefully this will bring like astronomical numbers,” said Bell.

Organizers say before COVID, the music festival was bringing in more than $107 million to businesses in the region. 

The concerts on the big stage here start at 7:30 Friday night. For more information, tickets, and to see the line-up, click here.