Is Starfest the Next Fyre Festival? Texas City Pulls Contract for 'Pop-Up' Event
Venue, talent-buying and negative media coverage plague first-year event.
The much-maligned Starfest, a two-day "pop-up" festival that boasts Lil Wayne as an unconfirmed headliner for its first-ever edition, suffered a major setback Thursday (Aug. 17) after officials with the city of Plano, Texas announced they were ending the contract between the event's promoter and a city-owned venue.
Despite the setback, organizers say the event is still on and will take place at a new, yet-to-be determined location. On Thursday, officials with the City of Plano notified organizers they would no longer be able to hold their Sept. 8-9 event at the city-owned Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve, telling organizers, "We believe the cancellation of this contract is in the best interest of the City and our community."
Starfest promoter and Texas businessman David Taylor tells Billboard that the official reason the venue contract was canceled stemmed from a disagreement over notifying the city before announcing artist lineup additions, but added that a litany of bad press and recent memories of the disastrous Fyre Festival had a chilling effect on his event.
"It got way too negative, and that's unfortunate," Taylor says, later adding, "We are in the process of refunding all of the original ticket holders money today and announcing the new venue this afternoon."
Losing the festival's location was just one of a number of recent setbacks for the first-year fest, which has lost headliners, been sued by its talent buyer and mercilessly ridiculed in the local media.
Part of that has to do with the event's ever-changing array of headliners, which Taylor said started with Drake and the Chainsmokers, and later shifted to Lil Wayne and Flo Rida. A representative for Drake said the rapper never agreed to play the festival, and Taylor concedes he might have been duped by someone he hired early on to do talent-buying (he's now on his third buyer; his second buyer is suing him over unpaid compensation). Billboard has been unable to confirm if Lil Wayne and Flo Rida are actually booked for this event -- neither artist has the festival listed on their respective websites, despite assurances by Taylor that the bookings are confirmed. Billboard has reviewed documents showing that an offer was sent to CAA for Flo Rida, but it's unclear if the rapper accepted the offer. (Ed. Note (3:20 p.m.): Following publication of this article, a representative from CAA told Billboard that Flo Rida is not confirmed for the festival.)
Billboard can confirm that Starfest had an offer out to deadmau5 -- the event's second talent buyer claims to have booked both deadmau5 and Flo Rida for Starfest and is saying he was never paid. He's now suing Taylor in Los Angeles Superior Court, arguing he's owed $93,000 in unpaid commissions.
Taylor is also fighting off the local media; GuideLive writer Kelly Dearmore penned a brutal takedown piece this week on Starfest, calling the event "confused" and alleging Taylor "has accomplished little more than to be annoying." D Magazine said the cancelation "should surprise absolutely no one" and described the event as "ill-conceived."
Through it all, Taylor has kept a positive attitude and says he's now looking to find a new location to stage his event, with just three weeks to go.
"To me, Starfest has always been a no-brainer," he says. "This is something I could get behind and put my reputation on the line -- I have a stellar reputation in Dallas."
That reputation includes work in the restaurant industry, hospitality and oil and exploration. But besides flubbing his initial lineup, Taylor acknowledged working against his second talent buyer, Simon Perez from Blackhawk Collective who is being represented by Kevin K. Javidzad at Colony Law, by sending competing offers to artists for his own event. In one instance outlined in the lawsuit, Perez was working with an artist's agent to secure an act, when, during the negotiations, Taylor reached out directly to the band's tour manager with a competing offer. Perez accused Taylor of trying to avoid paying him a pricey commission -- Taylor says he did it because he has trust issues.
"I had a great person and he did everything he was supposed to do and he did it the right way," Taylor says of Perez. "I'm just saying I couldn't feel comfortable trusting anyone after having been burned pretty badly in the past."
Taylor also defended the idea of throwing a pop-up festival within just a five-week window, saying Dallas music fans typically wait until the last minute to buy tickets. Regardless of the setbacks, Taylor says he's committed to holding his event, despite the long odds.
"I'm a believer in that old saying 'the show must go on,'" he says. "As painful as this is, we have a lot of friends in the city and we're going to find a venue that will make sense. I mean, we just have to; all of my talent's booked. The money is out."