Montgomery County blames $1.3M music festival loss on promoter

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas – A government agency in Montgomery County lost more than $1.3 million of public funds on a music festival, Channel 2 Investigates has learned.

[READ: Rock the Ranch profit and loss statement]

“Honestly, it wasn’t well attended, and we learn from that and we move on down the road, and we wouldn’t do that again,” East Montgomery County Improvement District CEO Frank McCrady said.

The taxing entity, which collects most of its annual $10.5 million budget from sales tax, has lost big money before on an ill-fated project.

McCrady and some board members have also been criticized for expensive travel.

The “Rock the Ranch” event took place last May in New Caney. Ticket sales for the medley of expensive musical acts were grossly overestimated. Based on documents obtained by Channel 2 Investigates, EMCID expected to reap $920,000 from ticket sales. Instead, the figure was $46,749, about 5 percent of the governing board’s estimate.

[READ: Ticket sales]

The event included a number of big name musical acts, including Jason Derulo, Sundance Head, Vanilla Ice, Salt-N-Pepa and a number of others.

Derulo’s appearance alone cost $225,000. In addition, many of the musical acts had very specific and pricey transportation, security, accommodation and hospitality requirements.

[READ: Derulo's hospitality request]

McCrady said he and the board kept a watchful eye on spending and that the event was in line with budget-spending estimates. McCrady and some other board members said the event failed because it was not marketed and promoted properly by the group hired to do that job, Vancouver-based 542 Entertainment.

KPRC’s calls to 542 Entertainment were not returned.

“We’re not going to do business with them again. That’s kind of where we are,” McCrady said.

The promoter, who was paid more than $80,000 for various services, was not chosen through the typical government procurement process, a request for proposal. 542 Entertainment was selected from a pool of one.

“We went to a couple of conferences and, again, they were present earlier, they were panelists at these conferences providing expert advice to others in the industry. Certainly, I don’t think you’re selected as a panelist if you’re not well regarded in the industry,” McCrady said.

New Caney-area residents interviewed by Channel 2 were roundly critical of the event, but less so of the East Montgomery County Improvement District.

“They do a lot of good things for us,” resident Carol Smith said.