As questions remain about venue, lineup, organizers of new Little Rock music festival halt ticket sales

Published 8 December 2017

Ticket sales for a new music festival scheduled to be hosted in Arkansas in just over three months came to a halt this week as organizers continue to work on securing a venue and big-name acts.

The Fulcrum is scheduled for March 17 and 18 and will take place at the amphitheater at Riverfront Park in downtown Little Rock, according to organizer Cliff Aaron, 43.

Representatives from the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, which oversees the amphitheater, said the festival is tentatively booked at the venue for that weekend but the contract has not been finalized.

Phyllis Lucas, senior director of event operations, said the organizers agreed to take down the website and not sell tickets until contracts have been issued and approved, though she said there was no consequence for violating the policy by selling tickets over the weekend.

By Tuesday afternoon, the website displayed a message stating that it was down due to “heavier than normal” traffic.

When details of The Fulcrum became public last month, the event was described as a fan-driven festival with acts chosen by polls on the event's website.

A Facebook post still online Thursday stated that the event had “secured the Riverfront District” and that the top-voted artists were Migos, SZA, The Roots, Jessie J, Lil Uzi Vert and Kelly Clarkson.

The website previously displayed photos of the artists, and Aaron said in November that each had given him verbal commitments. Two of the performers' managers stated otherwise.

After Aaron, a Little Rock resident, spoke with an Arkansas Online reporter, the website changed its description to state that the organizers "now will move forward with securing these artists based on these results and their date availability."

Other posts on the website and Facebook page noted that the festival would have a venue with a capacity of 40,000 and feature tattoo and piercing booths and a skate park with professional skaters.

According to the amphitheater's rental guidelines, the venue has 1,375 permanent seats, 6,500 lawn seats and 500 standing spots in the pit, totaling a capacity of about 8,400.

In a Tuesday interview, Aaron said the group has also booked other venues in Little Rock, but he could not yet disclose them.

A spokesman from the city of Little Rock said Tuesday that no venues that the city manages, which includes Riverfront Park itself, had been booked for the festival. The booking manager for the park outside the Clinton Center did not reply to a voicemail left by an Arkansas Online reporter Wednesday afternoon.

Aaron said the group initially wanted War Memorial Stadium as the festival's site, to distance the new event from Riverfest, the long-running Little Rock music festival that was shuttered in July. But he said the process of drawing up a contract was taking too long.

Lucas said it doesn’t take long to finalize booking the amphitheater — a contract can be issued an hour or two after the event organizers get back to the managers with the necessary legal information.

She said the bureau monitors advertising for events at the venues they manage.

“A lot of times they’ll have expectations of what they want to do, and as they’re planning the event, things might not work out as well as they thought they would,” Lucas said. “It may be great. Any type of music festival would be great for Little Rock.”

Thousands of tickets, have already been sold, mostly to college-aged people, Aaron said. Those remain “very legit,” though the site is under construction, he added.

According to previous versions of The Fulcrum's website, prices ranged from a $100 general admission ticket to a $300 all-access pass.

The event has around 1,100 followers on Facebook, though an Instagram post announcing a VIP ticket giveaway garnered more than 5,000 comments.

“A lot of this stuff is more word of mouth than anything, and we’ve been pushing the website more than Facebook,” Aaron said. “We’re excited to have it back up and ready to officially announce some of the bigger acts.”

Aaron said more than 14,000 people voted in the polls, with much of the voting coming from places such as Dallas, Memphis and northwest Arkansas.

Aaron said the team plans to release the names of a new set of artists who will perform every weekend for the next month, with most of the list out by mid-January and “a few surprises” in February.

"These people are buying tickets, and they're not sure who's on the ticket right now," Aaron said. "They're gonna be pleasantly surprised."

He added that the festival has 18 artists “in pocket right now,” which includes one major artist and a variety of regional and local acts.

He said the group will put up a new poll that will include more genres of music next week but has secured several country, rock and reggae groups he couldn't name yet.

“I can’t elaborate on who those guys are, but we’re diving even deeper than what we even anticipated because we’ve got some great artists that have given us a call,” Aaron said.

Two longtime Little Rock music promoters — former concert producer Butch Stone and Verizon Arena general manager Michael Marion — said in their experience, A-list artists tend to do business through companies such as Creative Artists Agency, Live Nation Entertainment and Anschutz Entertainment Group rather than on personal connections alone.

"Everybody that I talk to is like, I hope you pull it off," Aaron said with a laugh this week. "Man, I'm looking at 10 years from now. You have to have that mentality."

Joshua Stewart, a 32-year-old who lives in Conway, told Arkansas Online in a Facebook message that he definitely plans to attend.

“I’m just glad someone is trying to bring music back to Arkansas in a big way,” he wrote.

North Little Rock resident Aldo Reyes, 37, said he'd consider buying tickets for his daughters, a college student and high school senior, if the festival seems like it will live up to the hype.

He said the polls on the website appeared to be closed whenever he tried to vote for an artist and that he felt skeptical that the artists named would come to Little Rock.

"I'm very excited to see what they'll actually bring to the table," he said. "I like the concept, I like the idea, I like the background, I like the individuality. But the follow-through? I don't know."