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Hamptons Indie Rock Festival Cancelled Due To Poor Ticket Sales

Monday, August 08, 2011

Tame Impala, one of the bands that would have played the cancelled Music To Know Festival. Tame Impala, one of the bands that would have played the cancelled Music To Know Festival. (Courtesy of the artist)

A would-be Woodstock in the Hamptons has been derailed by lackluster ticket sales. Organizers behind the Music To Know Festival, scheduled for this coming weekend in East Hampton, announced on Saturday they were canceling the two-day indie rock festival.

“It is with [a] heavy, heavy heart that we regret to inform you that the inaugural Music To Know Festival in East Hampton will not take place," read a statement on the festival’s Web site. "Despite our unique vision and arranging a world-class line-up, ticket sales were not adequate to allow the event to continue.”

The cancellation came after several months of arguing with local communities, who feared the rock festival would become a modern-day Woodstock that would clog roads with hordes of young New Yorkers coming to the tip of Long Island.

That didn’t happen.

Festival organizers say they sold only 2,500 pre-sale tickets, falling short of goals to bring 9,500 people to each day of the festival.

The festival was the brainchild of a Hamptons hotel owner named Chris Jones, and a screenwriter named Bill Collage. The two sought to pair luxury lifestyle brands in fashion and food with stylish indie acts — like Vampire Weekend, Tame Impala and Bright Eyes (pictured below) — and hoped to tap into New York’s hip and well-off demographic.

For a variety of reasons, the formula seems to not have worked.

“Creating the right chemistry for a successful festival is very challenging,” said Ashley Capps, co-founder of Tennessee’s successful Bonnaroo festival. “There’s a real balance that has to be struck between what you can afford in terms of the line-up versus the number of people you’re trying to attract, versus the ticket price that you have to charge to create the experience you want.”

In the case of Music To Know, striking that balance may have been the problem. Two-day passes sold for $195, which according to Capps, is a steep price for a small, boutique festival. VIP passes, which would have granted access to specialty alcohol and exclusive fashion shows, cost $645.

Further complicating things was a similar festival — Escape To New York — happening just the weekend before on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation. Day-of tickets sold for only $30, and the line-up included bands of similar profiles to those who would have played at Music To Know, including Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes and Of Montreal.

According to a spokesperson for Escape to New York, attendance was close to capacity — 5,000 — on Saturday. Sunday’s concert was cancelled due to rain on request of the reservation’s tribal leaders.

Music To Know isn’t the only New York festival struggling this summer. The Truck America Festival, a spin-off of the popular Truck Festival in the U.K. scheduled to take place in the Catskills from Sept. 9 to 11 has been cancelled as well, according to the festival's Web site. Meanwhile, JellyNYC’s “Rock Beach” concert series has been moved from the Rockaways to East Williamsburg due to difficulty in attracting indie fans so far afield.

According to Ashley Capps, however, the problem isn’t too many festivals.

“Personally, I think the festival world in the United States in still in growth mode," Capps said. "I think there are a lot of opportunities that remain. I was just in the U.K. a couple of weeks ago and was informed that they have 700 festivals, and that’s in a pretty small country. But it can’t come all at once. I think there’s an ebb and flow to the growth, and sometimes its two steps forward and one step back.”

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