San Antonio’s Sound of Summer Fest billed itself as a premiere hip-hop and EDM showcase, in May announcing a roster of more than a dozen national acts.
But once the event took place August 30-31 at Nelson Wolff Stadium, it was apparent I-35 Live — the Texas-based production company behind the event — hadn’t been able to deliver on that star-studded lineup.
“Taste” rapper Tyga and dubstep duo Boombox Cartel were slated to perform Friday, August 30, but both announced cancellations via social media earlier in the day. That left SOS without a third of its headliners. What’s more, Chicklet and Maleni, a pair of Instagram celebs scheduled to host the event, also warned that they’d be MIA.
I-35 Live official Ervin Lee said the festival honored its contracts with all of the scheduled artists.
“It’s legal matters at this point, so we must decline to comment farther,” he said in an email. “Lastly, we did this for San Antonio, our love for the city and the people that want to spread good vibes and positivity.”
However, when asked in the email whether concertgoers would receive a refund after the headliners failed to show, Lee’s response was full of anything but good vibes and positivity.
“Lol you’re a joke,” he wrote. “Your story will fall on deaf ears [sic] no one cared that the people that weren’t there didn’t show up. Completely [sic] lie of a story. Expect to hear from my lawyer.”
It’s unclear where things fell apart for the artists, since none of them responded to interview requests. Most were vague about the cancellations in their social media posts.
Tyga announced via Instagram that the cancellation was “due to circumstances out of my control.”
“Due to circumstances beyond my control I’ve had to cancel my set at tonight’s Sound of Summer festival,” BoomBox Cartel wrote. “I was not confident that the production provided by the festival would allow me to deliver a performance up to my standards.”
“Yo, for those that were expecting us at the sound of summer event — we’re not there because we landed in Texas and we’ve not got nothing,” Chicklet said in an Instagram video. “Nobody’s hit us up, said what time — nothing has happened since we’ve been in Texas. The last time someone spoke to us was 5 p.m. yesterday [Thursday, August 29], but that’s why we’re not there.”
SOS ticketholders complained on social media that they weren’t informed of the cancellations and only learned about them through posts on the stars’ accounts.
“@sosmusicfest_ Fucking bust ass fest I want a refund,” @paytonslansky posted on Twitter.
“No @boomboxCartel or Tyga MAN FUCK YALL @sosmusicfest_,” @DankieQ tweeted.
Sound of Summer is hardly the first Texas music festival to experience woes.
San Antonio’s River City Rockfest and Gonzales’ Float Fest were both cancelled this year, and Houston’s Day for Night quietly went into the night in 2018. Two years ago, Austin’s Sound on Sound Fest pulled the plug five weeks before its scheduled date after a key investor pulled out.
And the tribulations aren’t limited to Texas.
Woodstock 50, scheduled for August, cancelled amid reports of late artist deposits and uncleared permits. Heavy-hitters such as Miley Cyrus, Jay-Z and the Raconteurs were slated to play the event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the storied concert.
“[Festival organizers] get in over their heads,” explained former Paper Tiger talent buyer Ryan Brummet.
Since SOS was a new festival, artist management might have felt less inclined to take a chance with organizers they haven’t worked with before, added Brummet, now music director for New York venue Le Poisson Rouge and LPR Presents, which books 34 other live music spots in that city.
“I don’t know specifically what happened [at Sound of Summer Fest], but it seems like ticket sales weren’t where they needed to be, [and] maybe some deposits didn’t get sent out,” he said.
Austin concert promoter Graham Williams, who helped run the now-defunct Fun Fun Fun Fest, said last-minute artist cancellations can happen for many reasons.
“Because so many other festivals have fallen through over the years, I do know a lot of booking agents, bands and managers are real gun-shy on events when they feel like something feels strange or is not going right,” he said.
Williams added that an initial lineup announcement for SOS featured numerous empty slots on the bill. That could have caused managers to grow wary about sending their artists onstage.
Williams says that it doesn’t really matter how much experience someone has promoting festivals, because the business is changing quickly and drastically.
“[People] aren’t going out for $250 to see a festival as much as they used to, and a big part about it is that there’s just so many festivals,” he said.
That proliferation of festivals has meant tough competition for ticket dollars, said Robert Scherer, dean of Trinity University’s school of business.
“There’s competition among festivals and among venues,” he said. “In some of the concerts and some of the big festivals, they include a lot of the same artists, so there’s a lot of overlap. And maybe some of the same artists are playing in San Antonio at more than one festival or maybe at a concert venue and then a festival.”
Plus, with binge-watching seasons of TV now as American as apple pie, Scherer said that some people would rather stay home and experience live music via concert-streaming services like Nugs.net.
“The cost is going to be a lot cheaper,” he said. “So, people might think twice about going to the live festival for cost issues, comfort issues and convenience issues.”
At the end of the day, the festival business is risky — even for experienced promoters.
“A well-branded, well-curated event is first and foremost,” Williams said. “But, yeah, it’s kind of like playing poker: You can be good at it, but in the end, if you don’t get the cards, you don’t get the cards.”
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