Author: Dave Brooks
Date: February 21,2007

AEG is jumping deeper into the festival business, signing a deal to
support the Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival in Seattle.
Bumbershoot is the premier music event for Seattle, to be held this
year Sept. 1–3 at the city’s Seattle Center.The
five-year deal has Bumbershoot receiving the same resources as
AEG’s other two popular festivals; the Coachella rock
festival in the Southern California desert and the New Orleans Jazz
& Heritage Festival. “In working with them on top talent
and sponsorship, we are particularly impressed with their ties to
Coachella and the Jazz Festival,” said event producer Heather
Smith. “Those are events that are well known and well
respected throughout the festival community.”Under the deal,
AEG will share the financial risks of booking the headliners, and
lend support as the primary talent purchaser and sponsorship
coordinator. AEG will also help underwrite the festival, but all
production, artistic and operational control will remain in the
hands of the non-profit group One Reel. “They’re
basically a services provider and we’re working with them in
some key areas and using them as a resource for us,” Smith
said, responding to criticism that the non-profit’s
partnership with a private company hurt the integrity of the event.
“We’ll be working together in a specific capacity, just
as we do with our other production and vendor contracts.”The
deal also preserves the Bumbershoot title — officials with
One Reel said they won’t change the name of the event to
“AEG Presents.”It will also hopefully bring some
booking power to Bumbershoot, which has stumbled in recent years to
compete for major rock acts. Its past strategy has been to book
artists that were on their way up, or popular acts with a recent
album. Bumbershoot is hoping that working with AEG will help the
festival bring in more pop-music acts. “It's never a bad thing to
have access to more artists,” said Paul Tollete, who's AEG-owned
Goldenvoice will be doing most of the face-to-face booking for the
show.Tollete said he just planned to help Bumbershoot book some
“bands they might not have thought about.” As an example, he said,
he helped the New Orleans Jazz Festival book Jack Johnson at last
year's event.AEG is currently booking a number of national tours,
including Rod Stewart, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, My
Chemical Romance and Nickelback.“I think overall, the
festivals industry is always challenging,” Smith said.
“Any of the festivals that have taken place in Seattle have
struggled because of weather and keeping costs low.”Competing
with other events, especially on Labor Day weekend, is becoming
increasingly difficult, she said.“There are hundreds of
options for people to partake in,” she said. “Baseball
games and concerts at The Gorge. I started in this business 15
years ago and there was nothing over Labor Day. Now I would say
that festivals are a very tricky business.”According to
Smith, the company turned a profit at last year’s festival of
$200,000, even after shortening the festival from four days to
three. Organizers report the event drew about 140,000 people. In
2005, the event reportedly lost $300,000 — mainly because of
bad weather that sparked low attendance. Tickets to Bumbershoot run
$25, and prices likely won’t change this year.Smith said the
festival’s goal this year is to attract 150,000 people.
Bumbershoot organizers plan to announce their headliners in April,
and the full slate of acts in July. Tollete said he is an admirer
of the downtown Seattle music festival, which takes place within
eyeshot of the downtown arena and the Space Needle. “When you go as
a festival promoter to other people's festivals, you get a little
jealous,” he said. “I don't want to rip them off, but I really
admire what they do.” — Dave BrooksInterviewed for this
story: Heather Smith, (206) 281-7788, Paul Tollete, (323) 930-5700