For the second year in a row a big music act has failed to materialize over the summer season in Whistler.
Tourism Whistler had hoped to see a show put on by The Festival Network, who have tried for the past two years to bring an event to Whistler to no avail.
“Of course you’d like to have more come through,” admitted Arlene Schieven, Tourism Whistler’s vice president of marketing. “But I think they’ve shown quite a commitment to Whistler and they have already secured some talent for next year and have made a significant financial commitment. So, yes, there is disappointment that it’s not happening for this year but I think looking forward we’re hoping that they’ll be one of a number of people that will come forward with a successful program.”
In an emailed statement, The Festival Network explained what happened this year.
“Tourism Whistler and Festival Network entered contractual negotiations in Feb. ’07 which were signed in late May ’07. Festivals of the caliber the Festival Network is accustomed to producing can take years of planning. Both Tourism Whistler and the Festival Network agreed to move forward in May in good faith and a healthy dose of optimism. We’re poised for a realistic ’08 launch.”
This year Tourism Whistler redefined its summer programming, choosing to do away with its fledgling Whistler Music and Arts Festival, which it produced in house.
Instead, it chose to focus on third party providers who would produce and execute the acts.
While there are several benefits to that model, such as downloading the production to an organization with the know-how and the resources to execute it, there are risks too.
For two years there has not been a big music draw in the summer as planned.
“Unfortunately they weren’t able to secure it for this year but they’ve got some good leads already for next year,” said Schieven. “So we’re pretty positive that we’ll have something with them for 2008.”
In the same emailed statement the Festival Network said there was “not a chance” a show may not be produced next year.
The Festival Network is a company formed out of Shoreline Media — the same New York-based production company that signed a multi-year contract with Tourism Whistler in 2005 to produce a summer concert series from 2006 through 2010.
The series was to run in conjunction with the Whistler Music and Arts Festival. When the company failed to meet its promises in 2006, the contract was dissolved.
“It’s always a risk with third parties but they are taking on the risk and the reward,” said Schieven.
The festival itself, she explained, is no longer a Tourism Whistler directive because research showed it was not driving incremental room nights to the resort, rather providing animation for the guests who were already visiting.
Now rather than have one dedicated festival, the organization is hoping to facilitate several third parties, such as Campground C, the country rock festival coming to town Aug. 25 which will use the Tourism Whistler-owned driving range in the village.
“So rather than necessarily having one music and arts festival we’re trying to just facilitate as much music and concert programming as we can,” said Schieven.
Tourism Whistler and its resort partners Whistler-Blackcomb and the Resort Municipality of Whistler, which together make up Events Whistler, are talking to another concert promoter this week to see if a September show is a possibility.
That producer, Vancouver-based Shout Resort Concerts, brought Faith Hill to an outdoor Whistler Mountain setting in 2004. Hotels rooms were fully booked that night.
Despite the lack of music productions in Whistler this year, Tourism Whistler is expecting to match last year’s summer room nights — the best summer total to date — if not exceed it.