The Gulf Shores City Council unanimously voted Jan. 12 to extend an agreement for staging the Hangout Beach, Music and Arts Festival on the grounds of the city’s public beach for at least five more years.
In October of last year, the City Council unanimously passed an ordinance granting a conditional franchise agreement through 2020 however, the new amendment allows organizers to host the festival through 2025.
“This document has done all we know to do to serve the public and keep something that’s important for a large portion of our community and address the concerns of the others,” Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft said after the ordinance was passed in October. “We’ve worked real hard for that, and I’m delighted to have unanimous support….”
The new amendment, dated Jan. 8, names a new festival co-owner, subsequently announced as California-based entertainment company Goldenvoice, and extends the franchise term 10 years versus five years, provides the flexibility to request an attendance modification in conjunction with the festival’s annual site plan application and amends Section 2.1(b) to provide the city of Gulf Shores additional leverage to ensure the festival compliments and preserves the family oriented image of its community.
Notably, the agreement still calls for a franchise fee of 1 percent gross revenue beginning in 2017 and increases one percent each year until three percent is reached in 2019. The three percent will continue through 2025, according to Grant Brown, director of recreation and cultural affairs for the City of Gulf Shores.
“It’s capped at 3 percent through the extended five year addition,” he said.
Additionally, the amended agreement maintains that the festival and Gulf Shores have adopted an absolute zero-tolerance drug policy. The September 2014 draft of the ordinance stated that the “Franchisee shall not include in the performers, bands, or acts to appear at any Music Fest any person or group with a publicly documented association with the promotion or advocacy of illegal drug use, with a publically documented history of onstage drug use, or with a publicly documented history of recurring drug-related audience disruptions at performances.”
However, the wording was later softened to clarify that only acts with a history of using drugs while on stage would be prohibited from playing the festival. The updated October version of Section 2.3(b) remains the same in the amendment and reads, “On stage drug use by performers is strictly prohibited. Use of performers and their associates with a documented history of on stage drug use is strictly prohibited. The festival agrees to, in its best ability, to program acts and activities that do not harm the reputation of Gulf Shores.”
When Hangout Fest organizers announced this year’s lineup Jan. 12, the same day as the City Council meeting, there appeared to be mixed reactions from concertgoers, with some wondering if the ordinance might have played a role in which artists were booked to play the weekend-long festival.
Without the rewording in the agreement, chances are Sonny Moore, better known by his moniker Skrillex, would not have landed a headlining position for this year’s festival, considering as many as 16 people were hospitalized for drug overdoses at one of his shows in Chicago this past October.
Additionally, Damien “Jr. Gong” Marley’s name and genealogy alone conjures the idea of drug use. Not only has Marley admitted to inheriting his father Bob Marley’s love of smoking marijuana, but in 2011 LA Weekly named him as one of the top 10 bands to do drugs to at Coachella.
Further, Major Lazer, an electronic act scheduled for this year’s Hangout Festival, have openly addressed the issue of drug use at festivals, calling for young people to be taught how to do drugs safely after multiple deaths were reported at New York’s Electric Zoo.
According to Brown, the city does not actually approve the festival’s lineup beforehand, but they do have the ability to deny a renewal permit the following year if anything goes awry.
“We’re not censoring this,” he said. “We’d never want to. We’re relying on the quality of past festivals.”
The agreement still requires a site-plan application to be completed annually, which the City Council can deny or revoke based on all facets of the festival, including annual performance.
“(The) franchise agreement has a 10-year life, but each year, the festival comes back for an annual permit,” Brown said.
Furthermore, if the festival fails to perform or meet its obligations, the city will have the opportunity to review and potentially deny a permit for the following year, he added. Brown said Gulf Shores is putting a lot of faith in the festival’s new co-owner, Goldenvoice, which created California’s popular Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival.
“There’s a high level of satisfaction that they’re going to continue on this preferred path of the city,” he said. “There are an awful lot of positive benefits that will come from it.”
Brown called Goldenvoice “a big fish in a big pond” and a “pretty impressive entertainment company” that will ultimately help Hangout Fest attract the biggest names in the music industry.
Because the festival has grown tremendously since its start in 2010, Brown said founder Shaul Zislin began having a more difficult time attracting more popular artists.
“He’s come on so strong and the event has become such a high-quality event, that other events were putting stipulations on other artists,” Brown said. “It was harder for our festival to get bigger names.”
“From the beginning, the Hangout Music Festival’s main priority has been to create an incredible fan experience,” Zislin said in a news release. “By aligning ourselves with Goldenvoice, who produces top festivals including Coachella, we have found a partner that shares our vision in both fan experience and music programming. This partnership offers an exciting opportunity for the overall enhancement of Hangout.”
Brown added that with the support of Goldenvoice, artists will embrace Hangout Festival even more and the partnership will make for even greater experiences for the fans, artists and the Gulf Shores community in the future.
“The city is adamant about the atmosphere that the festival will maintain,” he said.