The City of West Hollywood has backed away from a suggestion that the Sunset Strip Music Festival be put on hiatus this year, instead suggesting a shift in dates from August to September and engaging an events management firm to produce the festival.
The festival, which began in 2008, was held last year on Aug. 1 through 3. A report from the city’s Economic Development Division and Department of Human Services and Rent Stabilization recommends moving the festival to Sept. 19 through 21. The report also recommends that the Sunset Strip Business Association (SSBA), which stages the festival, contract with Nederlander Concerts to book talent, market, sell tickets for and otherwise produce the event.
In a report to the Council in February, city staffers said the festival had grown faster than the revenue it generated. The city has had to donate $540,000 to cover expenses related to police and fire services and erection of street barricades and has waived $46,400 in fees. The SSBA, whose activities are financed by a tax on businesses on The Strip, paid $128,000 to sponsor the festival and loaned it an additional $360,000. Overall losses to SSBA on the festival were $350,000 last year and $432,000 the year before.
That report recommended that the city consider delaying the festival until the situation could be studied in more detail. The Council appointed Councilmembers John Heilman and Jeffrey Prang to a subcommittee to work with SSBA on the matter.
The Council will be asked Monday to approve city funding of $125,000 for the festival and waive $12,000 in fees. Under the proposed agreement with Nederlander, it will receive 25 percent of the revenue generated by the event and the 75 percent will go to SSBA, from which it will reimburse the city for its funding.
The report also proposes extending the one-day music street festival to two days, which is likely to prompt more visitors to book rooms at the hotels along Sunset Boulevard. The hotels had said August already was a busy month for them, and staging the festival then was not very beneficial to their business.
It must compete for a time slot with more established festivals likely to attract the same audience. The festival has been staged at various times of the year — as early as June and as late as August . The summer is a problem because many bands travel to European music festivals and are unavailable to perform on the Strip. The festival has considered moving to late September or early October, which would please hotels which have lower occupancy rates then.
At the same time, the City of West Hollywood is organizing its own major events — the annual Book Fair and the Halloween Carnaval — in the fall, which would make a fall music festival a burden on its staff.
Delays in setting a date for the festival each year make it harder to promote and book talent.
Closing Sunset Boulevard and setting up stages for band performances is very expensive. The report says the cumulative debt of the music festival over five years is $577,431.