VOL. 111 | NO. 79 | Friday, May 2, 1997
Beale Street Music
Beale Street music festival
attracts international media
By CAMILLE H. GAMBLE
The Daily News
The Beale Street Music Festival kicks off the month-long Memphis In May festival today at Tom Lee Park with more than 60 acts performing blues, gospel, rhythm and blues, alternative, funk and rock íní roll during the weekend.
Bob Dylan, ZZ Top, Boz Scaggs, the Wallflowers, Blues Traveler, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Steve Miller Band, the Boxtops, and the Bluebirds are just a few of the artists performing today, Saturday and Sunday.
More than 115,000 people came through the gates of Tom Lee Park during the Beale Street Music Festival in 1996, and so far this year advance ticket sales have exceeded last yearís advance sales, said John Doyle of the Barking Dog Agency, which handles public relations for MIM. Advance ticket sales show that there should be a big crowd this weekend, but the weather will play a big role in ticket sales at the gate, Doyle said.
Last yearís Beale Street Music Festival was the most widely attended event in the history of MIM, and because of the growth, the 1997 music festival has garnered more international attention than in past years, according to festival officials.
Doyle said several broadcasting companies will be coming to Memphis this weekend from England, Germany and Japan to film the event.
For the first time ever, VH-1, the music video cable channel, will be in town to do a special on the festival which will air next week. Doyle said VH-1ís Robin Dorian will be in the park all three days to catch the action on film and interview artists. Representatives from Rolling Stone magazine also will be in the park this weekend, he said.
ìFrom a media standpoint, weíve had record numbers of interest from national and international media,î said Denise DuBois Taylor, public relations director for the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau. ìWe have more (media representatives) coming in town for Memphis In May since Iíve been in the job, which is three years.î
She said the British Broadcasting Corp. is in town to film a documentary on Stax Records and also plans to shoot footage of the Beale Street Music Festival.
Taylor added that a Wonders exhibit this year creates more of an attraction for the media.
Growth, however, is not always a good thing. Doyle said the festival may ìsell outî on certain days, which means that there will be no more tickets sold at the gate. However, people with advance tickets will not be turned away, he said.
Last year, on Saturday night the Allman Brothers and George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars played on opposite ends of the park at the same time. The two big names, along with perfect weather, caused many people to be stuck outside the gate waiting for people to leave before being allowed in the park.
ìWe work with the Memphis Police Department and the Fire Department, and they will cut it off before there are any safety concerns based on the number of people,î Doyle said. ìWe want to maintain that in case there was any need for evacuation, that that can be done in a safe and orderly manner. We also want the people who purchase tickets and come into the park to be able to enjoy the show and enjoy the show comfortably. There is really no value for us to pack as many people as possible into the park.
ìWe donít like turning people away,î Doyle said,î but if we get some great weather, based on the line-up we have, it is possible.î
With a surplus of $160,000 from last yearís Memphis In May International Festival, the biggest surplus in the history of the month-long event, the Beale Street Music Festival was able to purchase additional rain insurance this year.
Although May 1996 was totally rain-free, two years ago the Beale Street Music Festival wasnít so lucky. In 1995, 2.53 inches of rain fell in May during the nine festival days, most of which came the first weekend and hurt ticket sales to the music festival. The rain was a factor in the loss in net income of about $250,000 for the year.
Doyle said, since 1995, some corporate sponsors have taken a special interest in making sure the festival has enough rain insurance for the coming years.
This year was the first time Memphis In May has had a Web site (www.memphisinmay.org) on the Internet. Doyle said festival officials already have seen the positive effects of the site.
ìThere are only 10 staff members that work all year long to pull this thing off, with the assistance of about 2,000 volunteers,î he said. ìOn a daily basis, those 10 staff members can receive thousands of phone calls. That Web site has helped alleviate that so that those staff members can really focus on ways to improve the festival.î
Tickets for the Beale Street Music Festival this weekend are $13 per day in advance or $15 at the gate. Advance tickets for a three-day pass are $30 or $40 at the gate.