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Top Ten 2011: MTK, The Music Festival That Wasn’t

Posted on 28 December 2011

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Billed as a festival that would marry fashion and local cuisine with some of the biggest talents in the independent music scene, the MTK: Music to Know festival seemed to have it all, except for the crowds.

After a year of planning and dodging residents who opposed the festival’s original location in Amagansett, just a week before the MTK: Music to Know Festival was set to take stage nestled among greenery cradling an unused portion of a runway at the East Hampton Airport, organizers Bill Collage and Chris Jones pulled the plug on the event, citing poor ticket sales.

“It is with heavy, heavy heart that we regret to inform you that the inaugural MTK: Music To Know Festival in East Hampton will not take place,” said festival promoters in a release. “Despite our unique vision and arranging a world-class line-up, ticket sales were not adequate to allow the event to continue. We wanted to let everyone know now before engaging more deeply.”

“Along with our ticket holders, vendors, sponsors, business associates, colleagues and friends in the community, we too are filled with deep disappointment,” continued the release. “We pledge to endure during this difficult time with the same integrity and professionalism displayed throughout the creation of this event.”

Collage and Jones, Sag Harbor residents, conceived the festival after Jones held several intimate, yet successful, concerts at his hotel Sole East in Montauk. The screenwriter (Collage) and hotelier (Jones) hoped to bring up-and-coming, as well as celebrated indie-music artists, to the East End for a two-day festival that would also feature beer and wine gardens, high-end and local cuisine, an area for children, and special access to artists in the VIP area.

The festival was to feature headliners Vampire Weekend, Ellie Goulding and Bright Eyes, among others including Dawes, The Limousines, Fitz & the Tantrums, Tom Tom Club, Cold War Kids and Suddyn, a band formed by Montauk residents Alan and Jarrett Steil.

In addition to named acts, it was heavily rumored among industry sources that actress Gwyneth Paltrow would also perform, as well as Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder.

According to Jones, in order for the festival to go on, 5,500 tickets of the 9,500 tickets up for sale needed to be sold. Tickets were priced at $195 for a two-day pass, and two-day VIP passes for $695. One-day passes were also later offered as an option for festival attendees.

As of the Saturday before the festival, organizers had only sold 2,500 tickets. While it was possible that more tickets would have sold in the coming week, Jones said that was a possibility he unfortunately could not count on.

“The bottom line is when you run an event, you have a certain amount of losses you can take, and then you have to make a decision,” he said.

The event was plagued from the beginning, when it was first proposed at an Amagansett venue and a handful of critics from the hamlet questioned the East Hampton Town Board’s  decision to grant Collage and Jones a commercial mass gathering permit in the first place. Comments appeared to wane after the festival was moved to the East Hampton Airport, and particularly after a promised $100,000 was set aside in an escrow account for a number of local charities.

As to what led to the lackluster sales, Jones said he could not say.

“One thing I will stand behind is the bands,” he said. “We really feel from the bottom of our hearts that we had an amazing lineup. As to what happened thereafter, who knows, but the lineup I will stand behind.”

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