Promoter Forced To Pull Plug On Proposed OC Beach Music Fest

Promoter Forced To Pull Plug On Proposed OC Beach Music Fest
File Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY – What was feared for High Tide Music Festival came true this week as Founders Entertainment announced the cancelation of the event until further notice.

Tom Russell of Founders Entertainment approached the Mayor and City Council on Monday evening saying he wished it was on better terms.

Russell began by stating, over the past two and half years the company had spent thousands of hours and considerable resources trying to pull off a first-class music festival on Ocean City’s beautiful beach.

At first, Founders Entertainment’s goal was to bring an eclectic line-up of different kinds of music to the Ocean City with genres covering rock, indie, folk and more but the plan was thrown a curve ball with the emergence of the Firefly Festival nearby in Dover, Del, which presented the same type of talent over a multi-day format.

“Being a small business, and wanting to make the best business decision possible we decided not to compete with this new and nearby event but rather pivot to a new style event, a country music festival,” Russell said. “While this pivot allowed us not to compete with the nearby Firefly and came with its own load of challenges, including competition with national promoters, radio stations, local amphitheaters and more, we tried at great length to overcome these challenges by forming alliances with influential organizations, but ultimately we have been unable to procure a first-class music festival talent that we feel would result in the success of this event. The very last thing we would want to do is bring a second-rate festival to Ocean City and to sustain losses that could damage or possibly cripple our business.”

Russell furthered canceling High Tide Music Festival was a tough decision because so much hard work had gone into making the event a success in Ocean City.

“It is with a very heavy heart that I must inform you that we are no longer able to achieve our goal of bringing a music festival to Ocean City’s beach in 2014. On behalf of my business partners and my company I would like to apologize to not be able to fulfill on our end of the deal … we sincerely hope one day to be back here, and we know it may be a challenge to gain your support and trust but we would love nothing more than to make our dream a reality. We truly love this town and the beach you all have so very much, and we truly, truly hope to get an opportunity to appear back in front of council in the future with a more feasible and obtainable business model.”

Council President Lloyd Martin thanked Russell for being forth right.

“We were hoping it would happen,” Martin said. “I know everyone was looking forward to it but competition is tough out there and we understand that.”

Councilman Brent Ashley had his doubts of whether the event was going to happen but acknowledged Russell’s strength in coming before the council.

“I would like to congratulate you for being man enough to stand up here and telling us exactly what the situation was. I know it is not easy to stand up there and do what you just did,” Ashley said.

Mayor Rick Meehan agreed with Russell and hopes to see Founders Entertainment return to Ocean City.

“Keep doing what you’re doing and I wish you a lot of success,” Mayor Meehan said. “I do hope, as you just stated, that you are back here one day when you are ready to move forward and put on what you envisioned to put on a great event in Ocean City. We look forward to having you back here in Ocean City.”

A couple of weeks ago, High Tide Music Festival was scheduled to be brought before the Mayor and City Council but Russell was absent. At that time, the Mayor and City Council expressed impatience with the event.

The High Tide Music Festival 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.

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 was estimated to bring in 20,000-25,000 attendees per day. Along with the music, the festival would include art, craft vendors, sponsor activations, and food and beverage concessions that include beer and wine.

Founders Entertainment also estimated a $20 million economic impact to Ocean City. At first Russell proposed Ocean City would receive a $1 per two-day ticket sold. However when the event changed to a country music festival he then proposed 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.