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P’ville Ponders Music Festival Strategies to Improve Bottom Line

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Music fans enjoyed the 17th annual Pleasantville Music Festival on July 8, but the village lost $57,000 as officials now explore other strategies in hopes of having a better fiscal outcome.

This summer’s 17th annual Pleasantville Music Festival was, for most attendees, a success despite stifling humidity and rain delays. Many stayed to hear the final notes reverberating from the stage at Parkway Field.

Bruce Figler, the festival’s executive director, noted the achievements as well as the challenges of producing the festival during a review of the event with the Village Board last week.

This year the festival lost $57,000.

“There are reasons for that,” Figler said, explaining why the festival was in the red. “The music festival is a delicate ecosystem and the margin is small. Selling 3,5(00), 3,800 tickets means we break even; selling five, 600 more tickets we make a nice profit but selling less than that, we lose.”

Figler reminded the board that the 2022 festival lost one of its main headliners, 10,000 Maniacs, nine days before the festival.

“Our biggest sales are the week before the festival and the day of the festival,” he said. “When 10,000 Maniacs bailed, people bailed too and we lost $39,000.”

The rain forecast during the week before this summer’s festival impeded ticket sales as well.

“I’m guessing about 700 to 1,000 people decided not to come,” Figler said. “And that is the difference between making $30,000 and losing $57,000.”

One strategy being considered for next year would be to get commitments from bands as far in advance as possible. Most bands are booked by the entertainment company Live Nation, which works with a large number of venues in the New York metropolitan area. But their exclusivity clauses restrict the performers from playing within a geographical radius for a certain amount of time to keep competing venues from booking artists. According to Figler, those types of restrictions make it harder to book bands.

“Bands for the summer are booking now,” Figler told the board. “If I can book now, we would have a bigger choice of bands than we’d have trying to book them later in the year. We’d also have more negotiating room. If we wait until the last minute, we are stuck paying the price they give us.”

Village funding for the festival is approved when the next fiscal year’s budget is adopted in April, which Figler claimed was too late. He asked the board if funds could be pre-approved so he could start getting commitments from bands in the next couple of weeks before the industry takes a break in December.

Village Administrator Eric Morrissey said he has been working with attorneys, auditors and the village’s accounting department on the issue.

“We are figuring out what the best process is to pre-approve festival funds ahead of next year’s proposed budget,” Morrissey said. “It’s likely not going to be a long process to see if it’s feasible.”

The board discussed other ways of increasing revenue, including raising ticket prices another $5.

“If we sold 3,500 tickets at raised prices that would make us about an additional $18,000,” Figler said. “But people might resent the higher prices.”

This year, adult tickets cost $65 through June 30, then went up $5 for the final week and another $5 the day of the event.

Other board members proposed offering high-priced VIP tickets that would promise guaranteed special treatment.

“We could take a small block of about 20 to 50 seats and create a VIP section at the different venues,” village Trustee David Vinjamuri said. “We could offer a backstage event as a high-ticket item. There are people in the village and surrounding areas that might be interested if we could have a band with name recognition.”

Figler resisted the idea of an exclusive section, adding there might be some pushback.

“Some may say it’s their tax dollars and why should someone get treated better,” he said. “We always wanted this to be a fully democratic event where everyone is treated the same. We never thought it was right that if you were well-to-do, you’d get better treatment than anyone else.”

Morrissey said the board at its next meeting on Sept. 27 would likely vote to pre-approve funds for the 2024 festival. The board is also expected to decide on the date for next year’s festival, which has typically been held on the second Saturday in July.

The board’s next meeting will be held at the Clinton Street Senior Center.














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