Frantic dash for festival cash

2014-09-28 15:00

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With just three weeks to go until “Africa’s biggest music festival”, the organisers of the TribeOne Festival were sending desperate SMSes to the City of Tshwane, pleading for more money.

City Press has seen scores of SMSes and emails between the city and the organisers, who had promised music fans they’d get to see international superstars like Nicki Minaj and J Cole during a three-day festival in Cullinan, outside Pretoria.

In one lengthy text message, a representative from organisers Rockstar4000 asks that they “reprioritise some of the infrastructure development budget”.

The representative goes on to ask whether the city can underwrite R20?million to the organisers.

“Had the status with finance yesterday evening after our meeting. The ticket sales scenario we are faced with as discussed is if the ticket sales don’t increase dramatically to the 30?000 tickets sold mark we discussed, then we are exposed by R35?million in cash flow shortfall for this year,” the SMS, sent on September 3, reads.

The festival sold just 4?000 tickets.

TribeOne spokesperson Derrick Kaufmann said the only reason the organisers asked for a reallocation was because the city had already failed to deliver all three performance stages.

“If the city had completed the area on time, we would have had the GPS coordinates [for the venue] to give to the public and better promote the event. It all goes back to infrastructure,” Kaufmann said.

The concert was initiated by Sony Music Entertainment SA. Two of the company’s top local executives are TribeOne directors.

In another SMS exchange, a Sony representative tells Tshwane officials the record company will not offer any guarantees, even if the city forks out more money.

Kaufmann said the money was necessary if the festival was to be moved to Loftus Versveld in Pretoria – the alternative venue the parties had settled on should the Cullinan site not be ready.

“We approached them with this alternative months ago, but they said moving it to the stadium would have political implications,” Kaufmann said.

According to an email sent to a Tshwane official, superstar Minaj – who was paid R10?million – was to have a special rehearsal area, but this still hadn’t been organised by September?4.

On that day, a Rockstar4000 representative asked the city to give them the National Theatre in Pretoria as a space for Minaj to rehearse.

“The setup of this space, together with the accessibility to the loading bay, is ideal as we can bring her in for rehearsals in a very concealed manner so nobody would see her or realise it’s her,” the email reads.

Two days later, there was still no response from the city about this proposal.

The city told City Press this week it had taken the matter to arbitration in an attempt to get back R25?million from the TribeOne organisers.

This was after the city launched an urgent court bid to force the festival to go ahead. The bid was thrown out of court.

Tshwane spokesperson Selby Bokaba said the information contained in the SMSes and emails vindicated the city’s insistence that the cancellation of the festival was never about undelivered infrastructure.

“The real issue has always been about money. We did everything to ensure that the festival went ahead,” Bokaba said.

Kaufmann denied that TribeOne ever had money issues, saying Sony was one of the biggest brands in

the world.

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