Lost Money on Squamish Music Fest: Organizer

Stawamus stage crowd-MAIN

A file photo of festival crows at the Stawamus Stage. The organiser of the festival, brand.LIVE says they lost money on the festival.
Photo: Rachel Boguski

By Annie Ellison
Published: Oct. 19, 2013

Squamish Valley Music Festival brought thousands of music lovers to town, raised our profile, and boosted local business.

But it wasn’t the win-win most believe it to be, at least not for the organizers who claim they lost money on the event.

“I mean it’s an expensive undertaking and it takes a while to get up and running.” Paul Runnals 

brand.LIVE, the company behind the Squamish Valley Music Festival, didn’t make any profit from the two-and-a-half day concert, said Paul Runnals, senior vice president of production.

In fact, they lost money.

“I mean it’s an expensive undertaking and it takes a while to get up and running,” said Runnals.

“When you start up a new event, you’re enticing people to the area who aren’t used to going,” he said.

Waste and traffic management, security and medical resources employed, and payment for the artists all add up, he said.

It’s not like the festival undersold on tickets.

The site capacity was 19,000 people a day. On the first day, attendance was just under 18,000 and on the second day it was just over 17,000 people.

“Until you’re sold out you can always do better,” said Runnals.

 According to a report compiled by the Conference Board of Canada entitled “Festival and Events Assessment Model,” the local economy benefited to the tune of $9.9 million dollars from the festival.

The report was paid for by brand.LIVE, Runnals said.

“The festival commissioned and paid for the report as a tool to qualify financial and tourism benefits to the region,” he said.

The report also claims the festival generated $18.7 million across B.C. by way of travel and accommodation. However, there’s no breakdown of where these numbers come from.

The Conference Board of Canada has “of Canada” in its name, but it’s not an official or government supported think tank.

They are a policy analysis think tank that analyzes market trends and creates reports and seminars from them.

Councillor Ron Sander wants to see a breakdown of the numbers, too, along with a strategy for the festival that incorporates out-of-town ‘weekend warriors’ as well as locals.

“We need some principles if we want to double the attendance,” he said in a Committee of the Whole district council meeting.

“Two-and-a-half hours to get home from Brittania Beach isn’t reasonable,” he said.

brand.LIVE originally struck a ten-year deal with the District of Squamish, and Runnals sees short-term losses as an investment for the future.

“We’re in it for the long haul,” said Runnals.

Runnals says working out a deal with local organizations and expanding on free labour is another avenue BrandLIVE may explore.

Event production goliath Live Nation will team up with brand.LIVE to host next year’s festival, which will have double the capacity.

Runnals says in 2014, guests can expect to see some of the biggest musical acts in the world. 

The lineup has not yet been released.


  1. Dave says:

    So not a great money maker for the organizers….So change the strategy a bit. There can be no doubt that such an event and similar ones are a real boon to the economy of our valley. So, why not move into “Sponsorship advertising” in a big way….. set up a system where all those businesses which may benefit substantially from the event can contribute to the event by sponsorship at a related cost in return for significant advertising . I note that this has been done on a small scale but with professional co-ordination this could be much more effective. Major sports events do this through necessity all the time. This should be part of the tasks done by the new District appointee for Events and Filming. All potentially benefiting businesses should be a working and paying part of any event like this. The Chamber of Commerce should also very much be involved in this process

    • Eric Andersen says:

      Dave, our volunteer-run community festivals should also benefit from District staff time attention, if this is what you are proposing for the major commercial events.

      • Dave says:

        Absolutely Eric. But my main point was that those businesses which get free benefit from any event should really channel back some of their profit to the respective event organization from which they got the benefit. And, right, this should also include volunteer events too which often have similar steep overheads.

        • Doug says:

          Dave, the model you describe does not recognize the investment those businesses have already made that allow the event organizer to hold their event. For instance, a hotel that has invested x million $ in infrastructure is providing services that make it possible to have a two day festival (because there is a place for the event customers to stay). The benefit to the local businesses is not really “free”.

  2. Ryan says:

    If they lost money on those numbers brand LIVE needs to fire all their production managers and start fresh. Period.

  3. Gord says:

    @dave If a business knows it will be busy because of an event would be a waste of money to sponsor it as you will already be busy. Doug makes a valid point people go into business to make money not give it away. The cost alone to run any operation in the sea to sky is huge. If anything anyone selling goods and services in these type of events should have to pay more to be a part of it.

  4. adam says:

    Yet another business in Squamish that has big ideas but loses money. It’s simply not acceptable to have the traffic issues this event caused and to not make profit. Based on the lines of traffic, another 10-20 per head would have been totally acceptable. It’s just what good business does…makes money. Why are we all so scared of this. I think the event will be a great feature for Squamish in the future but you have to come out with just some profit.

  5. Deb McBride says:

    It is not as if businesses need the event. In fact customers were inconvenienced by it. The valley was bombarded by the noise, traffic and intoxicated participants, etc. When the D O S caters to proponents, the local impact needs to be factored into the equation.