Stage cutbacks planned: An appreciative audience takes in one of the acts on the CBC Blues Stage this summer.  One option Roots and Blues Festival organizers are considering to save money is to cut the number of stages at next year’s festival, as well as reducing Routes and Blues outreach events.

Stage cutbacks planned: An appreciative audience takes in one of the acts on the CBC Blues Stage this summer. One option Roots and Blues Festival organizers are considering to save money is to cut the number of stages at next year’s festival, as well as reducing Routes and Blues outreach events.

Roots and Blues Festival desperate for funds

Organization needs to raise $150,000 this fall in order to maintain operations for 2015.

The Salmon Arm Folk Music Society is seeking a lifeline from the city and whoever else can help to make next year’s Roots and Blues Festival happen.

“Desperate” was how music society board member Kelly Moores described the organization’s financial situation to Salmon Arm city council Monday evening during a public input meeting for next year’s budget. But as Moores, and co-presenters Brook Roberts and Doug Hearn explained, the music society needs help sooner rather than later.

“We need your help if we’re going to continue,” said Moores. “It’s a blunt statement, but it’s the absolute truth. Our operating budget does not allow us to book performers for the 2015 Roots and Blues Festival right now.”

Roberts, the society’s treasurer, explained the organization needs to raise $150,000 this fall in order to continue to pay working staff, pay rent and start booking bands for next year’s festival.

“What we’re asking for is any help the city can provide to level the playing field with our ‘competition,’” added Moores.

Much of the 45-minute presentation revolved around how the society has wound up in this situation, and what they are looking to do in order to cut costs.

Moores said the initial hit this year came with the loss of the festival’s largest corporate sponsor, Sirius Satellite, and its $50,000 contribution. The cost of hiring a security company – a provincial requirement – was another $20,000 hit (up from $11,500 in 2012). Other fixed costs included site rental ($12,500), porta-potties ($20,000), electricity and staging ($80,000).

“All of our competitors have their sites at no charge,” said Moores. “Most of them even have permanent stages constructed, power, water and, in many cases, washrooms – things like that, which is a huge chunk of our operating budget.”

Moores said competing festivals in the region had an impact this year, as did the weather.

“When you looked at the forecasts three days prior, two days prior… people made that decision not to come,” Moore explained. “It’s evidenced by our attendance being down 10 per cent –  a little under 10 per cent. That really mirrors what our drop in walk-up ticket sales  was for the event. And that’s that sweet spot that we needed to hit in order to make the event financially successful.”

For this year’s festival, the artistic budget was cut by $60,000 or 17 per cent from the year prior, and Hearn said the society is looking to further reduce the number of acts, and stages, at next year’s festival.

This, in turn, would reduce costs associated with artist accommodation and volunteers, which he said amounts to $36,000 ($40 per volunteer).

Roberts said one of the challenges is balancing the cost of headline acts with the rest of the festival. He explained how, for this year’s festival, the society offered $150,000 – half of the artistic budget – to the Tragically Hip, but were turned down. Rejection also came from Sarah McLachlan, who the society offered $100,000 to play plus overnight accommodation and flights to and from her summer home in Tofino.

Hearn said the society will also be looking at cutting outreach programs including Routes and Blues, as well as grants to festival partners.

Council noted there is no money left in the 2014 budget (in which the society received $45,000), but was amenable to having staff work with them in order to find some short-term solutions. Coun. Ken Jamieson also suggested the society go back to its roots by doing community fundraisers.

Moores indicated the society is doing just that, planning a fundraiser to save the festival.

“We’re going to do what we do best… put on a concert, a benefit fundraiser concert,” said Moores. “We’ll work with Peter (artistic director Peter North), see if we can get one or two headline acts at 10 cents on the dollar, you know, all the local musicians that we’ve helped along the way, see if they can perform for free… all the fun we can for the Save-the-Roots-and-Blues fundraiser.”

 

Salmon Arm Observer

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