Moogfest Loses $1.5 Million, Will it be Back Next Year?

Although the music, technology and art festival in Asheville, North Carolina garnered praise from attendees, artists and critics alike, Moogfest 2014 posted a loss of $1.5 million on this year’s event, according to a grant application for funding from Buncombe County.
Moog Music applied for a $250,000 grant, nearly three times the amount it received from the county this year, to produce the festival again next year. Yesterday, the Culture and Recreation Authority voted unanimously to deny the application, accoding to the Asheville's Mountain Xpress.
In the application, Moog Music included a listing of profits and losses from the 2014 event: Total expenses for the festival are listed at $2.7 million. The festival’s largest expense being talent, including performance and speaker fees, travel, lodging and meals, totaling $1.5 million.

This year’s music programming was produced by Paxahau, the producer of Detroit’s Movement Electronic Music Festival. The lineup included M.I.A., three Kraftwerk 3D performances, a CHIC dance party with Nile Rodgers, Pet Shop Boys, Giorgio Moroder, Dillon Francis and others.
Income from ticket, merchandise and beverage sales totaled $1.2 million. This year’s festival drew 7,000 badge holders, up from an estimated 5,000 at the last iteration of Moogfest in the fall of 2012. An estimated 25,000 people attended the fest’s free programming.

Prior to the event, Moog Music CEO Mike Adams told Billboard that Moog invested $3 million into this year’s festival. The festival also attracted sponsors like MailChimp, Pabst Blue Ribbon and audio companies such as Sweetwater, Avid, Behringer, Sennheiser. The grant application cites $316,500 in contributions. The festival also received $90,000 in sponsorship from Bunombe Country and $40,000 from the city of Asheville in addition to $40,000 in in-kind services like police barricades, security and clean up.
In the grant application, Adams writes, “as a result of the success of the first year event, we have seven legitimate candidates interested in underwriting: Google, SAS, Microsoft, Red Hat, IBM, Samsung and Intel.”
Both Adams and Moog Music Brand Director Emmy Parker previously indicated to Billboard that Moog considered this year’s event an investment and did not expect to profit. Billboard reached out to Moog Music for comment on the festival’s loss, but did not hear back at press time.
Ashley Capps of AC Entertainment, the agency that co-produces Bonnaroo with Superfly Productions and previously produced Moogfest, told the Asheville Citizen-Times, “The four years that we did (the festivals), they made money one year, broke even another and lost money for two years.” Moog Music cut ties with AC Entertainment last year, and AC put on a separate, unaffiliated festival in Asheville in the fall of last year, the Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit. That festival has since been discontinued.

Asheville has a population of about 86,000 people (US Census Bureau) and the city has roughly 7,200 hotel rooms. Asheville’s largest venue, the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium at the U.S. Cellular Center at about 2,500, reached capacity for M.I.A.’s performance. Many smaller clubs and venues also reached capacity, like Flying Lotus at the Orange Peel (about 1,000) and Moderat at Diana Wortham Theater (500 seat theater). Approximately 90 percent of Moog Fest badges this year were five day passes, priced at $299.

All of which raises question can a well-curated and innovative event like Moogest reach scale and turn a profit in a city the size of Asheville? A question no doubt Moogfest itself is surely pondering.