OCEAN CITY – Ocean City could receive its own Woodstock of sorts as the Mayor and City Council approved Founders Entertainment’s High Tide Music Festival for next summer.
The event proposed is a two-day music and arts festival with three stages on the beach from Dorchester Street moving north to 2nd street. The target days for the event are Saturday, June 2 through Sunday, June 3, 2012.
“This date we have been told is a lighter time in the year and we are hoping this event will attract 35,000 people per day to the city,” Tom Russell of Founders Entertainment said.
The event will include art, beach games and sponsor activities that will complement the music. Talent to be targeted includes Paul Simon, Tom Petty, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mumford and Sons, Florence & The Machine, Adele and many more.
“Every act that we will go see will attract an audience that will respect the town of Ocean City and we hope to have a great time here,” Russell said.
The Founders Entertainment team has estimated that the economic impact on Ocean City will be upwards of $20 million, based on studies of similar festivals held around the country. Russell proposed $1 of every ticket sale will be given to the Town of Ocean City as a facility fee, a revenue share of 7.5 percent of net food and beverage sales up to $100,000 and will reimburse the town for any city resources used, such as police or fire department assistance.
Other perks include Ocean City being strongly featured on the event website and all other marketing assets and strategic marketing plans will have a regional focus as well as national reach that will include most media outlets such as online, radio, billboards and print, which will result in Ocean City being exposed to a national audience.
“Ocean City, Md. will be the number one selling point of this festival, other than the talent,” Russell said. “A beach music festival is something very hard to come by in the United States, they are very rare and they are very attractive.”
Russell said that Founders Entertainment has been working with local businesses that will be impacted by the music festival, as well as all town departments and officials.
“All of these meetings will continue to take place to ensure a safe and successful event for all,” he said. “Our goal here is not to negatively impact the town in any capacity. We want everybody to benefit from this. We want everybody to make money from this. We want everybody to have a good time and leave nothing but good memories.”
Russell added that one of the key aspects to the festival from a promoter and business standpoint is the ability to sell alcohol on the beach. He has been working closely with the Worcester Alcohol Department and support has been given. Alcohol will be sold as a non-profit and done in “specific control”.
“A dedicated alcohol management and security team is something that we enforce in all of our events,” he said. “We will have special security by all wrist banded areas to check IDs, and we will have roaming security teams to make sure anybody holding an alcoholic beverage has a wristband.”
Russell acknowledged local businesses will be impacted, such as the beach equipment franchise owners who have been addressed. There have been discussions on negotiations of a buyout for the event days. Also Boardwalk businesses have been educated on the event. Russell held up 43 signatures of businesses showing their support for the event. He added that festival patrons will be allowed re-entry into the festival so they can come and go as they please, and given the opportunity to hang out on the Boardwalk.
“Our goal is to have every single business on board by the time this event happens,” he said.
Councilwoman Margaret Pillas questioned Russell why Founders Entertainment chose Ocean City as a venue and what audience it intends to target.
Through research, Russell found that Ocean City could easily accommodate the number of people that it would take to create a successful event and the town’s location is close to a number of different markets. He added that the type of audience ranges in age.
“What you see nowadays is lot of music festivals that have an eclectic mix of acts,” he explained. “People get to see a little bit of everything and as kind of music snobs that my company is we want to be able to see a ton of different bands exposed to a variety of people.”
Pillas also asked if Founders Entertainment is prepared to take on the event on their own if the town chooses not to partner with them in which he responded, yes. If that’s the case, the company will take on corporate sponsors to subsidize the costs.
“I think this is an excellent idea,” Councilman Brent Ashley said. “I hope that your event will inspire some of our local promoters to come forward with more ideas.”
He did express concern over the talent targeted and asked if the Mayor and City Council will have the opportunity to refuse certain performers. Russell responded he and his team are more than willing to work with the town on the musicians chosen to perform.
Councilwoman Mary Knight agreed with Ashley’s concern and also was pleased to hear Founders Entertainment had chosen Ocean City as a venue for their music festival.
Before a vote took place, Councilman Joe Hall pointed out that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) needed to be formed between the town and the company to lay out all the particulars discussed.
“I want you to be successful, but at the same time the due diligence needs to be done for the town to make sure that everything you say you are is who you are, and if you don’t provide what you say you do, the town is protected in some way,” he said.
Joe Hall also suggested placing a performance bond to protect the town against any loss in revenue, as was done with this past summer’s Bikefest.
At this point, Russell became concerned over the lapse in time that it will take to have the contracts put in place because offers are currently being made to many performers by other music festivals.
“The level of talent that we need to get to ensure a successful event … we really need a permit approved and we need to be able to move on this really now,” he said. “We need to be right in there with that running.”
Tourism Director Deb Turk asserted that the Bikefest performance bond was needed to reimburse the town from the loss in revenue from parking, since the event was held in the Inlet’s parking lot. She pointed out that the company’s offer to pay the town a dollar from every ticket sale, 7.5 percent of the food and beverage sales, and reimbursement of staff services is unusually generous.
“If they are going to pay our staff charges, we are really not out any money,” Council President Jim Hall said. “I would really like to see them do this for at least a year.”
In attempts to compromise, Councilman Doug Cymek suggested for Founders Entertainment to provide a letter of credit in the amount of $50,000, which Russell agreed to.
Mayor Rick Meehan was concerned over the five blocks of beach the music festival would consume, the proposed hours of operation from noon to midnight, and the sale of alcohol.
“The guard of the alcohol sales is a big change from what we have done,” he said. “If you could shorten the hours a little bit, it might be little more manageable for the town, our police force, and everything else we do. I know you would want to rock till 2 [a.m.] and in the right venue I don’t blame you, but this venue I really think you need to move that time period back a little bit.”
Russell agreed that five blocks of beach seems like a long distance especially walking from one stage to the other but is the right amount of room for 35,000 people to be comfortable. He added that ending the event at 11 p.m. is also “doable”.
The last concern was from Pat McLaughlin, owner of the beach equipment rental franchise, who expressed discussion has commenced on a buyout of equipment during the event but has not yet reached a conclusion.
By the end of the discussion, Councilwoman Mary Knight made a motion to accept the Founders Entertainment High Tide Music Festival for the weekend of June 2-3, 2012 and matters to be worked out in the future are a MOU, performance bond or letter of credit, an end time of 11 p.m., and an agreement between Founders Entertainment and beach equipment franchise. The council voted unanimously to approve the motion.
“I think it is a great thing and it is just what Ocean City needs,” Councilman Lloyd Martin said.
The price for tickets is dependent on talent scheduled but is projected to cost $75 to $90 for a single-day ticket, and two day tickets will be available as well as payment plans.
“It is something [ticket price] we are very conscience of because some of the major markets we are pulling from are more than a two-hour drive away,” Russell said.
According to Russell, Founders Entertainment is a partnership run by experience music industry personnel who have managed and booked some of the biggest live music events in the United States. Other events the team has had part in is the Governors Ball Music Festival, Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, All Good Music Festival & Campout, and many more.