AnnArbor.com covering Ypsi, like it or not

The person who covers Ypsi for AnnArbor.com is a guy by the name of Tom Perkins, and he’s been stirring up quite a bit of shit lately. In this past week, he’s broken stories on both the crumbling of Dave Curtis’s Washington Street empire and the decision by the Depot Town CDC to end their affiliation with Elvisfest. If you haven’t read them, and the comments which follow, you really should. It’s fun stuff. I’ve particularly enjoyed the latter article, which includes several pieces of financial data that CDC head Erik Dotzauer and board member Merrill Guerra are contesting. Here’s part of the article that’s being disputed:

…The future of the annual festival in Ypsilanti’s Riverside Park is in question after the corporation that oversaw its finances recently opted to stop funding the event. But that group, the non-profit Depot Town Community Development Corporation, is keeping approximately $44,000 that was in the Elvisfest’s bank account….

…The largest CDC fundraising initiative was launching the Michigan Roots Jamboree two years ago. According to Depot Town Association financial records, the rock and bluegrass festival lost $6,000 in 2010 — it brought in $42,200 but cost $48,000. Dotzauer said the financial statement doesn’t include some sponsorship money the Jamboree has yet to receive, and he estimates the event turned a profit and made more than the Elvisfest.

The financial statements listed the Elvisfest expenses at $72,000 and revenue at $78,000.

Dotzauer said the CDC chose to cancel the Elvisfest instead of the Roots Jamboree, despite the $12,000 difference in revenue, because festivals typically see a spike in attendance and profits in their third year. He said he expects this year’s Jamboree to post significantly better numbers…

And here’s part of Merrill Guerra’s response:

…(T)he statement that the DTCDC is keeping “approximately $44,000 that was in the Elvisfest’s bank account,” while true is misleading. The Elvisfest bank account is one of several bank accounts that we have to manage our operations. The money used to fund the Elvisfest was provided by the DTA/DTCDC. It is our money and has always been our money. We routinely move money around between our different accounts. Once the money was no longer required for the Elvisfest it was moved into our Reserve Account to earn interest and into the Jamboree account to fund the needs of that festival. This is something that we have always done and is no different from past years.

Regarding the issue of the Elvisfest volunteers keeping the seed money, I would like offer an analogy to help people understand the context a bit more fully. Everyone knows that Bell Ringers for the Salvation Army are raising that money to give to the Salvation Army. Nobody expects the Bell Ringers to take the pot home at the end of the day to pay the Bell Ringer’s bills. That money belongs to the Salvation Army. In the same way, Mary Decker, as Director of the Elvisfest, was a volunteer for our organization running the festival. She and the other volunteers are and were aware that this festival was a fundraiser for the DTA/DTCDC and that the money used to fund the festival and the money raised by the festival belongs to the DTA/DTCDC. Elvisfest was created by the DTA 12 years ago and operated by us specifically to earn money for our organization. Mary is one of 5 directors that we’ve had over the years. We’re happy that she’s motivated to take what we’ve started and continue on.

The factual inaccuracies occurred in Tom’s story because he insisted on using our October financial statements which do not give a complete picture of the festival financials. We told Tom this multiple times and asked to sit down with him to go over the financials so that he would have the complete picture. He did not use all the information that we submitted to him and did not allow us to explain the issues with the one statement he decided to use. There are expenses that were incurred in 2009 that are not reflected in the 2010 financials and some of our revenue for the Jamboree was recorded under a grant account that is not included within the Jamboree line items. The actual profit for the Elvisfest was $1771 and the profit for the Jamboree was $2253.

Finally, the paid attendance for the festival this year was approximately 2700. It hasn’t been 5,000 – 6,000 for several years now. This is validated by the financials and ticket revenue…

And the following comes from Erik Dotzauer:

…Again, you’re not getting all the facts straight here. You made a number of assertions in your article that are not based upon documentation that I provided you. Instead you chose to quote financial information that was not provided to you by the DTCDC, DTA or Elvisfest. You claim that according to “Depot Town Association financial records, the rock and bluegrass festival lost $6,000 in 2010.” The financial report that I emailed to you after we spoke on Tuesday very clearly stated that the festival turned a profit of $2,253. In that same email, I included the financial report for Elvisfest, which clearly stated a profit of $3,771. There was also a notation adjacent to that number which indicated that the profit included the sale of an asset after the decision to end the festival, therefore increasing the stated profit by $2,000. To that end, Elvisfest generated a profit of $1,771 in 2010.

I don’t really have anything to add. I don’t feel much like quibbling over numbers. Whether a festival made $2,000 or lost $6,000 doesn’t matter much to me. Both seem reasonable enough. What I’m more interested in the decision to drop one festival in favor of another. I wonder if there’s more to the story, or if it really was just the result of demographics, and the fact that the Elvis generation is dying off. I can’t speak for everyone, but the reason I stopped going to Elvisfest wasn’t that I grew too old to walk to the park, but that the ticket price grew so incredibly. I have great memories of Elvisfest (my daughter was born a few hours after the one in 2004) and I’d love to go every year, but I can’t afford the $35 or $40 per ticket that the organizers have been asking for. My point is, I don’t know that a decline in attendance can be attributed solely to the aging of Elvis fans. Anyway, I guess I’m wondering why, if they were both profitable, a decision would be made to cut ties with one.

The other thing that I found fascinating was that the Roots Jamboree took in over $40,000. I suppose it’s possible that it drew 400 people, each spending $100, but I would have guessed it to be considerably less. (My assumption is that the $40,000 includes beer sales as well as tickets sold, and that it doesn’t include too much in the way of big sponsorships.)

Anyway, I thought that it might be worth discussing here.

krampus-thumb-350x232-63300Oh, and Tom Perkins isn’t just using controversy to sell papers. He’s also using sex. The gratuitous photo seen here, of delinquent hipsters tweaking the shiny nipples of a man caught in the act of metamorphosing into a monster, accompanied an article about the Shadow Art Fair and the numerous events vying to claim its mantle of greatness.

Oh, and I liked my last quote in that article, in which, after explaining why we decided to take a short break from the Shadow Art Fair, I described our modus operandi… “We’re just trying to have fun and get a bunch of weird people, doing interesting stuff. The format doesn’t matter to us – if it’s an art fair, great – if it’s this other thing, great.” I think that kind of sums things up nicely.

And, as for Tom, I think, even though he’s got a few people mad at him at the moment, he’s probably good for Ypsi. I’ve found his work to date to be pretty evenhanded and well researched. And I’m not just saying that because he chose not to run the quotes from me that would have made me sound like a douche bag, of which there were plenty… Seriously, though, I do appreciate that the powers that be at AnnArbor.com have sent him out our way to flip over rocks and see what’s wigglin’. We need more of that kind of stuff.

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38 Comments

  1. Posted December 5, 2010 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    Ain’t gonna lie–I love that dude’s hair in his user pic on aa.com. His writing is really good, too :)

  2. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted December 5, 2010 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    oops. this was supposed to post here:

    1. Ypsilanti needs to hire Dave Curtis’s publicist ASAP.
    2. I’ve seen all of the information provided to tom for the ElvisFest story. I’ve seen the emails exchanged between Tom and Erik. How he could publish the story he published, given the information he was provided with, is beyond my understanding. one glance at the festival financials vs the yearly financials of the organization is enough to clear up any discrepancy. Tom had both sets of documents before his article was published, but chose to ignore the information provided to him by the parent organization of both festivals. the article was as fair and balanced as any on fox news.

  3. Alice
    Posted December 5, 2010 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Is Dave’s PR really all that good right now, Andy? Everything I’ve read gives the impression that he’s a bad businessman who is on the verge of losing everything.

    FWIW I agree with Mark on the finances. I don’t see the big deal between the numbers Tom posted and those that Erik is offering. It’s not like Tom said that the Jamboree lost $50,000 and the Elvisfest made $100,000. They both appear to be similarly profitable. The thing that caught my eye is that Elvisfest brought in 2,700 people to Depot Town. I don’t think the Jamboree brought anywhere near that amount.

  4. Oak Street
    Posted December 5, 2010 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    While technically true, the article was misleading concerning the transfer of $44,000 from the ElvisFest account to that of the CDC. The impression that I was first left with was that ElvisFest volunteers had raised the money, and that it was being taken from them to be used by the Jamboree and other CDC projects.

  5. gary
    Posted December 5, 2010 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Elvis Fest tickets cost $15 -$25 (Friday-Saturday).

    Nice reporting.

  6. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted December 5, 2010 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I’m not saying anything about the state of Dave’s businesses, but if you can get a story printed that basically states it was dte what put you out of business, that’s impressive.

  7. Bob
    Posted December 5, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    I don’t pretend to know the drama behind the scenes, don’t really care anymore either. Whomever decided to back the roots festival over Elvisfest made the right call. Elvisfest is gimmicky and kind of dumb. They have priced it way beyond the point of enjoying it for its limited, kitschy appeal. Most of all, I suspect its just run its course. The roots festival is the better bet for the future. The roots festival could be great if they get a few clues about booking it a little better. Lots of people miss the Frog Island festival and the RF could easily fill that void, and do it on a more economically feasible scale. I know so many people who want to attend the fest, and would travel some distance to do so, but the lineup needs to be stronger and more diverse. They need some national acts. There are plenty of them, very affordable ones, who would bring their individual fan-bases to the party. The problem with these festivals seems to be either going too local with the talent, and limiting the fan-base, or going too big and wasting huge sums on acts everyone is sick of seeing (see AA Blues & Jazz Festival). It seems like a nice idea to book Rootstand, Ragbirds and Macpodz on the same bill. They’re fine bands, but isn’t it the same fan-base pretty much? There are so many strong regional/national acts struggling to stay afloat that can be had for minimal guarantees these days. I have been amazed at some of the acts I have helped do shows for over the years for next to nothing. Much can be done with limited resources and pure good will. I will stick my neck out and pay Andy Ypsilanti a compliment for a change, the roots fest has a good future. It doesn’t need to be Bonnaroo scale or budget to become the destination festival that it should be. It doesn’t even need to be Frog Island Fest or AAB&J scale to be memorable. Hopefully they get it right.

  8. Posted December 5, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    I think that having any festival at all is a good thing for Ypsi. I drove through there for the first time in nearly a year. Traveling along Washtenaw, I stopped counting at 20 businesses that were fully operating last year. If I had been motivated and had some data from last year, I bet I could spot 50 or more. It was totally depressing.

    As an outsider who reads this blog, I see way too much bickering in y’alls town.

    I know I’ll get flamed for this, and believe me, I’m well aware of the great things that Ypsi has to offer.

  9. Kim
    Posted December 5, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Gary,

    $15 for Friday and $25 for Saturday = $40

    If that’s what you’re saying, then Mark was right on when he said $35 for $40 for the festival, wasn’t he?

  10. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted December 5, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Bob, for what its worth, we have heard the criticisms of our booking and we are listening. The trick is striking the balance between local acts, which are mostly affordable, and nationals that vary wildly. Well, that, and trying to appeal to as many folks as possible without diluting the bill to the point where it doesn’t appeal to as much of any fan base.

  11. Merrill
    Posted December 5, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    We wanted to be able to share with Tom all of the issues surrounding our decisions which we believed would be handled most efficiently and effectively with a conversation between him, the board members and Erik. Our biggest concern when Tom contacted us to write this article was that he did not have enough information or understanding to write the story and accurately convey and give a clear accounting of what happened. Erik told him this over the phone and we wrote this in both of our responses to him while at the same time asking that he meet with us and providing him all of our financial documentation surrounding both festivals.

    As I wrote in my third comment on aa.com, the reason we discontinued the Elvisfest was declining revenues over a period of years without reasonable expectation to see that turn around. Because we saw this trend happening we put in motion several years back the workings for bringing on line a new festival. If Elvis turned around, then awesome we’d have two festivals for the area. If not, then we had a festival to replace it with. Again, it was a hard decision which was not made lightly! We have really valued and appreciate all the work of the hundreds of dedicated volunteers, but how many people would say that $1771 on a $72,000 investment with a HIGH degree of risk in terms of weather makes any sense from a business perspective? To put it in context the $2253 was made on investment of approximately $48,000. While this still isn’t great, the numbers are heading in the right direction. Elvisfest has been declining significantly over a number of years (in both good weather and bad), while the Jamboree has so far shown increases.

    All festivals take a period of years to reach profitability and we knew when we started the Jamboree it would most likely take three years to begin seeing the kind of returns we expected on our investment. We decided to continue the Jamboree because its improvement over its first year numbers were very positive (from a significant loss to a modest profit).

    I hope this helps. We all know this is confusing. Again, this is why we asked so many times to sit down with Tom so that real understanding could be reached.

  12. dragon
    Posted December 5, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    And I’m not just saying that because he chose not to run the quotes from me that would have made me sound like a douche bag, of which there were plenty…

    Reporters were given surprisingly free rein on the McCain property. As the senator grilled, and his wife Cindy and other aides talked to reporters, members of the press were allowed to roam around, availing themselves of the opportunity to take rides on the tire swing and exploring his house, which features a mat outside the door that says, “Geezer (formerly known as Stud Muffin) Lives Here.”

  13. Kim
    Posted December 5, 2010 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your comment, Merrill.

  14. Concerned Citizin
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    New comment on Ann Arbor.com Article. by Steve McKeen
    Please get your facts straight!

    The Depot Town CDC is NOT a nonprofit. They are a dba of the depot town Association just like the Michigan Elvisfest is a dba of the depot town association. The depot town association is the nonprofit in question.

    No wonder people think they have something to hide. People have their facts wrong AGAIN!

  15. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Um, concerned, you are pretty choosy about what you consider a “new” comment:

    If I have my facts wrong, I stand corrected, but I think you are mistaken. This is where I am getting my information.

    According to a filing with the MiDLEG on May 7, 2007,

    http://www.dleg.state.mi.us/bcs_corp/image.asp?FILE_TYPE=UCO&FILE_NAME=D200705\20071280001703.tif

    the DTA submitted a Certificate of Assumed Name and it is signed by Gary McKeever and was submitted by Sandra French and it says the Depot Town Community Development Corporation is the assumed name for the Depot Town Association.

    The Depot Town Association is a IRS registered Section 501 non-profit and according to the State of Michigan, the DTA is conducting its business under the assumed name of the Depot Town Community Development Corporation.

    This fact is confirmed by the DTA’s own website which clearly states:

    The Depot Town Association is incorporating its 501 (c) 3 nonprofit status into a Community Development Corporation (CDC) with the mandate to raise private and public funds for economic development, housing, parks and recreation for Depot Town and the City of Ypsilanti.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  16. Eel
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

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    Men’s Basketball vs. Detroit at 2 p.m.

    Women’s Basketball vs. Canisius at 4:30 p.m.

    For more information go to emueagles.com.

    United We Hoop!

  17. Ex Depot Towner
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Too bad the CDC had to hijack the DTA and ruin the good vibe that Depot Town area spent so many years building. Boo Gerry French.

  18. Sylvia
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    This all sucks for the merchants in Depot Town who long along jumped ship with the DTA when the CDC took over.

  19. Concerned Citizin
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Andy

    Other Assumed Names of the Depot Town Association

    Jamboree
    http://www.dleg.state.mi.us/bcs_corp/image.asp?FILE_TYPE=UCO&FILE_NAME=D201003\20100690000160.tif

    Michigan Elvis Fest
    http://www.dleg.state.mi.us/bcs_corp/image.asp?FILE_TYPE=UCO&FILE_NAME=D200610\20062970000379.tif

    Can you explain the difference, I am really curious.

  20. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    The comment suggests that the DTCDC is not a nonprofit. The comment I reposed from Steve Pierce explains that they are non profits, organized as dbas under the DTA. My question to you, what is the point you are trying to make? That the DTCDC is organized under the DTA?

  21. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    And I’ll say it again, its pretty hard to say anyone is or has ruined depot town when we’ve had what, three new businesses this year?

  22. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    The as.com has finally added the correct numbers for each festival. They have also created links to all of the financial records in question. Of course they did this by updating the story, thus burying the truth several pages down on their site. So, basically they admitted they screwed up, they just don’t want anybody to find out.

    One more time for the haters: YOU CAN NOW VIEW ALL RELAVANT DOCUMENTS ON AA.COM AND SEE THAT NOONE I’d HIDING ANYTHING EXCEPT AA.COM.

  23. gary
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    was the $1,000 contribution made to the elvis festival before or after the article was printed?

  24. Reader
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    Tom Perkins is doing a great job. No reporter can be perfect; it’s impossible given the range of issues. A good reporter doesn’t just reprint whatever numbers they’re handed. They do the best they can to digest competing voices.

    There is no one covering Ypsi as well. If you think there is, by all means, let’s hear where. Tom is probably destined for a slot in a bigger market. We should be grateful to have him while we do.

    And, of course, those competing interests should rightly continue to shove their numbers at him. It’s part of the process. Just don’t forget to thank him when he nails it. And, it doesn’t mean we have to accept his word as gospel. No reader, of any publication, should. But, don’t blame him for not impulsively taking your word. Be grateful he pauses before hitting print. He’s doing a very fine job. Better than you’ll find most other places you look, including major markets.

  25. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    Gary, No. I had a conversation with Erik Dotzauer a week or so before this article, and he had told me that they had made the decision to end their association with ElvisFest and concentrate on the Jamboree, because of the downward trend in ElvisFest and the perceived growth potential for the Jamboree. He told me then that the CDC was giving ElvisFest some money to get started in their efforts to continue the festival. He said that no one was happy about the situation, but that the board felt the financial risk was too great when considering the downward trend in profit.

    @Reader, Tom is doing a far better job than any one else at the aa.com, that is for sure. However, the rest of the staff covering Ypsilanti is terrible. I think the Courier has better coverage of Ypsilanti, at least as far as a weekly can go. It is certainly far more balanced.

    The frustration in this case it that Tom was given the information, explained the discrepancy before he went to print, but failed to update his information. The story, after all was about the festivals, and the financial decision that led the CDC to end its association with ElvisFest and concentrate on Jamboree. I mean, I’m no economist, but isn’t it blindingly, screamingly obvious if you are trying to compare the financial results of two festivals, you’re going to get a clearer view by looking at the overall financials for the festivals, rather than the yearly financials for the parent organization? Later, he made a snide comment to Merrill, and frankly, lied about the information he received from the CDC and its relevance to the story in that comment. At one point, a comment from Merrill, in response to some of the accusations being leveled and in no way in violation of the comment policy, was deleted. I happened to catch it, and after inquiring why it was removed on the “conversation guideline” thread, it was restored with an apology form Tony and a promise to speak with that moderator. I have a good guess who that might have been.

    Finally, the practice of updating days old articles instead of printing corrections or retractions ensures that few people will see the corrected information. Whats the point? At this point, the damage has been done to The DTA/CDC and the Jamboree’s reputation, which I would imagine was the goal of the anonymous source to begin with.

  26. Reader
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    Hey Andy,

    Can you point me to some Ypsi Courier articles that demonstrate this better coverage? I just visited and all I see is cheerleading. Sure, that has its place and I like to feel good as much as any gal, but I don’t really consider that “Lincoln schools boosting school spirit” hard news. I’d love to see your example of better coverage.

    Thanks! BTW, love your comments (which seem almost like news), all things considered.

  27. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 2:23 am | Permalink

    @Reader, I find the coverage of the Courier more balanced over all. Admittedly, right at this moment, it has a lot more feel good stories in it, but its coverage of real community issues like school board meetings and important city council meetings is fantastic, and they are backed up with interest articles that go far deeper into the community. Even the fact that there are so many “rah-rah” stories about the schools and community shows the deeper roots the publication has. AA.com so far has a track record of, much like The Ann Arbor News before it, of concentrating on bad news stories. Crimes that, had they been in A2, would have been buried in the “Crime” section are front page news. A lot of coverage has been gossip at best, slander at worst (Elbowgate comes to mind). There is little effort to provide broad coverage of issues to the community, and anything that’s not crime or controversy is left to an unpaid blogger for coverage. (in fairness, I guess some may be paid per story, but that’s not the impression I get) School board meetings may not be news to you or me, (only in the fact that I don’t have children) but when it comes to covering a community, that’s the kind of stuff you expect to see. Its the mundane stuff that makes for a good community news source. Now, I don’t mean to say I think the Courier is this bastion of journalistic integrity, but they have broad coverage, go out of their way to make sure they have it right, and don’t go fishing for stories where there really aren’t any. (Read: gossiping)

    I just feel that, overall, aa.com’s coverage is shoddy. It’s like an after thought. Again, Tom, in general, has done a much better job than the rest of the reporters, but in the ElvisFest article, he was grossly negligent. In the recent article on the Festival Tax, I felt he came off as a little condescending to those of us opposed to council’s resolution (clearly, I’m biased) and again, I felt like he left out some of the information. The comment he directed at Merrill in the ElvisFest comment section was rather condescending, unprofessional, and frankly not true. The replies left by Erik tell the tale, and I can back that up because he showed me the dated emails.

    Go to both sites and click their “news” tab. In one, you’ll see a variety of stories about the community, that yes, tend toward the feel good. The other, some news, then an odd collection of the crime blotter and brutally one sided gossip. And that’s the real problem. I read aa.com every day because I have to if I want local news. To me, if that’s the crap they’re going to feed us, I’ll do my best to call them on it, especially if I happen to have sufficient information on the story. Readers like “Cash” “Dadding” and “WomanInYpsilanti” do much of the same, along with a few others. Hopefully, it makes an impact.

    And thanks, though I’m not sure how I could be considered a news source. Sometimes, maybe I’m reporting what I saw. But the rest? I always though I came off more like some sort of liberal, pro-Ypsilanti version of Fox.

  28. gary
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    The aa.com posted all of the financial numbers requested. Can anyone explain who created which file? Did Tom Perkins create the depot town association balance sheet?

  29. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    According to the comments, Tom’s editor did. But all of that information was provided by the DTCDC/DTA before the article went to print. I think that, looking at those documents, the truth is pretty obvious. Why it didn’t make it into the original story is anybody’s guess.

  30. gary
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    All of those documents were created by the same people (dta/cdc) ? That doesn’t make a lot of sense.

  31. Posted December 7, 2010 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    This is all so crazy….

    I felt it necessary to post due to Michigan Roots Jamboree getting backlash for the decision to not move forward with Elvis- looking to give some insight and facts behind the decision process of the lineup and creation of MRJ that we created for the city of Ypsilanti, its businesses, culture and residents. I do not pretend to represent everyone because one thing I have learned through the idea, implementation and seeing our festival come to life through the work of over 300 volunteers over the past 2 years, is that you will never make everyone happy.

    As far as the booking goes for MRJ…..I did it last year. The two years of the festival have stayed true to the business plan that I created and to the brand of Michigan Roots Jamboree, which began as a Bluegrass festival and morphed into something that encompasses Blues, Rock, Jam, Bluegrass, world, Folk and Jazz. The 23 bands last year crossed a number of genres that really represented the ID of the festival and focused on amazing live performers and very talented musicians. I chose the some of the best local musicians, and a couple of affordable mid national acts.

    @Bob, I would be curious to hear your input on music and your experience with what national acts actually cost. With a TOTAL budget around 40k, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for large nationals. Sure I would love to have The White Stripes, Eagles, U2 and Kings of Leon, Manhole and lady gaga but then we would be talking about a festival that crushed a city-centric non-profit by losing significant money, not how a few people didn’t like the lineup. – Costs to high, risk of not bringing in enough money to cover costs, have to charge too much for tickets, dwindling demographics. Sound familiar? Seems like a reasonable decision to move in another direction right? There is a reason why Rothbury lost significant money both times it happened (1.1 million to Dave Matthews alone the first year) and why the Land of Nod Experiment will most likely not happen again amongst many other festivals. Another example- they paid $150,000 to the band Of Montreal, had horrible attendance part due to the weather, part due to the fact that many of the bands who were booked are generally not the type of bands that will attract traditional festival goers. Dead in one year.

    Again, imagine the cost of getting an average mid level touring band to Ypsi to play. Hospitality, hotels, Use of name on Promo, transportation, and band costs. Not to mention that in order to play a festival, national bands usually charge a 25% premium vs. a club gig. Golgo Bordello, whom I have contacted is asking 50-100 k (twice our total MRJ budget for everything, not just one band). Starting to understand?

    I can only imagine if we had to increase the ticket price significantly to cover a large national while we are in the building phase. Imagine the backlash! People will pay $150 to go see Roger Waters at the Palace, but $15 for an all day outdoor music festival in a local park? Its a crime!

    So, with a minimum budget, I did the best I could. How does this change? Have the people who want to play, send us their Sonicbids. Might as well ask them to play for free too (as many of the artists last year came close to doing) I caught flack for not booking certain bands, but the fact is, I received a couple hundred applications of bands wanting to play and picked the best choice of ones that I got. Many bands that have been mentioned or that complained did not even apply to be considered. If you have suggestions, send them to me. I am open to hearing every suggestion because I am filling slots as we speak. Also keep this in mind the brand we have created. We are not going to have speed metal bands playing before Bluegrass, after rock and finishing with techno. It dilutes what we are.

    On that note, we are planning on opening a couple slots to a community vote and through Sonicbids. We accepting applications right now.

    @ Mark- 400 people each paying $100? We drew double that on Friday alone and the numbers do in fact include all gross receipts vs. expenses.

    @Andy, I have heard very little criticism about the booking. 100x more positive. All one really needs to do is look up reviews of the festival. If someone doesn’t like the lineup they weren’t necessarily the people we were targeting anyway.

    Do you all think the Jazz fest gets criticized for not having more rock bands? The ho down in Detroit gets torn up for not having more rap? Seriously? Frog Island Festival was a ton of fun. I remember it fondly and it is one of the reasons why I knew MRJ was possible. Guess what, they couldn’t keep the doors open and had to cancel it. For anyone that saw the production of MRJ, including the live art, street performers, fire dancing, puppet show, two beautiful stages, light show, 1st class sound I think that you would see the obvious differences. After doing this for a while we all know that we cant make everyone happy. We had attendees from Texas, Tennessee, Ohio, Illinois, California, Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New York and Indiana amongst others. So, for those haters like Midtowner, who is nameless and likes to throw daggers at people who have openly and publicly came forward and have original ideas, find something better to do. Like, create an event or do something positive for your area vs. putting down those who are trying to improve the culture and attraction of Ypsilanti as the great city it is. Sorry Midtowner, there will not be any Elvis Impersonators or the “improved” Savoy gang of mediocre local garage rock. I guess when you stick out your neck to do something different, you are bound to get plenty of criticism.

    We made a profit in the second year of operation. Show me another festival in the nation that can say that. I can save you some time and let you know that it doesn’t exist for an original production of this size or bigger. We are building this conservatively. We will have some surprises for next year and be “upping” the ante on bands. I will continue to select local bands because of the sheer talent and quality in the area. Any national band that is booked will be carefully selected according to draw vs. cost and how they fit into the MRJ brand. It is my goal to book bands that will target our target market. Festival going, 21-40 year olds, those that will travel to see music.

    If you find that the music selection is not one that you would choose, you don’t have to come, although MRJ has really become so much more than the music. If you can give me a better lineup for what I and the other committee members have selected to represent our festival and city for the same budget while maintaining the brand, please do. I would love to take your input. My email is below. If you would like to throw your own festival, I would be ecstatic for the area you choose to do it in, id even show up to volunteer. If you can not do anything productive by giving examples and have the research to back it up, please keep your empty faceless opinions to yourself.

    I was so sorry to hear about the CDC choosing not to move forward with the Elvis fest. I am a huge fan and have made it most years. And, sorry. $15 for an entire evening of music or $20 for all day on Saturday is more then reasonable. (less the city tax of course) Kids 12 and under are free! For the A2 folk festival, which is indoors, it is $60 per night! For just about any music venue in Michigan, you will pay more and not have the time or value that comes along with an outdoor festival like Elvis Fest. Seriously? Complaining about a 15 dollar ticket? You can barely go see a movie for that. But times are tough and along with that come tough decisions on where your money is spent. I will be sure to volunteer for their new Elvis project and offer whatever services I can provide.

    I am all ears, Ypsi. Here is your chance……..

    Don
    Director of the Michigan Roots Jamboree
    don@rootsjamboree.com

  32. Kim
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Don, are you saying that there were 800 paid attendees on Friday night?

  33. Bob
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Don, I will email you privately with a couple of things. Maybe they will help. I apologize if the tone of my criticism didn’t reflect enough praise for the fest. It was my clear intention to support the jamboree, I think it has huge potential.

  34. Posted December 7, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Bob. I would love to hear them. I didn’t think the tone was bad at all, just all the negativity in general has me throwing my hands up. The post has really nothing to do with you. You seem very reasonable and intelligent. More at A2.com and the armchair critics…. After reading my post, I am probably adding to it which was not my intention. We all need to stick and work together. I also wanted to open up full conversation with us/me for whoever would like to make suggestions on how to make the festival better. Again, we will never make everyone happy but we can try, and listen to all the input we get. I wanted to give some insight into the process and overall cost. This is our baby and I really just want to focus on making good decisions for the good of the festival and not get submerged with the political side of things. After all, we are showcasing ypsilanti and everyone has a stake. Send me your thoughts….we are listening!

    @Kim- for friday night, including guest lists, paid attendees and vip, we were right at 800.

    Cheers everyone and happy holidays. Looking forward to hearing from you

    Don

  35. Kristin
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    As far as being covered by annarbor.com, isn’t that what people wanted? There was an awful lot of fretting about only making the crime blotter.

  36. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Today, Pete Murdock and I both left length comments on a thread about the festival tax. Pete was responding to accusations leveled in other comments, and I was responding to him. Both contained a lot of useful information. And they were both deleted for being too long.

    The aa.com’s ability to break the news is simply amazing.

  37. PG13
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    AnnArobor.com, where an article about local music legend Frank Allison gets 0 comments, but 81 people come forward to voice their opinions on what national fast food chain they’d like to see downtown. I think that pretty much sums it up.

    What fast food restaurant do you want downtown:
    http://www.annarbor.com/business-review/top-5-chain-restaurants/

    Frank Allison comes out of retirement:
    http://annarbor.com/entertainment/frank-allison-returning-to-public-performing/?cmpid=NL_33_topicbox_headline

  38. John Galt
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Fast food IS our culture. Get used to it, you kale-worshiping COMMIE whole grain lover. The People’s Food Co-op should be a McDonalds, pumping out patriotic, red white and blue McRibs for the people 24 hours a day, operated by smiling white children happy to be making the $2.15 an hour so they can by their mother’s heart pills. All local restaurants should close immediately, as they are inefficient and snobby. Real Americans like processed hunks of unidentifiable protein saturated with salt and fat. To like anything else is to be a North Korean, America-hating peasant. I hope you choke on tofu, you elitist.

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