City Stages Goes South

It was another year of losses for City Stages, the annual city-sponsored multiday event in Birmingham, Ala., that has struggled financially since 2000.

The June 19-21 event saw an all-time low in ticket sales, according to organizers, and has accumulated debts totaling $550,000 owed to the city budget.

City Stages president and founder George McMillan appealed to the city council for $250,000 June 16 after the festival received $300,000 to cover the event.

Corporate ticket sales, a major revenue source, dropped 60 percent, according to the Birmingham News.

“About 15 companies that traditionally buy tickets didn’t buy them this year,” McMillan told the paper. “All of this crystallized last week.”

The event, which got $500,000 in corporate ticket sales last year, reportedly got $240,000 this year.

McMillan’s $250,000 appeal was traded for free admission for people 60 and older. City Stages, which takes place on several stages in downtown Birmingham, already allows children in for free.

“I’m stunned [McMillan] would come and ask the city for $200,000-plus more,” councilwoman Maxine Parker told the paper. “Seventy-nine hours before he opens the door for the event, you realize you are short $200,000-plus. So are you a good businessman or what? You work within your budget.”

The event, which featured REO Speedwagon, Styx, Plain White T’s, Guster, Doobie Brothers, En Vogue and Young Jeezy, didn’t draw. Some blamed hot weather; others blamed the economy.

“I do not think we will come close to hitting our $800,000 admissions number,” McMillan told the News. “We projected $800,000 thinking we were being conservative. Apparently we didn’t take the economy into account enough.”

Sponsorships were a bright spot, bringing $450,000 to the budget, McMillan said. Organizers of City Stages, which has been in debt for nearly half of its 21-year history, are assessing its future.

Festival director Denise Koch was unavailable at press time.