Promoter Rips YMCA For Ticket Sales

The future of the Boston Pops’ annual concert at Ocean Park in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., is reportedly in doubt because it lost money last year.

The concert’s promoter – who has already stumbled on two landmark festivals in Newport, R.I. – says the local YMCA still owes thousands of dollars from ticket sales on the August event.

Festival Network CEO Chris Shields leveled the accusation at the Martha’s Vineyard YMCA, which was to be one of three beneficiaries of the fundraising concert by the Pops. All were to purchase tickets from Festival Network and resell them for fundraising purposes, according to the Vineyard Gazette. The beneficiaries were sold hundreds of tickets at face value, which they could then resell at a higher price.

And after turning these nonprofits essentially into scalpers, Shields now accuses the YMCA of not settling up, according to the paper, and jeopardizing the annual concert in 2009.

“Sadly, it takes just a few to spoil the broth for the entire community. As a result of treatment like that of the YMCA last year, who solicited us, profited greatly from the [concert] and then disingenuously breached their contract, we may be better off cutting our losses,” Shields wrote in a March e-mail to the Gazette.

Festival Network is a New York City-based company formerly headed by Newport folk and jazz festival impresario George Wein, who sold the firm two years ago. It recently ran into financial difficulties and Wein was forced to step back in to save the Newport, R.I., festivals, which take place in August.

A development director for the Martha’s Vineyard YMCA said she was surprised by Shields’ charges and questioned if the Y was being singled out.

“We do not have a stronger or weaker voice than the other three nonprofits, just an equal voice. I am not sure why he went after the YMCA,” Christine Todd told the paper, adding that three debriefings were scheduled between the three beneficiaries and Festival Network canceled them all.

“All I can really say is we would welcome the chance to sit down with them and bring closure to several lingering issues,” YMCA Executive Director John Clese told the paper. “For whatever reason, those meetings have not happened … all I can say is we are willing to make that [meeting] happen.”

Others involved with the concert expressed disappointment with Festival Network, saying it failed to provide specific details about ticket prices and performers until just a few weeks out. Another said tickets were sold to the nonprofits at one price, but the promoter later raised the cost and asked for more money.

A message left with Festival Network’s answering service was not immediately returned.