LAS VEGAS BUSINESS PRESS
Vegoose not yet a draw for Las Vegas
BY ARNOLD M. KNIGHTLY
Like hard-core Vegas gamblers, the promoters of Vegoose may be experiencing a small downturn of fortune after an initially strong run at the tables.
Early indications are that the second annual Vegoose Music Festival will probably not match the numbers it obtained last year -- in either revenue or attendance. According to Sam Boyd Stadium director Darren Libonati, the attendance for the festival, which will take place Oct. 28 -29 at Star Nursery Field behind the stadium, may struggle to reach 30,000 each day.
Last year, two-day attendance averaged 36,200, with an additional 45,020 tickets sold to festival-related shows around the city, according to numbers supplied by non-profit promoter Las Vegas Events.
There is still time for numbers to pick up. Music festivals do not traditionally sell out because many attendees wait to buy tickets closer to the show, said Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of concert-industry trade publication Pollstar.
Festival bosses contend that the Vegas-centric, Halloween-weekend festival is still trying to find its identity on the growing music-festival landscape. "You're certainly seeing a situation where the festival scene in the United States is rapidly expanding," Vegoose co-promoter Ashley Capps said. "I'm not sure the audience is expanding at quite the same rate the festivals are, but the long-term opportunities are out there."
LOCAL ATTENDANCE WEAK
"It is a pretty difficult business environment out there in general for a lot of the concert business," added Capps, who is also owner of Knoxville, Tenn.-based music-promoting company A.C. Entertainment. "It takes a while to really establish what an event like this is all about. We are committed to a long-term vision here and we're working to make the festival the best we can."
While the headliners include festival favorites Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Black Crowes, Trey Anastasio of Phish, Phil Lesh and Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead, and Widespread Panic, many bands on the promoters' "hot list" -- Radiohead, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jay-Z -- were unavailable for late-October dates due to other commitments.
To counterbalance initially slow ticket sales, Vegoose promoters are focusing part of their efforts on the Las Vegas fan base. Last year, only 10 percent of the attendees were from Southern Nevada (compared to 32 percent from Southern California), something everyone involved would like to see change.
"Last year there was not a real strong local campaign," said Pat Christenson, Las Vegas Events president. "(The promoters) really thought the underground vibe would carry it and I don't think that was the case. This year they will do more of a local promotions-and-marketing aspect."
Last year, until a few days before Vegoose, tickets were only available at the festival's Web site. This year, however, additional tickets have been made available through the UNLV Tickets Web site and at its outlets, including the Thomas & Mack Center box office. Also, 2005 Vegoose tickets were sold two-day-only packages covering the entire festival, while 2006 customers will have the option of single-day tickets as well. "A lot of the people who are in the service industry, maybe they're working one night and they can't go out," said Vegoose co-promoter Rick Farman, co-owner of the New York-based Superfly Productions.
While 31 bands are scheduled to play at Star Nursery Field, with an additional nine nighttime shows scheduled at various venues around town, Las Vegas-based band The Killers may be crucial to last-minute ticket sales among local music fans. "They're obviously a very popular band out there right now," Farman said. "We're in their hometown, so of course they should be in the festival. That was our mindset."
After selling more than 3 million copies of its first album in the U.S., the quartet released its follow-up, "Sam's Town," last Tuesday, three days after performing on "Saturday Night Live." While the group was booked for Vegoose because of its national appeal, the fact that The Killers is a group of local boys made good -- the lead singer used to be a bellhop at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino -- may help tickets sales as the date approaches.
Despite an increased focus on local patrons, the primary goal of Vegoose is still to boost tourism on Halloween weekend, a traditionally lackluster period for the area's gaming properties. According to post-event analysis compiled by R&R Partners, a total of 36,825 visitors came to the area for the first Vegoose. Of an estimated total economic impact of $37.3 million, $30.4 million came from non-gaming revenue; 27,150 hotel rooms were utilized, 78 percent of those on the Strip, 24,425 by out-of-town fans who came to Las Vegas just for the festival. For 16 percent of the out-of-state attendees, it was their first trip to Las Vegas.