Steamboat’s concerts don’t come free |

Steamboat’s concerts don’t come free

Summer series projects to be ‘on budget’ as season ends

Spectators attend the Free Summer Concert Series on Friday featuring the Emmitt-Nershi Band. Organizers said the series was on budget for this year.
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How to help

The Steamboat Free Summer Concert Series accepts donations via its website at For information about how to become a corporate sponsor, call John Waldman at 970-879-7179.

— When Colorado jam band legends Drew Emmitt and Bill Nershi plucked the final strings of the 2010 Free Summer Concert Series on Friday night, it didn’t mean the end of the season for organizers.

Not if the series is to remain free, that is. Promoter and co-founder John Wald­­­man confirms it will after an on-budget year.

Although the nonprofit ended its 2009 season almost 15 percent behind its budget, good weather and reduced expenses have gotten the series back on track, Waldman said. With changes in the concert series board composition and funding diversification, organizers agreed things are looking up as the event heads into its 20th season.

“We made a conscious effort to really be careful with our talent costs and our production expenses,” Waldman said. “And knowing that we needed to be conservative with our estimates given the economy, we knew we had to budget for what was going on out there. That put us in a stable position moving forward.”

In 2009, in addition to the economic recession, rain put a damper on the July 31 Freddy Jones Band concert, hurting the concession sales that provide significant revenues, concert series administrator Nancy Kramer said.

“It was much better this year than last year,” she said. “I mean, we really want to make sure that we do well (Friday). But that was the perfect storm — pun intended — last year.”

The concert series, which also receives funding from the city and Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, aims to generate an average of $15,000 per show in beer sales throughout the course of the summer. Some concerts will make less, while some, like the Rhythm Devils show July 23, will balance out the average with more profitable sales.

Kramer said if Friday’s beer sales end up on target, the concert series will hit its budget.

“We spent less on artist fees,” she said. “Production costs were about the same, and then we took a close look at historic concession sales. We think we did a great job. Plus, we’ve been dodging the weather bullet.”

Last year, the concert series spent about $60,000 on artist fees to book acts like Susan Tedeschi and Rusted Root.

This year, that cost was reduced to about $40,000, Kramer said.

“In past years, we might have had one or two real big names on the series,” Waldman said. “I knew we weren’t going to have the budget to do that.”

However, he said he was pleased with the way the five-concert lineup came together to include Big Kenny, the Rhythm Devils, Easy-Star All-Stars, JJ Grey and Mofro and Emmitt-Nershi Band.

“Some of it was relationships with managers,” he said. “And some of it was luck with the availability of these artists on a Friday night. (Rhythm Devils) were certainly the biggest marquee value as far as having two members of the Grateful Dead as well as having Keller (Williams), who is pretty strong on his own.”

In addition to cutting costs, the series organizers put on a fundraiser in March. They are planning another benefit concert for the fall in addition to repeating the spring fundraiser.

But, like many nonprofits, funding from individual and corporate donations still is down from years past.

“We’re still down on donations, and we have to be very realistic for the whole nonprofit sector,” Kramer said. “But, next year is our 20th anniversary, and we are already looking forward to that.”

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