In this 25th anniversary year for the Salt Lake City Arts Council’s wildly popular Twilight Concert Series, there will be no such thing as a free concert.
Breaking a 24-year tradition of free summer community concerts on Thursday nights, city officials announced Thursday at the Art Barn that each concert will cost $5 to attend, with season tickets for the nine-show series available for $35.
“Twilight is a cultural phenomenon that has changed the face of downtown Salt Lake City,” said Downtown Alliance executive director Jason Mathis.
Mathis said the hardest person to convince that the series should include a cost was the council’s Casey Jarman, who has led the series since its inception in 1988. “I’ve been arguing for years that it makes sense [to charge a nominal fee],” said Mathis, whose Downtown Alliance is one of the chief sponsors.
“I think it’s a necessity,” said Karen Kruger, the Salt Lake Arts Council’s new executive director.
Jarman said he realized at last summer’s closing concert — rapper Lupe Fiasco headlined — that the series had become a victim of its own success. With an estimated 55,000 crowded inside Pioneer Park, Jarman said audience members were packed in and “uncomfortable ... There was irony in the name if there ever was one,” referring to Fiasco. He added that as he walked around the Fiasco concert, he had run into a recurring problem that led to the move three years ago to permanently move the series from the much-smaller Gallivan Center to the larger Pioneer Park.
Last year, the average show attendance was 33,000, Jarman said.
“We’ve come a long way since our first season,” Jarman said.
With rising production and artist fees, Jarman said at one point he came to a crossroads: do five Twilight concerts with no fee, or put on nine concerts with a $5 fee. Nine was preferable, especially since last year’s season had just seven concerts, with the Salt Lake Arts Council not being able to afford nine concerts, he said.
“The idea is not to weed out people,” Jarman said, but to provide a better concert experience who will be there for what has always been his focus: the music.
Mathis, who has attended nearly every Twilight concert since it began its run at Pioneer Park, said at some concerts he felt the need to leave early, telling his family, “We have to get out of here — It’s getting scary.”
The $5 fee will likely ensure that the series will become self-sustaining, even though the Arts Council has decided to eat the service charges normally associated with modern-day ticketing. “We’re not trying to make it a fund-raiser,” he said.
The council has conducted focus groups and surveys to inquire about raising the fee to $5, and Jarman said support for the fees was nearly unanimous in favor of the fees. Some sponsors of the series, such as Red Bull, have increased their financial support because of the change, and concessionaires and surrounding retailers have also been welcoming of the charges, he said.
Season tickets and individual show tickets will go on sale June 1 at 10 a.m. at 24tix.com.
Ticket-holders will be allowed to enter through a separate, designated live at each entrance, allowing for three lines at each entrance for people to buy admittance (in cash only) at the gate.
Pre-sale tickets will also be available at any Graywhale Entertainment store.
“The Mayor’s Office is supportive of the Salt Lake City Arts Council’s decision to charge a nominal fee for the Twilight Concert Series shows,” said Art Raymond, deputy director of communications for Mayor Ralph Becker. “It is our understanding that this revenue will not only help fund the popular summer concerts downtown, but many other arts events in the City.”
2012 Twilight Concert series line-up at Pioneer Park
July 5 • Beach House with The Walkmen
July 12 • Raphael Saadiq with JJ Grey & Mofro
Aug. 2 • My Morning Jacket with TBA
Aug. 9 • Passion Pit with Austra
Aug. 16 • Iron and Wine with Kathleen Edwards
Aug. 23 •M. Ward with Devotchka
Aug. 30 • Common with TBA
Bands to play the July 19 and 26 concerts will be announced later. Gates open at 5 p.m. Tickets will be $5 for each concert, available at the gate or before the event at 24Tix.com and Graywhale Entertainment stores, commencing on June 1. For more details, go to www.twilightconcertseries.com