The popular three-day summer concert Beach Road Weekend, which brought thousands of visitors to the Island, will no longer call Martha’s Vineyard home.
Vineyard Arts and Culture Foundation announced in a press release on Wednesday that financial struggles pushed the festival and the MV Concert Series off-Island; the foundation says that the music festival will instead be headed to the Cape in 2025.
Beach Road organizers signed a three-year agreement with the Town of Tisbury that was scheduled to end after the 2024 festival.
The reaction to the news in Tisbury has been mixed, with many locals disappointed that the concert will not be returning; while some town officials say that the festival was too big for the small town.
Adam Epstein, festival founder and CEO of Innovation Arts & Entertainment, said in a phone conversation with The Times that he returned to the Island in the early 2000s after vacationing here for years to find that all the clubs were gone, all the music venues that the Island had been known for.
“Touring bands came to the Island all the time,” Epstein said, “and there were places where bands could play. We thought, let’s see if we can bring some of this back.”
His Chicago-based company started off producing the MV Concert Series, Epstein explained, which was successful, filling Island venues before the pandemic.
“Then the pandemic happened and the whole population on the Island changed,” Epstein said. “The type of person now living on the Island changed and the whole issue of actually going out in public changed. It was a cataclysmic shift in our success … we went from selling out everything on the MV Concert Series to having a hundred people come.
“It was tough to watch and tough on finances. Our sole source of revenue came down to ticket sales.” Epstein said there were some benefactors who were supportive, but it wasn’t enough to save the series.
Beach Road Weekend presented another set of challenges, he said.
“Beach Road is a whole different animal,” Epstein said. “Every single person at Innovation Arts worked on Beach Road Weekend every single day. It took that much effort to make this happen. The logistical challenge on an island … coordinating housing for people working on it … we had 700 ferry segments of cargo over three weeks for Beach Road Weekend. Then we had 300 beds a night to find and manage for our staff two weeks before and a week after Beach Road Weekend, and that’s in addition to the guests and the talent.”
Epstein said in other locations, “you would be working with a 700-room Westin and you could make one phone call; here, no property could handle that.”
“We put everything we had into this,” Epstein said. “We worked and loved it … in spite of all the random criticism and lack of being embraced by the town that hosted us, we absolutely loved and relished the happiness that we generated and the economic impact we generated. It fulfilled everything we said it would do.”
The festival began in 2019 in Tisbury with the goal of creating a “destination event that would rival any other in New England,” the release states. But the festival “yielded a significant financial deficit.”
Despite its popularity, Beach Road Weekend also received pushback from neighbors around Veterans Memorial Park, where the festival is held, over the noise generated by the concerts.
Reached on Wednesday, Tisbury finance committee member Nancy Gilfoy said Beach Road Weekend was too big for Tisbury. She said that there were impacts to Veterans Park where the concert was held. Gilfoy also said that the concert was a strain on town resources and staff, which are already limited.
“I think it was beneficial for the whole Island,” Gilfoy said of the benefit to Island businesses. “But because Tisbury is the gateway to the Island, we can’t necessarily support things that are Island-wide.”
But some concertgoers and business representatives are not as happy about the concert going away.
“I’m super bummed out about it. I live in town and went every year,” said Taylor Stone, an artist, as well as a representative of the Vineyard Haven Business Association and the village’s cultural district.
Stone said that not necessarily all of the businesses in Tisbury benefitted from the concert, but any time an event encourages visitors and Islanders to go to Vineyard Haven, that’s a good thing. She was also appreciative of Epstein’s support of artists and businesses in town. “It’s disappointing because he was opening up to more and more collaboration,” Stone said. “Going forward, it’s sad to see what could have happened.”
The 2020 concert was canceled due to the pandemic. Then, despite having sold-out shows and efforts to improve fundraising, “inflationary pressure and supply chain challenges” from the pandemic followed the festival in 2022 and led to losses exceeding $1 million, the release said.
According to the release, festival operators thought the 2022 experience would bring “financial and operational efficiency” the following year, but to “their surprise and disappointment,” the same financial pressures followed and the festival was impacted by “extraordinarily high cost for cargo, on-Island accommodations for working crew, costs for on-Island labor and equipment, and off-Island rental equipment.”
The release states the festival organizers came to the realization that costs of producing a festival on Martha’s Vineyard were “simply too high” and did not align with the foundation’s fundraising goals.
“This past Beach Road Weekend was fantastic,” Epstein says in the release. “Seeing Mumford and Sons headline an event we had built from scratch over the span of five years was exhilarating. Yet, the festival had very clear and unrelenting challenges. For every dollar we saved via experience and efficiencies, our costs would increase by two dollars from other factors. We could never catch up. Perseverance and a drive toward efficiency weren’t enough. Hotel costs for our staff, cargo, and ferry-related expenses, and extra costs associated with doing the festival on an island led to an extra $1.25 million in expense each year over what the same festival would have cost on the mainland.”
“We see a pathway where Beach Road Weekend can be successful for audiences and as a vehicle for good, but not with the extra financial challenges presented by the Vineyard’s unique location,” Beach Road Weekend co-producer Joe Kosin said in the release. “So, the festival will take 2024 off for a redesign [of] a location on Cape Cod to be announced at a later date. Same great festival — new location!”