Riviera Beach music festival did not break even, preliminary figures show

RIVIERA BEACH The city's 8th annual music festival failed to break even, costing taxpayers about $300,000, despite efforts to increase sponsorships, preliminary figures show.

So far, the city has spent $635,718 on the three-day event held April 11-13, according to city finance records. Its revenues, however, total $256,907, with some outstanding money, including $50,000 from Palm Beach County.

While some officials say the figures show that the event continues to lose money for taxpayers, others argue that the festival was never intended to be a revenue-generator, as much as it is a marketing tool for the city.

The numbers, according to Mayor Thomas Masters, prove that his prediction was correct. Days after the festival, which features jazz, hip-hop and gospel music, Masters said the event would lose some $300,000, forcing him to withdraw his support.

"I just want to be perfectly clear that the music festival never again should be on the backs of the taxpayers," Masters said today. "It should be fully funded by the private sector, where the profit can go into programs that will provide jobs, affordable housing and better city services."

The city council approved a $723,950 budget for the festival, with $369,150 coming directly from city coffers. The remaining money was supposed to be raised by revenues generated from sponsorships, ticket sales, parking and renting vendor booths.

Assistant City Manager Gloria Shuttlesworth said that this year's music festival is enjoying more success than any past festival. The event has received national attention and sponsors already are lining up to get in on next year's event, she said.

Shuttlesworth, who oversees the event, said city staff and the newly created music festival advisory board worked hard to make it successful. Past events suffered from bad weather, poor organization and in 2007, the stage collapsed.

The group, however, also made it clear to the council that breaking even in 2008 would be a long shot, given that they got a late start on marketing the festival nationally.

Shelia Green of Personal Affair, the marketing firm, didn't come aboard until March 6, Shuttlesworth said. Still, Green was able to get festival host, comedian Tommy Davidson to plug the event nationally on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, a syndicated radio show that reaches an urban audience, she said.

In addition, this year, the festival finally reached the level of acclaim envisioned in 2000 by its original founders - City Manager Bill Wilkins, former councilman Donald Wilson and former Mayor Michael Brown, Shuttlesworth said.

"The event was never supposed to make a profit. That was not the intent," Shuttlesworth said. "It was supposed to market the city as a destination. This will get people to recognize there is so much potential in this city."