Unpaid Fest Acts Upset

Several artist reps told Pollstar their clients were given bad checks for performances at the Suncoast Music Festival that took place December 3-4 at the Charlotte County Stadium in Port Charlotte, Fla.

Acts including Tracy Lawrence, John Michael Montgomery, Ronnie Milsap, Jeff Bates, Jace Everett, Aaron Tippin, Andy Griggs, Chely Wright, Emerson Drive, and B.J. Thomas had not been fully paid by concert promoter Steve Tatone of Stonebridge Entertainment and Suncoast Concerts at press time, according to agents.

The two-day Suncoast Music Festival was originally scheduled to take place in October, but the event was postponed because of threats from Hurricane Wilma.

Artists performed at their original fees out of respect for the situation, Buddy Lee Attractions‘ Gary Kirvis told Pollstar. The agency claims its artists received their binders but the balances have yet to appear.

“Everyone returned home to find the checks they had received were not any good,” Kirvis said. “We were all promised that it would be taken care of in short order by Mr. Tatone and he has not made any effort. Now he’s not taking any calls.”

Kirvis says Tatone owes him approximately $60,000, while Andy Griggs manager Donny Kees said the promoter owes $15,000. Other reps declined to give a dollar amount, but confirmed they were owed money.

“He kept making excuses that he would pay it,” Kees told Pollstar. “There were several national acts on that deal and it turned into a fiasco.”

In an e-mailed statement to Pollstar, Tatone responded to the allegations by saying, “Artists that are due funds from the Suncoast Music Festival will be paid from incoming funds from an event cancellation insurance claim that was submitted by Suncoast Concerts Inc., as a result of the Hurricane Wilma threat to southwest Florida in October 2005 and subsequently approved by the insurer.”

Tatone was not available for further comment.

Dennis Munholland, who was a primary investor in the event, said he paid the premium on the insurance and now doesn’t know where that money went. His contention is that Tatone has already received insurance money and is possibly using it to fund other events.

“I know Steve got some insurance money,” Munholland told Pollstar. “I’ve been trying to find out [how much] but the insurance company won’t talk to me because Suncoast Concerts was the name on the policy. So even though I paid the policy, they won’t tell me how much.”

Munholland added that he has not been reimbursed for expenses he covered for the fest. He said that although ticket sales weren’t great, there was still money coming in from sponsorship deals and the insurance policy.

“It doesn’t seem to have lost as much money as he would have liked people to think,” Munholland said. “I’m thinking the money went somewhere else.”

Buddy Lee attorney Sam Lipshie said the agency has filed bad check complaints with the Florida State Attorney’s Office.

“Several of those have been referred for criminal prosecution,” Lipshie told Pollstar. “[The agency] is doing everything we think is legally appropriate to make sure those artists get paid in full for those gigs.”

Meanwhile, a management rep for The Outlaws told Pollstar Tatone owes the band for a non-festival December 4th gig it played at Maverick’s nightclub, which is located near Charlotte County Stadium. Tatone is the venue’s operator.

– Mitchell Peters