Britt Festival Rebound

Officials with the nonprofit Britt Festival in Jacksonville, Ore., are estimating a nearly $500,000 budget deficit for this year’s concert series because of lower sales and higher costs.

Executive Director Rick Hood told Pollstar that deficit amount – about 11 percent of the event’s gross revenues – is a concern but it won’t affect the concert series’ future.

“Every year is different and, of course, the economy has a huge impact on whether people feel like they can come out for entertainment,” Hood said. “That risk or challenge exists practically every year.”

The Britt’s 46th season from June 1 through Sept. 7 featured 43 performances at two venues – the 2,200-capacity Britt Pavilion and 6,000-capacity Lithia Motors Amphitheatre – where the majority of seating is on the lawn.

The series’ lineup, including LeAnn Rimes, Lyle Lovett, Clint Black, The Black Crowes, Brooks & Dunn, Steve Miller Band, Mark Knopfler, Willie Nelson and Crosby, Stills & Nash, filled 69,000 seats –17 percent higher attendance than last year. However, operating costs including artist fees went up about 33 percent and ticket sales weren’t as hoped.

Mike Sturgill, the Britt’s programming director, said lawn seat pricing of approximately $20 to $40 was the tougher sell, not the higher-priced reserved seats of up to $89.

“The regional local market isn’t responding the way it has in past years. Last year, it started in this direction,” Sturgill told Pollstar. “Hopefully artist management will take that into consideration going forward.”

The Britt Fest has an endowment of $1.6 million to draw from in addition to other cash reserves saved over the years, so Hood said the concert series is around for the long haul.

Meanwhile, officials are working on more realistic expectations for 2009 as well as attracting a younger demographic by including acts such as John Butler and G. Love into the mix.

“We’re going to do our best to continue to bring the best programming we can find for the price points and the economy of southern Oregon,” Hood said.