Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

December 19, 2013

Concert series saved?

By Scott Leffler scott.leffler@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Facing the prospect of a concert-less summer in Lockport, a team of movers and shakers in the area assembled to come up with a way to save the Canal Concert Series without the annual contribution that the city has given it since its inception.

The model to make that happen, one of the organizers told the Union-Sun & Journal this week — on the condition that he not be named — is to maintain the sponsors that the series previously had and recoup the city’s financial contribution by charging admission fees.

Without city funding, “you’re looking at a shortfall of $10,000 to $15,000 per show,” the organizer said. “We’re tinkering with a lot of different models. It may be where you purchase a concert admission and a drink at the same time. A package deal.”

At $5 per head and 3,000 concert goers, the shortfall is made up quickly, he said, adding, “Three thousand people is nothing compared to what the concerts have drawn in the past.”

A $5 ticket might not net the series itself $5, though. Depending on how tickets are sold, the series could lose as much as 40 percent of the ticket price from the “delivery system,” so it may be best to just charge at the gate, he noted.

The question, is, of course, would people be willing to pay $5 per show? Artpark’s free shows had twice as many visitors as its paid shows.

“Those are all things that you’ve got to look at,” the organizer said.

Also to keep the series going, organizers would need to have past sponsors remain sponsors in the future. The team is confident that can happen.

“At the end of the day, this is a very successful series. People saw value in it and they still see value in it. Ultimately, this is all for the betterment of the community,” the organizer said, adding that he’s confident the sponsors feel the same way and will want to continue to have their name associated with it.

Mayor Michael Tucker, who has been on the ground level of discussions by the new organizers, agrees that sponsors will stick with the series.

“The ones that I’ve talked to with (the organizer) and on his behalf, they’re all pretty excited about it,” Tucker said. “I think the ideas he has will make them even more willing to be a sponsor.”

Tucker agreed to assist the group in recruiting sponsors because he believes the concerts add value to the city.

“It’s done a lot of good things for the city. I think the people enjoy it. It’s an economic driver,” he said.

The Labatt Canal Concert Series was submarined after the Common Council withdrew city funding in the 2014 budget. The city was covering the weekly cost of professional stage rental for the shows and paid police officers and paramedics to work the shows on an overtime basis.

The commitments cost the city about $110,000 in 2012; about half of the tab was for police and fire overtime, according to Tucker. On a weekly basis, public safety coverage cost the city $6,100.

And that’s a cost that won’t go away no matter who’s organizing or funding concert acts. If a new concert series comes together as expected, the city will have an obligation to assign police and paramedic coverage to it, Tucker said — just as it’s obligated to assign that coverage to other crowd-heavy events in the city including the annual Arts & Crafts show and Cruise Nights.

The new-series planning team expects to pull together a six-show season in 2014. The city’s “cost” would exceed $36,000, and it hasn’t been budgeted.

Aside from being sponsor- and admission fee-driven, and the fact that it would offer fewer shows, there is an aspect to the new series that people are going to either love or hate.

The organizers are considering moving the shows back to the Ulrich City Center courtyard, where the Molson/Labatt series was for five years. In 2013, concerts were moved to the city parking lot behind Lockport Public Library. Some liked the move because it provided more room. Others disliked it because, despite it being less than 200 yards from its original location, they felt it was taken out of the heart of the city.

Tucker says he doesn’t care where it goes. The city would sign off on either plan.