This week, people are raising eyebrows at an ambitious new music festival popping up in Collin County in just one month. And it already sounds like things aren't going according to plan.
Starfest Music Festival co-founder David Taylor deflects questions about how tickets have been selling since the event was revealed last Friday. "First of all, we didn’t properly announce it. We haven’t done a full press release. That wasn’t going to be until this week. Somehow, somebody leaked it," Taylor says. "The goal was on the radio stations to let people know that it was coming. And from there, we were going to announce the lineup or at least the first grouping of it, and it came out a little quicker than we anticipated. We’re just kind of now deciding which [artists] we want to let people know about."
The all-ages festival, scheduled for Sept. 8 and 9 at Oak Point Park in Plano, has only one confirmed headliner: Lil Wayne. In April, he played South Side Ballroom, which has a capacity of 4,300. On its website, Starfest is advertising a capacity of 40,000 for Oak Point Park, and it's already encouraging people to buy tickets before the event "sells out."
Taylor and his three co-founders, Shamar Willis, Michael Warden and Bill Pletch, conceived the event five months ago as a pop-up festival in which half of the lineup is a secret until you walk through the gates.
Starfest promises two stages featuring 60 artists spanning hip-hop, country, EDM and pop music; gourmet food vendors; and VIP packages with prices that stretch into the thousands. General admission is $85 for a one-day pass. A two-day pass is $140.
A calendar of silhouettes on the festival's website as recently as yesterday suggested a new artist would be revealed each day until Aug 24. Nothing was revealed yesterday. Taylor says that plan was abandoned.
"What we decided was instead of doing it every single day, we’ll probably do the first big bulk announcement this week, and that will give us around four, " Taylor says. "So it’s still basically one a day.
"When we did Lil Wayne, everyone got super excited, but they didn’t know what it was about. And then they didn’t know which way it was gonna go from there. Is it all an urban concert? So we figured just make one big announcement in the beginning," he continues.
Taylor says the first wave can be expected today, and the rest of the artists will "trickle in" from there. He says artists are coming from Atlanta, Nashville and London, but some will be local. Starfest plans to host a contest for bands to play a Rising Star Stage through its partner radio stations, Cumulus-owned Hot 93.3, 96.3 KSCS and 1310 The Ticket.
Taylor's main gig is as co-founder and chief marketing officer of Crudefunders.com, a site that crowdfunds oil and gas drilling projects. But he says his background in the hospitality industry connected him with his Starfest partners.
"I’ve owned seven restaurants in Dallas-Fort Worth," Taylor says. "Nightclubs and things like that."
His LinkedIn shows he was most recently president of a sand volleyball bar in Coppell called the Yucatan Beach Club, a position he left in 2015. Taylor says he throws small concerts through his crowdfunding company but that his partners in Starfest have experience commensurate with a music event of Starfest's scale.
Pletch, he says, "has worked on the production and logistics side of concerts ever since the '80s. He used to put on all the Mary Kay conventions when they came to town. He’s done Usher. He’s been around forever, and he does a lot of hot-air balloon festivals."
Willis' company, Legna Entertainment, has thrown about a dozen rap concerts in the last two years, most at Gas Monkey. 2Chainz and Ludacris are the only high-profile names.
The four men behind Starfest believe that Dallasites love events and tend to wait till the last minute to make plans, Taylor says, and they formed an event around that observation. Their idea gained early traction when two big-name artists seemed ready to sign on.
"We originally had two of just the top artists in the world. They were spectacular," Taylor says, although he won't name them. "That was what spawned the entire event."
He goes on to explain that a wrench was thrown in these plans after one of the artists won numerous Grammys and Billboard awards. "His price almost tripled, and it ruined the economics of the festival. So we said, 'OK we still want to do this. We’ve already put in the hard work with the city [of Plano],'" Taylor says. "'What we’re gonna do is find some artists that people would die to go see but not at the price tag that would make [the festival] unviable.'"
All large, first-year events encounter hiccups, even ones such as Fortress Fest, which was meticulously planned and gave guests a clear idea of what to expect. We asked Taylor if he's worried that the up-in-the-air nature of Starfest will increase the chance ticket buyers will be dissatisfied.
"Everyone we’ve hired, from concessionaires to parking to sponsors, we’re doing on a turnkey basis, cause we wanted the best of the best," he says. "We said if we’re gonna do this, we have to go above and beyond."
Taylor hopes Starfest will become a marquee event for North Texas, comparable to music festivals in Austin.
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"I love Homegrown Festival and I love Dia de los Toadies and all the things that we have, but they’re kind of on the small scale," he says. "So we wanted to do something more elaborate and knock it out of the park."
The most expensive Starfest package, Two-Day VIP Galaxy Admission, promises access to an elevated, air-conditioned viewing lounge and an exclusive front-of-stage viewing area; a chef-prepared lunch and dinner; beverages; mini spa treatments; air-conditioned restrooms; a carnival ride pass; and VIP parking.
And Taylor expects that Starfest will continue to roll out the red carpet for years to come.
"We have to see how the first one goes," Taylor says, "but we want this to be something we do every year for at least the next four years."