Montalvo Shifts Concert Focus

Officials with the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, Calif., will book fewer mainstream touring acts as part of a transition to a new business model featuring an international artists’ residency program.

Arts director Gordon Knox said the plan has been in the works for a few years and will bring the PAC back in line with its original mission.

“It’s not so much changing the type of bookings, it’s changing the relationship with the artist and the audience,” Knox told Pollstar. “All we’ve changed is a business model that doesn’t work and turned back to our roots as an arts center.

“If you appear to be operating as almost a for-profit model – that is, to have the same acts that pass through Shoreline or Hollywood Bowl – it’s very difficult to go to foundations and individuals and say we’re doing something worthy of philanthropic support.”

Montalvo, with its 1,150-capacity Garden Theatre, 275-capacity Carriage House Theatre and 2,000-capacity lawn, is in the same market as the 1,744-capacity, Live Nation-booked Mountain Winery shed a short distance away, which also figured in the board’s decision.

“The market has changed radically with Live Nation sort of pumping in tons of money,” he said. “It’s impossible as a non-profit to compete against those guys. The point is that we don’t need to be in the game.”

The San Jose Mercury News reported that ticket prices could drop with the PAC no longer competing with Live Nation for shows, which reportedly outbid Montalvo on several occasions.

“Yeah, we outbid them on things because we have 500 more seats,” Live Nation’s Lee Smith told the paper. “I never begrudged them their existence.

“We need to compete. We have probably spent 10 percent more on talent than we would have ordinarily for the reason they were throwing crazy offers out there. I would hope that with less competition day in and day out we might be able to stabilize the ticket prices, meaning we are paying less for talent.”

Knox said the PAC’s new focus, in addition to the center’s literary arts and education programs, is to give artists who would like to work with budding musicians a place to do so. India.Arie met with a group of high school students before performing there earlier this year.

“India.Arie is a great example. She is a supremely successful, popular star in her own way, an inspiration,” he explained. “What we offer her [and others] is the opportunity to share her own passion in helping the next generation working with kids.”

Steve Tyrell, Guy Clark, Richie Havens, Leo Kottke, Adrian Belew, Duncan Sheik and Richard Thompson are some of the artists booked at the venue through mid-March.

Knox said 10-12 Garden Theatre events are in the works for next summer’s concert series.

“You hear people say there’s no performing arts but that’s simply not true. In the long term, we anticipate coming back up to just as many concerts as we had last year or the year before,” he said.

– Tina Amendola