Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Update on Light Colour Sound

Questions for the organisers as bands still await payment

Wallis Bird who appeared at Light Colour Sound last month

Tue, Aug 19, 2014, 09:40


Last week, we wrote about the fallout from last month’s Light Colour Sound festival in Co Kilkenny. Readers will recall that many of the bands who played at the two day event were still awaiting payment from the organisers, Marie Croft, Arlie Croft and Thomas Donoghue, and some who had received payment found that the cheques had bounced.

On Monday last (August 11) after the piece appeared, Marie Croft contacted OTR and claimed she had not received any of the phone messages, text messages or emails which had been sent and left for her and the other organisers between August 7 and 10. This was quite peculiar as her fellow promoter Thomas Donoghue had received our messages which had also been sent to him and had replied, as the original piece notes. OTR offered to send on a number of questions for Croft to answer and she asked us to send them on.

To date, we have received no reply from Croft to the following questions

(1) Who was involved in promoting Light Colour Sound? I have it as you, Arlie Croft (your husband?) and Thomas Donoghue – is this right or were there other people?

(2) Could your explain a little about your background when it comes to promoting live music events and festivals?

(3) How long was Light Colour Sound in the planning?

(4) You said to The Irish Times in March that you only needed to sell 1000 tickets to break even. How many people were you expecting? How many tickets did you sell in the end (weekend and per day)? Did you have a plan in place to deal with this shortfall?

(5) Many bands have told me that they have not been paid for their performance at Light Colour Sound, that they received cheques from the festival which subsequently bounced when presented for payment. Many have mentioned Arlie Croft as the person who handed out the cheques. Have you any comment to make about this? Did you know that payments were been made with cheques for which there were no funds in place? Were you OK with this?

(6) We have been told that many volunteers are still awaiting return of their deposits. Do you have any comment to make on this?

(7) We have now heard that some suppliers and crew have not been paid. Do you have any comment to make on this?

(8) What do you think went wrong with the festival and caused all these problems which you have mentioned in emails to the acts? Do you think it was to inexperience?

(9) Do you think you could and should have communicated your post-event financial problems to your creditors in a much better and clearer way?

(10) You and your co-promoter Thomas Donoghue have both made mention of problems with the statutory authorities and Gardai in the run-up to the event. Could you elaborate some more on this?

(11) Why have so many posts and comments on the festival’s Facebook page been deleted since the event?

(12) Why did the festival talk about Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip cancelling due to “technical problems” when the band themselves have said that their cancellation was due to “a catastrophic breakdown in communication”?

(13) You and your co-promoter Thomas Donoghue have spoken about a 30 day “grace period” before payments. When will you be in a position to pay the acts their outstanding fees? Do you plan to pay additional monies or interest to make up for the payment problems?

(14) Some people have observed that your payment problems and inability to provide immediate answers for the reasons behind this has cast a bad light on independent promoters seeking to put on small festivals and events. Would you like to comment on this?

(15) At this stage, do you plan to run Light Colour Sound in 2015?

On Friday last (August 15), Light Colour Sound emailed a lengthy email to a number of the bands who appeared at the event and who were still awaiting payment. The organisers said the event “ran into some financial difficulties” and wanted to provide the bands with “a tiny bit of background, which may give you some perspective”.

Here’s the email in full. It’s worth noting that some of the bands awaiting payment claim not to have received this communication.

“We, a team of three, started planning the festival 10 months in advance. As the enormity of the work involved, and the expertise required in getting a project of this scale off the ground came to light we realised we needed help and employed a project manager.

It was agreed that his duties would include producing an event plan and a site plan. Neither were produced to a standard to satisfy the local authorities. At a meeting called three weeks before the event we were left fielding a continual threat of closure.

We were given 1 week to do an incredible amount of work including finding alternative parking, holding public meetings, organising new maps, an event plan, an application for road closures, an onsite medical team, the list goes on.

As I’ve said we are a group of three. We had worked so hard to pull the festival together to this point we poured our hearts into meeting all the authorities’ criteria – but we were just three so due to time constraints all promotion had to come to a stand still.

Earlier, and in consultation with our project manager, we had chosen stages, lighting, sound etc. We naively assumed he was working within an agreed budget, we had expected a bill of around 170k. Two weeks before the event we asked him for a breakdown on pricing and he produced a bill which was in the region of €350K . This figure excluded bands, promotion, insurance and a variety of other costs. The bill which we have and can publish sites excessively high labour and accommodation costs and a world of unnecessary expenses.

Of course this figure was unattainable. With only 2 weeks to go to the event the project manager tried to change the date of the festival to allow him more time to deal with the Gardai, fire and other statutory agencies. Changing the date was suicide for the festival, and talk of the date change to our sponsors had a massive negative impact on how they worked with us.

When we refused to change the dates he walked off the job and took the event plan and map with him, He also cancelled everyone that was booked for the festival without telling us,

At the most crucial stage for promotion we were rebuilding the festival from scratch in the most stressful of circumstances.

We were really fortunate however to link up with an incredible management team, who seemed as dedicated as us in pushing the event forward. Together we worked around the clock and literally put the show back on the road.

Our sound and lighting person had been cancelled by the project manager unknown to us, he was no longer available. Within days to the event we had no sound and no lighting. Perhaps we should have cancelled at this stage but we had overcome so much and worked so hard. Happily we found a wonderfully hardworking and dedicated sound and light engineer. But the delay in securing him, and the confusion around the cancellation resulted in a mis-management of information, it also cost us one of our headline acts.

Of course by now many bands were nervous as were ticket buyers, as were we.

Rightly or wrongly we didn’t stop, We set out to bring an amazing small, independent festival to Kilkenny, and, after everything, we are really proud that that is what we did.

The event happened, it was lovely, really lovely and it was clear for all to see the potential the festival had, it was also clear to see that there just were not enough people at the event.

After the event the same exhausted team of three were left to remove 3KM of fencing, clear the site and pick all of the litter. We had a week to get off site. This cost us in administration and communication. For this we are truly sorry.

The books didn’t balance. We asked you for 30 days while we discussed with our backers how best to carry Light Colour Sound from 2014 into 2015. With the exception of two bands everyone was kind, patient and understanding.

A case was presented to the press on Friday August 8th by the two artists. We spoke to all of the press that contacted us and explained our situation. Everyone understood. The exception as you are all aware was Jim Carroll who writes for the Times. Jim Carroll quoted from an email sent to him on the Friday by Thomas. He quotes leaving out the single most important line in Thomas’s email. The line Jim Carroll chose to omit is “we would ask you kindly to not publish an article as of yet regarding the situation as it will undoubtedly effect investors and will in turn prevent us from securing payment for artists .”

After the release of a piece written by Jim Carroll who writes for the Times, meetings were called by Light Colour Sounds backers. It was felt that as a result of the negative media attention the festival couldn’t survive a journey into year two and at that point funding was withdrawn

It has been an unfortunate chain of events leading us to our current situation. We are not in a position to make good the money you are owed within the promised 30 days. We are heartbroken. We have done everything in our power to make this happen. We have been living with the most incredible stress and we are sad and sick to our soul to not be in a position to pay you today. We never for one second intended anyone to do anything and not get paid. There is nothing more we can say, there are no assets in Barn on the Farm ltd and we do not have any personal assets to offer anyone. It is still our intention to work at paying everyone, it just cannot be done with the ease and speed we had hoped.

We would also like to say there were many inaccuracies in the Times article, Engine Alley did perform, they did a fantastic set and really enjoyed the event. With the exception of one of our volunteers all had been paid long before the article by Jim Carroll was written. There are other inaccuracies in his article, but perhaps not so relevant.”

So there you are: it’s all my fault that the acts didn’t get paid. Yes, I booked the bands, handed out bouncing cheques and left acts out of pocket. I was wondering why I was so busy this summer….

It is worth noting that there are several inaccuracies and unanswered questions in this email, from relatively minor ones like the fact that the email from Thomas Donoghue was sent on Sunday night not Friday to more serious claims about the people hired by Light Colour Sound to work on the event (which we understand are vehemently disputed and denied by those parties). Also, regarding the “Light Colour Sound backers” mentioned above; who were they and why weren’t they paying the debts incurred this year rather than thinking about year two? Why the mention of lack of personal or company assets? Indeed, why no mention of sales for the event and the failure to have a back-up plan in case of poor ticket sales?

Above all else, the failure by the Crofts and Thomas Donoghue to provide answers, solutions and especially payments to the acts remains the most pressing issue which no amount of woe-is-me emails about cleaing up litter can solve. It sadly appears to be a case of “caveat emptor” for bands when it comes to dealing with new promoters and events in the future to prevent a repeat of this scenario.