Concert giant AEG swoops in to save Bumbershoot

Dec 19, 2014, 2:55 PM | Updated: 3:09 pm

Concert giant AEG announced Friday it has signed a deal with Bumbershoot producer One Reel to keep the Seattle festival going. (MyNorthwest file photo)

(MyNorthwest file photo)

Local music fans can breathe a sigh of relief after concert giant AEG announced Friday it was partnering with Bumbershoot to save Seattle’s signature music festival.

The new partnership with AEG and Showbox Presents will secure the future of the financially troubled festival, incoming executive director Heather Smith tells KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz Show.

“It’s the main reason I came back,” says Smith, who worked for One Reel, the producer of Bumbershoot, from 1995 to 2007.

Numerous reports have indicated One Reel was in dire financial shape, especially after attendance fell far short of expectations in 2014. A number of workers and vendors have complained they still have yet to be paid for the festival.

“It’s really relieving a lot of pressure and allowing us to make good on our outstanding obligations from 2014,” Smith says.

Under the terms of the deal, One Reel will remain a nonprofit, but AEG will provide financial backing and help with marketing and operations.

“We are thrilled about this because it allows us to focus us on what makes Bumbershoot so unique and special to our region, which is it should be reflecting what is happening on the local arts and cultural landscape.”

Smith says while the focus will remain on local acts, the festival will continue to also seek out big name acts, which should be made easier thanks to AEG’s muscle in the concert industry.

AEG has taken over a number of festivals in recent years including the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and Coachella, both of which have experienced significant growth over the years under the company’s lead, Smith says.

As for why Bumbershoot struggled so much financially despite glowing reviews, Smith says it’s a bit of a mystery.

“It’s really hard to know exactly why, to really ascertain why that happened. There were some weather issues. Our ticket sales were tracking really well up to the last couple of days before the festival and then at the gates it just didn’t happen.”

So will Bumbershoot be dramatically different? Smith won’t say which acts might be on the bill for next year’s festival, and planning is just underway. But she says AEG is committed to preserving the soul of the festival.

“They’re a global company and yet they have some very strong roots in our local community here. I know that Showbox Presents and AEG Live is committed to ensuring that the festival is true to its roots.”

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
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