January 10, 2017

MEMO TO: Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

FROM:             Frank A. Rush, Jr., Town Manager

SUBJECT:       Resolution Authorizing Tourism Development Authority Funding Request - Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival - (Summary & Suggested Motions)

The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to consider the attached resolution formally authorizing a $250,000 “Event Funding” request to the Carteret County Tourism Development Authority (TDA) for the 2017 Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival. 

The large funding request is aimed at building on the success of the 2016 Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival by expanding the 2017 event to the entire weekend, and by also adding a high quality national recording artist to the lineup in an effort to provide an enhanced visitor experience, and more importantly, to lure more visitors to Emerald Isle for a beautiful fall weekend. 

If awarded, a total of $35,000 of these funds would cover approximately 2/3 of the cost associated with a free beach music concert on the beach strand at the Western Ocean Regional Access on Saturday, September 30.  A total of $215,000 of these funds would be used to produce a companion ticketed concert event featuring a national recording artist on either Friday, September 29 or Sunday, October 1.  Town staff intend for the TDA investment in the ticketed concert event to be used for cash-flow and loss guarantee purposes only, and intends to recover the TDA’s full investment via ticket sales. 

$35,000 – Free Beach Music Concert – Saturday, September 30

The 2016 Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival was well-received, and Town staff estimated a crowd as large as 9,000 people in attendance on the beach strand on August 27, 2016.  Town staff intend to essentially duplicate the 2016 event on Saturday, September 30, 2017, with a similar layout, alcohol policy, food vendor availability, and public safety presence.  I have attached a copy of the site layout from the 2016 event, along with a panorama photo of the crowd enjoying the music on the beach.

The total budget for the free beach music concert is $54,000, and the attached resolution authorizes a $35,000 funding request to the TDA, which is the same amount of funding awarded in 2016.  The Town will provide a $19,000 local match through sponsorships, t-shirt sales, and with the remaining balance (approximately $7,000) from the 2016 event.

Alesia Sanderson, Parks and Recreation Director, has already signed the beach music performers for the 2017 event, and they are as follows:

We are excited about this lineup, and expect it to be well-received by attendees at the 2017 beach music festival.

  • Sammy O’Banion (performing and MC)

  • The Embers

  • Chairmen of the Board

  • Too Much Sylvia

  • Band of Oz, and

  • The Fantastic Shakers

As was the case in 2016, Town staff will again provide significant in-kind production, setup and cleanup, and public safety services associated with the event.  We will be seeking to again produce a safe, fun, and high quality event in 2017.

$215,000 – Ticketed Concert Event – Friday, September 29 or Sunday, October 1

As you know, the Town has been working to provide a high quality special event in the beautiful fall season that can eventually achieve the same degree of success as the Town’s annual St. Patrick’s Festival in March each year.  The 2016 Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival was re-established with that goal in mind, and represents a great start toward the ultimate achievement of that goal.

Alesia Sanderson and I have been focused on offering a national recording artist concert in Emerald Isle for several years now, and believe now is the time to make that goal a reality as part of an expanded 2017 Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival weekend.  As noted, the $215,000 funding request to the TDA would be used to book a significant national recording artist to perform in Emerald Isle on either the night before or the day after the free beach music concert on the beach strand.  Alesia Sanderson and I have been considering potential concert venues, discussing event logistics, and contacting concert promoters in recent weeks, and believe we can assemble a high quality ticketed concert event to complement the free beach music concert during the weekend of September 29 – October 1.

Based on discussion with concert promoters, we believe it’s possible to lure a high quality national recording artist to Emerald Isle for a total cost in the $215,000 range.  This amount is intended to cover all aspects of production, and the Town’s goal is to fully recover this investment by the TDA with ticket sale proceeds.  We believe we can provide an outdoor concert venue at one of three possible locations in Emerald Isle that would accommodate 6,000 – 7,000 attendees, and that the quality of the national recording artist, the desirability of Emerald Isle as the concert location, an attractive outdoor concert setting, the potential allowance of BYOB alcohol consumption, and the complementary free beach music concert that same weekend will enable us to charge approximately $40 - $50 per ticket for the event.  (Long-time residents and visitors to Emerald Isle may recall that the admission fee for the original Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival was in the $30 - $40 range, nearly two decades ago.)

For planning purposes, we are assuming a ticket price of $45, and a total of 5,000 ticket sales.  These assumptions yield total event revenues of $225,000, which would enable the TDA to recover its full investment in the ticketed concert event, plus a slight profit.  Thus, the Town’s funding request to the TDA for the $215,000 is for cash-flow and loss guarantee purposes only.  Ideally, the event will break even or generate a slight profit, but if attendance does not materialize as expected, the Town is essentially asking the TDA to assume the risk of any monetary losses.  Although this funding request is somewhat “bold”, we believe this is a reasonable request considering that the TDA is underwriting the second Crystal Coast Music Festival in Atlantic Beach this June.  That event includes a total budget of more than $390,000, and the organizers expect to experience a total loss of more than $225,000, which is ultimately covered by room occupancy tax proceeds generated throughout Carteret County, including Emerald Isle.  The inaugural 2016 event experienced a similar monetary loss.

We continue to evaluate potential national recording artist options, and are seeking a headline performer with a broad appeal to older, younger, and middle-aged generations.  Given our location in eastern North Carolina, we may focus on a top level country music artist, but are also considering rock ‘n roll artists with a broad appeal.  The goal is to secure a performer that will “get people excited” – excited enough to travel to Emerald Isle and spend a great beach weekend in the fall. 

We have identified three potential concert venues in Emerald Isle:  the parking lot at the Emerald Isle Public Boating Access Area, the parking lot at the Western Ocean Regional Access, and either the parking lot (or perhaps the beach strand) at Bogue Inlet Pier.  I have included aerial photos of each of these potential venues on the attached sheet.  In each location, we believe we can effectively segregate the ticketed attendees from non-ticketed individuals, and that we can offer a quality outdoor concert event worth the price of admission.  Additional evaluation of the three potential venues is needed, however, at this time I am leaning toward the Emerald Isle Public Boating Access Area due to the ease in segregating ticketed attendees, the beautiful soundfront backdrop, the large area available for attendees, and the fact that it is a different venue (for logistical reasons) than the free beach concert area at the Western Ocean Regional Access.  As noted earlier, as is the case on the beach strand at the free beach music concert, we intend to allow concert attendees to bring their own beer and wine, and believe that we can effectively maintain public safety during the concert event (as we did during the 2016 beach music festival). 

I fully recognize the “bold” nature of this request, and I am admittedly uncertain as to the reception it will receive from the TDA leadership.  I have always believed, however, that Emerald Isle needs to “think big”, and that any goal is possible with creativity, hard work, and a sincere desire to succeed.  Emerald Isle has a good track record of achieving “big goals” and a reputation for doing things in a high quality manner.  If the TDA will “take a chance on us” for this event, I am confident that we can produce a successful event that will lure a big crowd to Emerald Isle that weekend, and hopefully beyond. 

Alesia Sanderson and I look forward to discussing the proposed TDA funding request with the Board at the January 10 meeting.