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Scaled-Down Pier Concert Series Needs to Grow, Staff Says

Bob Kronovetrealty
We Love Property Management Headaches!

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors

By Jorge Casuso

Editor's note: A previous version of this article stated that staff proposed the concerts be held on Thursdays. Under the proposal, the concerts would continue taking place Wednesdays.

February 7, 2019 -- Santa Monica's down-scaled "Twilight on the Pier" concerts may have been too successful in drawing smaller crowds last year and need a schedule change, according to City officials who manage the series.

In an effort to boost attendance, Pier management will ask the City Council Tuesday to start the series before Labor Day, instead of in September.

The proposed change could help increase attendance by 30 percent, from the average crowd of 8,000 per concert, making it easier to replace a major sponsor that pulled out this year, according to the staff report.

The change would help "secure sponsorships to underwrite costs associated with the concerts" and make it "more financially self-sustaining, with the expectation that the increase in attendance remains manageable," staff said.

The request from staff comes after the City Council scaled down the popular concert series, which often drew overflow crowds public safety officials worried could become unmanageable ("Santa Monica 'Twilight' Concert Series on Pier Survives Proposal for 2018 Hiatus," December 13, 2017).

Instead of eight Thursday nights concerts, the scaled-down series staged five consecutive Wednesday evening concerts and a Sunday evening finale on October 7.

The series, which was held at the height of the summer tourist season, was also rescheduled to begin after Labor Day.

The change -- which included replacing big-name acts with "niche" performers -- worked, staff said.

The series, which drew crowds as large 35,000 attendees, began drawing between 5,000 and 10,000 attendees per concert.

The changes caused police and fire staffing costs to nosedive -- from of $837,600 in 2017 to approximately $240,000 last year, a 71 percent drop, staff said.

"The changes were also effective in reducing negative impacts to the beach" and "congestion in the downtown," staff wrote in their report.

"The favorable response from City departments, the largely positive feedback received from residents, concert attendees, and Pier businesses, and the reduced costs suggest that the rescaling of the series successfully achieved the stated goals," staff said.

In its first year, the down-scaled concert series broke even -- costing the Pier Corp $659,711 and generating $661,174 in revenues, or a net of $1,463.

"Corporate sponsors underwrote over two-thirds of the concert series costs, with the remaining one-third from City grant-funding and revenues from beverage sales," staff said.

That could change, staff said. Snap Inc., a major sponsor of the concert series, will not be returning as a partner this year, driving the need for larger crowds to lure new sponsors.

"An earlier start date would provide greater visibility and better appeal to potential sponsors, as sponsorship is necessary to help underwrite the cost of the series," staff wrote in its report.

An earlier start date would also free up the Pier deck in October for "other events and community programming such as LA Opera, Front Porch Cinema, and Halloween-themed activities, as well as private rentals," staff said.

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