Is the suburban dream already over? For festival organizers in Plano, it's certainly become much more of a long shot. After only its first year, the Suburbia Music Festival, held last May at Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve, has lost the support of festival organizer LiveNation. It's a blow to the city, who not only invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in making the event a reality but whom will now have to find a new name if they wish to carry on.
"We enjoyed working with LiveNation. They're great people," says Plano Parks and Recreation Director Amy Fortenberry. She says the city was notified of the decision last week. "We were disappointed LiveNation wanted to opt out of the arrangement, which was their option in the agreement."
From the outset, Suburbia made for an interesting test case. Would folks really want to go to Plano for a music festival? Would the locals care? With a reported 20,000 fans attending over the festival's two days, it was at least a solid first year effort, although it's not clear whether those numbers reached LiveNation's expectations. (LiveNation did not respond to initial requests for comment.)
"We saw the potential of what the event can be," insists Fortenberry. "We went into it with a long-term vision, expecting to experience some losses in the first and second year." While losing the support of LiveNation is clearly a setback, she remains optimistic: "I think the site is fantastic... The venue is still one of the best venues in the country."
The City of Plano poured $500,000 into making Suburbia Festival happen, so not surprisingly they're eager to keep the festival going in future years. As Fortenberry points out, however, "That was to be a one-time payment and would not have been required going into year two" -- a fact that may or may not have had a bearing on LiveNation's decision to withdraw after only one year.
Either way, continuing for a second year will mean finding a new promoter and also rebranding the festival. "Live Nation has a registered trademark on the name Suburbia Music Festival," says Fortenberry. "So yes, a new name will be necessary." But there appears to be no question of the city approving such measures at this point: Last night, the council already approved a request for permit to seek out a new partner.
"There's no charge for the use of the park (to the promoter), so it's a great incentive," Fortenberry says. The RFP will be released tomorrow, with the deadline for submissions due by January 9. Potential agreements will then need to be approved by the city council. "We're looking forward to seeing who's out there and who's interested."
LiveNation has issued the following statement:
"Live Nation was proud to produce the Suburbia Music Festival this year as it kicked off the 2014 summer concert season. Together with the City of Plano, we brought world class music talent to fans throughout North Texas. While we will not produce Suburbia Music Festival in 2015, we look forward to continue bringing exciting live entertainment to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area in the future."
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