Light Colour Sound but no fees
Acts encounter problems getting paid by the Co Kilkenny festival
Like all festivals, Light Colour Sound started out with the best of intentions. The event, held in Shankill Castle in Co Kilkenny on July 4 and 5 last, had a mission statement with lines like “what’s your dream of summer?” and “you provide your expectations, we’ll provide the memories” and promises of “music, food, art, culture, literature, comedy, open forums, workshops, yoga, akido, dance”.
Music-wise, the bill couldn’t be faulted with five stages (includes stages sponsored by HMV, the Whelan’s venue in Dublin and Broderick’s Music Shop) of largely Irish acts playing over two days. From Jape and Wallis Bird to Halves, Kila, R.S.A.G, ASIWYFA, Cathy Davey, Jerry Fish, King Kong Company, The Barley Mob Overhead, The Albatross and others, you probably recognised most names on the bill.
But for many of those acts, Light Colour Sound didn’t deliver on what it promised when it came to agreed fees. At the time of writing, many acts are holding cheques which have not been honoured, while efforts to contact the promoters about getting paid the money they are due have come to nothing. There are also a number of people who volunteered at the festival claiming online not to have been refunded their deposits and seeking more information about when they can expect their money back. One of the stories of the summer on the home front may be about festivals getting Irish bands to play their commercial events for free, but this is a whole different take on that.
The first sign of a problem came when one of the headliners, Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, who were playing the festival as part of their farewell tour, cancelled a few days before. The band announced the cancellation on their Facebook page on July 2 citing “circumstances completely out of our control”.
The same day, the festival website carried news of the cancellation which they claimed was due to “unforeseen technical circumstances”. But a follow-up comment by the act on the festival’s Facebook page (a comment now deleted) firmly disputed this: “we have no clue what ‘unforeseen technical circumstances’ are. If we were going to be vague about this we would have go for ‘a catastrophic breakdown in communication’, but that’s just us”.
On July 9, the band added on the festival website (comment again appears to have been deleted) that “we had worries about very basic things & the festival did nothing to help us. It was not until we actually pulled the show and announced it that the festival suddenly decided to communicate with us.
“We have given promoters a lot of faith over the years, we’ve pulled 6 shows total in 8 years, 2 of those were swine flu, one a dead laptop, one pip lost his voice. We’ve played some downright awful, shambolic, sometimes terrifying gigs, but always turned up & played to our best. So believe me, we had good reason to cancel, and those reasons won’t be whatever bullshit was floating around the site.”
By then, the festival has been and gone. Promoter Marie Croft talked to the Irish Times in March about the new festival. She said that they “only need to sell 1,000 weekend tickets to cover the cost”. The previous year, Croft (Marie Barry as she was then) had organised an event called Barn On the Farm in Ballygowan, Kilmaganny, Co Kilkenny for a crowd of about 350 people featuring acts like David Kitt, The Thomas Donoghue Band, Audiofires, Deetrich, Raising Cain, Whiskers of Lichen, Big Brass Band String Quartet, RNA and others.
But it is understood from sources that they had sold far less than this number with the number of weekend tickets believed to be around 500 and bands have reported very sparse attendances at the venue. Tickets were selling on the day for €25 despite selling for €55 in advance.
On the ground, the organisation was described as “shambolic” by one act, with “people running around who didn’t have a clue what they were doing”. Another pointed to the fact that some of the acts scheduled to play were unable to do so because their slots were changed by hours without prior consultation. Other advertised acts, such as Engine Alley, did not play in the end.
However, worse was to follow for the acts. After the event, bands who had been paid by cheque over the weekend found that there was no cash in the bank to back up these payments. It would seem that this ticket revenue – and, of course, the monies received from the stage sponors like HMV and Whelan’s – were not enough to honour these cheques.
OTR has spoken to 10 acts who played at the Co Klkenny event who, at the time of writing, are still awaiting payment and it is understood that many other acts are also in the same position. A number of acts are progressing to legal action to recover the outstanding fees. We understand that the venue has received part of the rental fee due to date.
On July 16, an email was sent by Marie Croft to the acts who played the festival apologising for the delay in payment, blaming it on “waiting for funds from ticket sales to hit our account”.
Croft further said that “the cost of putting on the festival rocketed due to compliances from local authority agencies and landlords in the final weeks. You may have noticed the heavy security and Gardai presence, we were also left with no choice but to reduce the capacity of the event to 1500 people in order to allow the event to go ahead.We have been invited to license the event next year by the authorities, which we intend to do.”
It is worth pointing out at the juncture that a “license” is, as we all should have learned from recent music business stories, only required when an event has a capacity of over 5,000 people. It should have been clear from the outset that this event was unlikely to break that audience figure.
Croft added that “this combination has made balancing the books very difficult. We do have share holders who are in a position to make up the shortfall and we are working on that now. At this point we would ask you for 30 days grace while we bring in funds to make payments. We are confident it won’t take 30 days, but it might. As soon as payment has been made to your account, we will write to let you know.
“I am sure most of you will find this far from satisfactory but it is currently the only option and it is in our best interest to bring as speedy a resolution and close to this situation as possible.
Halves played at the festival and, according to band member Brian Cash, they are still awaiting payment. “Halves, like many other Irish acts, were invited to play the inaugral Light Colour Sound festival at the beginning of July in Paulstown, Kilkenny. As strange and disheartening an experience as it was to play, they don’t seem to be paying any of their acts.”
Cash says he has contacted other bands who played and “six other cheques have bounced”. While he said the band “should have ben suspicious when Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip publicly pulled out just days beforehand”, they thought there would be “a safety net” given that the festival had HMV involved.
Cash has sought countless times to get paid, but says the promoters have “ignored the majority of emails and only respond when I mention I’m ready to put information online about this.
“I should have been suspicious when they didn’t even look at their records to confirm our fee when they wrote the cheque, which leads me to believe they knew it would bounce there and then regardless of what number I said.”
Cash points out that he has had sporadic emails from the festival in response to him seeking details about payments. On July 25, Marie Croft wrote saying she was “waiting to hear back from a couple of people, I am pushing, its the worst time of year with anual leave to try and get everyone together at the same time. Hopefully not too much longer. I really am very sorry and frustrated by the delay.”
The latest one, sent last Thursday (August 7), saw festival booker Thomas Donoghue accusing Cash of conducting “a smear campaign” online after tweeting about the failure by the festival to pay its acts. In the email, Donoghue said “I think for you to assume the lack of bands being paid is dodgey is slightly misplaced and unfair”.
Despite all of this, Cash says that he “genuinely feel sorry for them as the intention was good, just certain ways of dealing with things can be disrespectful. I’m all for people trying something new but there has to be a backup plan. It’s principle moreso than money at this stage, though you have to consider that one of the better known acts flew to Ireland and paid his flights, band, van and crew out of his own pocket and still hasn’t heard anything.
“My frustration in this whole thing isn’t even the money- it’s the complete lack of information across the board. Best case scenario is we can all get what we are owed and forget about this, though it can be a warning for bands in future. They said in one email they have plans for 2015.”
Since last Thursday, OTR has attempted to contact Croft, co-promoter Arlie Croft and the festival booker Donoghue, all of whom are directors of Barn On the Farm Ltd, by phone, text and email. Yesterday afternoon, we received a short email from Donoghue, though it did not address any of the outstanding issues.
“We have issued mails to all bands asking for 30 days grace to amend the unfortunate situation the festival is in (editor’s note: the festival took place five weeks ago so the 30 days grace period has lapsed). We had a very tough first year in every aspect and didn’t foresee such a low turnout on the weekend and addition fees from statutory agencies etc. There simply isn’t the funds there to pay acts at this moment in time.
“However whereby most would issue a statement and shut up shop we have been meeting with investors and are in the middle of meetings to secure funds to pay out bands. By no means do we want artists to go unpaid and all our crew are super passionate about irish music so you can understand we are super frustrated at the situation.”
There is still a significant number of unaswered questions, especially about these demands from “statutory agencies”, the sponsorship monies received from HMV and especially those claims from volunteers that deposits have not been returned. Donoghue, however, has not at the time of posting responded to a follow-up email seeking an interview and more informaton. We’re happy to update the post with answers from the promoters on these questions, should they seek to return calls, emails and texts to OTR or, indeed, the bands, agents, managers and representatives seeking answers and payments.
UPDATE: the following statement was received from Whelan’s, who sponsored one of the stages at Light Colour Sound. “Whelan’s was approached by LCS with a view to sponsoring a stage at their festival. As the line up was already in place and the festival seemed to support a lot of quality Irish acts who Whelan’s would be associated with, we agreed to pay a sum for the naming of one of the stages.We had no role in booking any of the acts or any knowledge of how the sales were going but were keen to support a new outlet for Irish bands that would pay the acts for playing. . We were saddened to hear in the last week that the acts hadn’t been paid properly and that indeed volunteers deposits wen’t unrefunded. We would hope that the organisers of the festival work rapidly to work out a payment plan and to keep all involved updated in a timely fashion.”
UPDATE (2): we’ve now also heard from HMV Ireland about their involvement in the festival. “HMV Ireland has sponsored stages at a number of music festivals in Ireland during 2014. This is in keeping with our aim of supporting Irish music, best evidenced through our sponsorship of First Music Contact and Breaking Tunes. HMV paid a sum of money for the naming of one of the stages at the LCS festival. We had no role in booking the acts nor indeed the organisation or running of the festival. We hope that matters are resolved to all parties’ satisfaction.”
UPDATE (3): emails have been received from Light Colour Sound promoter Marie Coft (nee Barry). I’ve now sent her on a list of questions regarding the festival, the aftermath and the issues raised above and I’ll post her replies here when I’ve received them.
UPDATE (4): see this post for a lengthy update about the festival.