City Staff To Work Closely With Proposed Country Music Festival

OCEAN CITY – City officials are becoming skeptical of next summer’s proposed High Tide Music Festival, asking this week for staff to work closely with the event organizers to get the facts straight.

On Tuesday afternoon, Tom Russell of Founders Entertainment presented an update of the long-awaited High Tide Music Festival and asked the Mayor and City Council to consider renting the Inlet Parking Lot during the event.

The High Tide Music Festival has been on a roller coaster ride since it was first proposed in October of 2011 when it was presented to be held on June 2-3, 2012 on the beach in downtown Ocean City. It was to consist of four stages and aimed to target talent such as Paul Simon, Tom Petty, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mumford and Sons, Florence & The Machine, Adele and more.

In March of 2012, Russell returned to the Mayor and City Council asking for a date postponement to June1-2, 2013 after having trouble scheduling targeted talent. Then, in November 2012, Russell requested the event become a three-day series of live country music on the beach with a targeted date of summer of 2014.

This week Russell presented the High Tide Music Festival as a two-stage music festival on the beach set for May 31-June 2, 2014. The event is estimated to bring in 20,000-25,000 attendees per day. Along with the music, the festival will include art, craft vendors, sponsor activations, and food and beverage concessions that include beer and wine. Targeted talent for the festival includes nationally recognized country acts that typically play arenas and other large-scale venues.

Founders Entertainment is estimating a $20 million economic impact to Ocean City. Russell proposed the town will receive 7.5 percent of all food and beverage concessions from the promoter’s share of the revenue after taxes and expenses, and $1 per every three-day admission ticket sold, 66 cents per every two-day admission ticket sold, and 33 cents per every one-day admission ticket sold.

Russell requested the town consider renting the entire Inlet parking lot during the entire event. Founders Entertainment is prepared to pay the Town of Ocean City the average earned income over the past five years for use of those parking spaces, which is about $40,500.

The request includes the use of Inlet Lot rows AA-D for production vehicles from May 26 until June 4, as well as the ability to upsell parking spaces to event VIP attendees during event days.

“Country music fans are used to driving in and parking and going to the show,” Russell said. “There are not very many country music festivals like this that are on the beach and in a destination that does not have tons of parking and camping.”

Mayor Rick Meehan was quick to point out the Inlet Parking Lot prohibits overnight parking and will not become a camping ground. He also recognized the financial agreement was not what Founders Entertainment had initially proposed, which was Ocean City would receive a $1 per two-day ticket sold.

“As the event has grown and the model has changed … as we explore what country festivals are doing nowadays in what sort of tickets they are offering we see they offer single-day tickets and two-day tickets,” Russell said. “We thought this was a fair and equitable way to share revenue on each ticket sold to the Town of Ocean City at the same time helping our model work because our expenses are so high.”

The mayor questioned what expenses would be deducted from the revenue before Ocean City received 7.5 percent.

“I can see 7.5 percent less certainly after taxes but I don’t know you start to deduct those expenses,” he said. “It is clear as mud. I don’t understand how that can be calculated. I could understand if it would be 7.5 percent of the net proceeds you receive from the promoter.”

Councilman Brent Ashley questioned ticket prices acknowledging the weekend of the event is the first weekend high school graduates will be coming into town.

“The more your tickets are, particularly with country music, it is going to be a hard sell,” Ashley said.

Russell responded as of right now tickets may be around $170 for a three-day ticket but is subject to change.

“The big mystery here is the talent,” he said. “Talent is very expensive and it depends on how big we want to go. We want to go very big … the ticket prices have to go with what expenses look like and the competition in the market place.”

Ashley made a motion to have Founders Entertainment work with City Manager David Recor to work out the specifics of the financial agreement before approval and the council unanimously agreed.