TriTone Festival Debacle

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The TriTone Latin Music and Arts Festival was the festival Latin music fans had been waiting for. BRC Entertainment, the festival organizers, set out to create the biggest Latin music festival in California. It was a bold and risky move that had great potential, if executed well. The initial lineup was strong, even if it left a lot to be desired, and the event’s organizers made assurances that more artists would be added to the roster. Although there were some big headliners, it seemed not quite enough for a three-day festival. Tickets were moderately priced, starting at $120 for a weekend pass, and attendees had the option of camping onsite at El Prado Regional Park in Chino. Weekend camping passes ranged from $250-500.

For obvious reasons, the festival was dubbed the Latin music Coachella. Finally, someone had taken notes and organized a festival that showcased the best of Latin Alternative music in a much more accessible location and with a better climate than the desert of Palm Springs. Yet, there was something about it that didn’t sit well, and many questions began to come to the surface. Was it too ambitious? No single day tickets available? What acts would ensure that the festival would sell well? Were people prepared for this type of festival in California, in the U.S.? Did it really need to be three days? Is this too good to be true?

A little more than a month after the lineup was announced, the promoters changed their Facebook cover to a simplified lineup that dropped many of the bands but offered no explanations. The festival was still listed as a three-day event, but no one knew any additional details. Those who had purchased tickets wondered what it all meant and some became irate to the point of venting their frustrations on the event’s Facebook wall. The contempt and frustration grew even more as the administrators of the Facebook page continued to post videos of artists that were supposedly going to perform, without acknowledging any of the comments or addressing in any way the changes to the lineup. Some ticketholders accused the administrators of blatantly deleting their comments altogether. The only response from BRC Entertainment was that the full lineup would be revealed soon. A new slimmer lineup was announced in mid-September and that’s when a barrage of fraud claims began to flood the event’s Facebook page. The new lineup had dropped many artists, including Zoé, Fobia, Belanova, La Santa Cecilia, Moenia, Los Bunkers, and Panda, among others. It was still being advertised as a three-day festival (Oct. 19-21), but the first day was now billed as a free event that would “showcase some of the best Latin DJ’s from Mexico and L.A.”

The complete lineup was released on October 4th. While it’s still taking place at El Prado Park, the bill now features Ximena Sariñana, Ceci BastidaRaskahuele, Vida Boulevard, and Sonsoles, along with three DJs. For Saturday, the festival price was lowered to $15 and Sunday tickets are now $25. The announcement has been received with mixed feelings. Those who purchased tickets early are being offered the opportunity to get VIP passes for the modified event or a full refund. Many people who bought advance tickets, however, felt they were treated unfairly after paying such a high ticket price for bands they wanted to see live.

So what happened? Steve Ortega from BRC Entertainment claims that one of the reasons for the changes in the lineup was the lack of ticket sales. In a recent interview, he said only 300 tickets had been sold as of the end of July. He speculated that L.A. radio station Super Estrella might have played a role given that they were in the midst of promoting their own festival scheduled for August and would not allow TriTone to buy airtime. Recently, it came to light that BRC Entertainment’s financial struggles were the real reason several artists had to cancel their participation. MX Live, the main talent buyer for the festival, was able to secure new shows for some of those artists, and are now competing for the same audience on two of the three festival days.

TriTone organizers need to look at how Coachella became a three-day festival. They started out small and built it up to the degree that now they can do two identical three-day weekends. In its first year, Coachella organizers nearly went bankrupt. Delusions of grandeur and overambitious goals only end up hurting the fans of the artists in the long run. The way BRC Entertainment behaved under the circumstances created mistrust and skepticism about future BRC ventures. What was supposed to be a step in the right direction for the Latin music scene has now been tainted by broken promises and contracts. Let’s hope BRC Entertainment learns from this debacle and will perhaps one day deliver the festival they first promised.

From proclaiming themselves as “The Largest Latin Music and Arts Festival in the U.S.”

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