Salt Lake City’s Twilight Concert Series was on life support, in a medically induced coma — critically injured after years of declining revenues and six-figure cost overruns.
But a partnership between the Salt Lake City Arts Council Foundation and concert promoter Broadway Media, announced Wednesday night at the Finch Lane Gallery in Salt Lake City, has the live-music institution out of bed, discharged from the hospital and planning its 30th birthday party — and possibly many more.
The popular series, owned by the nonprofit arts council but largely funded by the city and county, had planned last fall to go dark for 2018 while it sought to reassess and possibly reorganize its concert program. Under this pilot-program deal, though, Broadway Media will take responsibility for staging five Thursday night concerts this August and September, and will move the series back to the 7,000-capacity Gallivan Center after seven years at Pioneer Park. Tickets will cost $10.
“Twilight is one of the most beloved public arts programs in the city, and I am so happy we were able to find a way to bring it back for 2018,” Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said. “This partnership allows the music to go on while we continue to explore ways to strengthen the concert series for the future.”
Kayvon Motiee, president of Broadway Media, said he hopes this trial run paves the way for more shows.
“It’s a one-year deal that we came together for — we’re looking at it as a pilot. We certainly hope, if things go well, that we’re able to extend that,” Motiee said. “But the idea was to come together, see if we could save it for this year, see how it goes and then try to continue it for the future.”
He said last October’s news that Twilight would be shelved for at least 2018 and possibly forever spurred him and one his colleagues, Jake Jensen, Broadway’s Vice President of Events, to make some calls to see whether they might salvage it.
They reached out to the Karen Krieger, executive director of the arts council, in November to discuss some options.
“The Twilight Concert Series going away is not good for our community,” Motiee said. “When we first heard about it, we were just sad. We’re fans.”
Though an initial meeting discouraged him — “If I’m being completely honest, we met for probably two hours in this building, and I left the meeting, saying, ‘Well, at least we tried’” — follow-up efforts from Krieger and proposals exchanged between the two sides, plus the Gallivan Center’s willingness to return to its role as host venue, led to significant progress.
That effort led to the arts council voting unanimously Wednesday afternoon — “With no discussion,” Krieger added — to approve the terms of a contract, which was signed at the news conference.
Motiee added that now that the deal was official, putting a lineup together in the next six months is the new challenge.
“As exciting as today is, the real work begins right now. We are behind the eight ball a little bit, as far as booking talent,” he said. “We’ve got some offers out there we’re working on it right now. The real work begins now. But we’ll worry about that tomorrow. Today’s a celebration.”
Jensen was less concerned about the tight schedule, though, noting that his company’s experience with planning events such as KXRK 96.3 FM’s annual Big-Ass Show means “It’s actually right on time for us. We’re very confident with the time we have.” Broadway Media owns that station, also known as X96, and six others in the Salt Lake City market.
Krieger said there will be a joint committee formed involving members of Broadway Media and the arts council that will have input on who plays SLC, and who will “curate this so that we can ensure it has the same quality and same feel that Twilight always has. That was certainly one of the great selling points of this alliance.”
Changing the financing of the series was a necessity to continue it. In 2016, Krieger acknowledged that although city funding for Twilight had increased over the years, it had not kept pace with expenditures required for artist fees, production fees, insurance costs, public safety and cleanup.
The past two years have seen about $250,000 in emergency, unallocated city funding go toward staging the Twilight schedules. Meanwhile, the arts council had approached the City Council in a January 2017 work session with a request for an annual $200,000 increase in the Twilight budget.
Two of the seven 2017 shows hit the revenue target of $107,000.
Motiee pointed out that the existing infrastructure at the Gallivan Center will help rein in some of the usual costs. And Erin Mendenhall, chairwoman of the City Council, pointed out Wednesday night that “there is no new financial investment required of the city in this partnership. It’s incredible what has happened here.”
The result is that, for one more year at least, Twilight is still with us.
“We’re really excited to see what this summer turns into,” said Kerri Hopkins, chairwoman of the arts council board. “… Let’s celebrate the fact that Twilight lives. I’ve always heard your 30s are better than your 20s!”