On 8th February 2015, respected Swansea based Delusion Events, which joint hosted the Trance arena at the 2014 festival, released a damning statement publicly accusing some of the other organisers of the Together Festival of financial malpractice and mismanagement. This has been quickly followed by statements being released by some of the other parties with counter accusations of negligence and unprofessional conduct.

This sudden public airing of grievances will have come as a surprise to many of the music fans who had been eagerly awaiting news of a Together Festival for 2015. Such is the strength of feelings following the event that Nash Gooderham, Chief Executive of Live Management Group, told TranceFixxed that a 2015 festival will NOT be going ahead due to the extent of the financial losses incurred at the 2014 event and due to the irreconcilable differences between certain stakeholders.

So what really happened last May? A TranceFixxed investigation including interviews with the key people involved has revealed a tale of confusion and broken promises, culminating in passionate, hard working people who have incurred significantly damaging financial loss, angry and disillusioned with the events, raging at perceived injustices.

Together Festival 2014 Banner

Together Festival 2014

On 31st May 2014, the Together Festival was held in Carmarthen. The festival was a brand new event and was Wales’ biggest multi-genre music event in 5 years, so expectations were high that this would be the start of something big. For the music fans who attended on the day, the sun shone, the showground was buzzing and the event was widely hailed as a success. There were of course teething problems, especially with the camping, but nothing significant enough to detract from the positive experience had by the majority who attended.

The 2014 Together Festival was set up and organised as a collaborative partnership between Birmingham based Live Management Group (LMG), local photographer Jason Thomas from Carmarthen, Craig Davies, Managing Director of Obsession Artist Management, and the brands which hosted the different arenas which included Delusion Events. With a common passion for music, the partnership was built on goodwill, trust and close communication. Without one organisation or individual taking the overall lead in the venture it meant there was a wider group who would all benefit from the festival, any losses would be spread around, and all parties would have a say in how the event was organised. However, it also meant that there wasn’t one entity orchestrating the arrangements, and the agreement of roles and responsibilities and communication weren’t as tight as they could have been.

The first sign of problems was when the paper tickets for the event were printed and distributed without barcodes as originally requested by one of the partners, which made accounting for the individual tickets significantly harder. The tickets were distributed to trusted local distributors covering South Wales and the South West and initially ticket sales went well. Certain distributors were more successful than others but further sales were hampered by logistical problems redistributing the printed tickets to where they were needed most, which contributed to not all the tickets being sold prior to the event.

The capacity for the festival was 5,000 people, but on the day only 3,032 fans attended the event with 500 of them entering with free guest passes. Any event where only 50% of capacity are paying fans would struggle to make a profit and for the organisers of the fledgling Together Festival this would have been a bitter blow.

LMG were responsible for the financial accounting for the festival so should have been involved or at least aware of all procurement for the festival. However, due to reasons which are still disputed, certain individual(s) representing the festival arranged suppliers and service providers without properly communicating to all of the other partners which resulted in unexpected invoices requesting payment being provided to LMG in the weeks and months which followed the festival.

LMG explained to TranceFixxxed what else they believe caused the 2014 festival to be over budget:

“Extra arenas were added against our advice, thus raising the costs of marquees, staff, security and lighting etc. Secondly the camping option was added. The interest in camping was far lower than any revenue received from adding this feature and therefore did not outweigh the significant costs of offering this facility. LMG again did advise against this initially.”

Craig Davies shared a different perspective of where the additional costs came from:

“The number of arenas were the same from day one. One of the arenas had higher artist costs as more well known names acts such as Judge Jules were performing, which were necessary to help sell tickets. The costs of security were inflated and health and safety costs were £20k. When asked, the organisers of other festivals advised me they were surprised a third party was paid to do this, as they would have expected this to be done by LMG.”

The uncontrolled spending and lower than expected ticket sales subsequently meant the organisers incurred substantial financial losses and caused LMG to delay publication of the festival accounts to the other parties in their partners until such time as the full financial picture was clear.

Together Festival 2014 Banner

Allegations

LMG are adamant that a ‘break even figure’ for the festival had not been established prior to the festival due to the uncertainty around some of the costs. A number of the other stakeholders are equally adamant that a ‘break even figure’ had been advised up front, with 2,400 ticket sales being quoted by Delusion Events. This disparity in expectations meant that some of the brands still expected to make a return on their investment based the actual number of tickets sold, so when LMG advised of the financial loss and declined to provide evidence in the form of the accounts, some people cried foul play.

When he spoke to TranceFixxed, Nash Gooderham accepted that the allegations against LMG will not be completely addressed until the festival accounts have been published, which is why, Nash confirmed, LMG “will send the accounts out this week via recorded 1st class delivery” to the other partners in the festival management team.

(Ed Note: Confirmation that the accounts have been received and that they detail expenditure in accordance with what LMG have advised is still pending at the time of writing, although no evidence has been shared with TranceFixxed to indicate that LMG are not trustworthy.)

Allegations have also been made against Craig Davies about perceived discrepancies with the paper ticket sales, based on the amount paid to LMG for the ticket sales and the lack of accountability for the location of the unpaid tickets.

Craig Davies responded:

“In the last few days of the site build, I was told by suppliers of Sound and Light in the main arena that they had not been paid and were not going to unload the lorries until they were paid the unpaid invoices which had been sent to LMG. So the last couple of days building up to the event was spent driving up and down the country collecting ticket sales money which was then paid to these suppliers on the Friday (the day before the event). All other money collected from tickets sold was transferred directly to the LMG account.”

In a recent Facebook statement, Craig acknowledged that “a few of the tickets were distributed to new sellers who have since misplaced them” but has evidence that “the majority of tickets have been accounted for”; LMG disputes this, and discussions between them are ongoing.

(Ed Note: Craig Davies as Managing Director of Obsession Artist Management and Brand Marketing Manager at Escape Swansea has been a popular, highly respected and prominent member of the South Wales music community for over 6 years. TranceFixxed cannot categorically confirm or deny the allegations against him, but we would like to put it on record that if they are true, it will have been an act out of character against his previous trustworthy reputation.)

During our discussions with LMG, Nash Gooderham kindly facilitated the provision of an official statement regarding the 2014 Together Festival for our publication, which is as follows:

LMG Statement on Together Festival 2014

Together Festival 2014 was a festival that LMG was brought into as a managing partner. It should be mentioned that it was never LMG’s concept and LMG only had a 20% stake in the event. We met our main partner who pitched the concept to us and we helped to fulfil his dream. All partners were contracted to fund their own arena and in return would receive 10% of the Nett profits from the festival should it make one. LMG did not write up these contracts and were never responsible for them. Had we met our initial budgeted sales target of 5,000 then the festival would have clearly made all partners money back with a good profit for all involved. Had we met the revised budgeted sales target of 4,000, again we would have covered all investment amounts including our own, however even this revised target was not met with 500 of the final figure being free guests.

From day one of planning the festival we made it clear to all partners that we weren’t promoters. We were very clear on our responsibilities, those being clearly set out; acquisition of the site, application for and granting the Licence, handling of all Safety Advisory Group meetings and requirements and delivery of the compliant event on the day. We made it clear we would deliver the festival but selling tickets and getting people to the festival would be in the hands of the promoters. The festival had a maximum capacity of 5000 people. The main brand made promises to sell at least 2500 tickets alone along with assurances to support this from our main partner, which left the smaller brands only having to cover 500 tickets sold each. Had these numbers been met the festival would have made a clear profit and hit the required targets we had budgeted for. This did not happen and the final headcount as confirmed by security and submitted to the Authorities (required by law) was 3032 through the gates which also included free guests. The free guest total of 500 was confirmed to us in writing from our main partner.

The costs of producing the festival came in way over budget for several reasons. Firstly extra arenas were added against our advice thus raising the costs of marquees, staff, security and lighting etc. Secondly the camping option was added. The interest in camping was far lower than any revenue received from adding this feature and therefore did not outweigh the significant costs of offering this facility, LMG again did advise against this initially.

We only issued physical tickets to our main partner who was solely responsible for the distribution of these tickets under a distribution agreement which clearly stated that all unsold ticket must be returned after the event for auditing purposes. £55,000 worth of tickets were distributed to this partner and we only ever received revenue back to the amount of £29,813. Although we are not making accusations, we have never received back any of the unsold ticket books despite numerous requests for them as per the written agreement. After reading the personal statement from this partner, he clearly tried to shift the spotlight from himself and on to LMG but what he actually did was raise questions over the paper ticket sales and the reasons behind the failure to return the unsold books. We also discovered that physical ticket revenue was used to cover individual expenses which was never authorised. Considering our main partner confirms that LMG had full control over accounting, we are still confused as to why financial decisions were made by our main partner to withhold ticket revenue funds for expenses. This is against the law and is classed as theft.

We hold our hands up and apologise deeply to all partners for the fact that the final accounts have taken far longer to produce than we ever planned but we did make it clear to all partners that these were delayed due to the non return of tickets from our main partner and the influx of invoices outlining costs we were not aware of and had not budgeted for. We have been extremely diligent in showing that every penny spent and received by LMG has been accounted for as all of our revenue was received from external independent operators such as the ticket agents and bar operator. Once seen we believe that all partners will realise that LMG is not the villain of this story but rather just another partner who lost a great deal of money on this enterprise.

LMG is an experienced and highly reputable operator who has worked with some of the biggest names and brands in this industry for well over a decade. Our honesty, integrity and professionalism has never before been questioned and hopefully never will be again. We strongly regret ever getting involved in this enterprise and will take the necessary steps to try to ensure that our brand is never again soiled by such an inexperienced partners actions. LMG has lost a significant level of investment in this festival as well as time and effort, something we have not been recognised or thanked for. The investment we lost has also had a detrimental effect on our other businesses and as a result has caused us great financial problems.

Note – For comparison, the corresponding statements issued by Delusion Events and Craig Davies are available HERE and HERE respectively

Following the release of the above statement by LMG, Craig Davies contacted TranceFixxed to clarify a point about the printed ticket sales:

“What LMG have not mentioned is that another partner collected an additional £11k in printed ticket sales which was not paid to LMG. As the communication had already broken down at this point, this money was used to pay suppliers. I have the emails showing what was collected and what was used to pay for what. LMG ignored him when he asked what to do so he obviously paid the suppliers that were demanding payments, as if he hadn’t done so it would have compromised the festival.”

Conclusion

It is reasonable to assume that everyone responsible organising the 2014 Together Festival did so with the best of intentions. It is also probably fair to conclude that the coordination and communication had room for improvement and that there was a naivety in the planning of the event. Certain people had optimistic, inaccurate expectations which were not corrected until it was far too late and communication broke down as the full extent of the financial losses were revealed. The failure to re-establish communication has meant that the opportunity to have a private discussion to learn the lessons from the mistakes that were made so as to ensure that a profitable 2015 festival could be held was missed, and instead the matter has been very publically brought to everyone’s attention, potentially damaging the reputations of all concerned.

It is self evident to TranceFixxed that the financial failure of the 2014 Together Festival was not the fault of any one individual or organisation, and no amount of finger pointing will change that. It is everyone at TranceFixxed’s sincere hope that the organisers of the 2014 Together Festival will choose to see past their differences and bring this matter to a swift and amicable conclusion.

The partners mentioned in this article have all confirmed that while they incurred substantial financial losses from the event, thankfully none of them have been crippling enough to affect the solvency of the companies and they will continue to operate in South Wales for the foreseeable future.

Despite the financial problems, the 2014 Together Festival was enjoyed by the majority who attended and there is still a real appetite for another dance music festival in Wales. It would be nice to think that at some point in the near future that some of the organisers will work together again to arrange another Together Festival, and that it is a profitable success for the Welsh music industry to build upon.