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Volume 21 No. 2
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Motorsports facilities attract music festivals

Concert promoters are booking more music festivals at racetracks, finding those venues to be the right fit for multiday events.

The Electric Daisy Carnival, an electronic music festival, this year added Chicagoland Speedway to its list of sites after its success at Las Vegas Motor Speedway the past two years. The event is set for this weekend.

The Las Vegas Motor Speedway provides room to stretch out for the Electric Daisy Carnival.
Later this summer, Michigan International Speedway will play host to the inaugural Faster Horses, a country music festival, and Kansas Speedway features Kanrocksas, another first-time event.

Those shows follow Carolina Rebellion, a hard rock festival that played a weather-shortened weekend at the Rock City Campgrounds across the street from Charlotte Motor Speedway in early May. The event is in the first year of a three-year deal between the track and promoter AEG Live.

Driving the trend is the tracks’ interest in generating revenue from special events apart from NASCAR races, officials from International Speedway Corp. and Speedway Motorsports Inc. said. ISC owns Chicagoland, Michigan and Kansas; SMI owns Las Vegas and Charlotte.

“I’m trying to be more aggressive in this space,” Chicagoland Speedway President Scott Paddock said. “The key is Electric Daisy and other promoters understand and recognize how ideally situated we are for these events. Very few venues can accommodate these large numbers of people.”

Tracks generally rent space to promoters and generate additional revenue from concessions and parking, but Michigan International Speedway is one exception. The track signed a profit-share deal with Live Nation for the Faster Horses festival, making Live Nation responsible for all aspects of event production, including ticket sales, sponsorships and campground rentals, track President Roger Curtis said.

The facility even surrendered its concession rights for the event, and Live Nation brought its own vendors to feed a crowd of up to 35,000. The track will provide its security force for the event, to be held in a parking lot outside the track, Curtis said.

The agreement comes two years after MIS officials found themselves in a bind created when a local promoter ran out of money attempting to produce a music festival at the facility. The festival, MI Fest, featuring headliners Sheryl Crow and Jack White, was in danger of being canceled until track officials stepped in and became the promoter.

“It was not profitable,” Curtis said, “but we did whatever we had to do to make sure people got paid.”

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Rick Franks, Live Nation’s Detroit-based president of North American talent and touring, saw what happened with MI Fest and was impressed by the track’s management of the crisis, Curtis said.

As a result, the track and Live Nation are partnering to promote Faster Horses, set for July 19-21. Headliners Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley will perform in a track parking lot.

“We’re taking on a little more risk, but we believe in the upside of these festivals and the opportunities for success,” Curtis said.

Live Nation, producer of Faster Horses, looked at hundreds of sites in Michigan before selecting the speedway, said Brian O’Connell, the firm’s president of country touring. The track’s 9,000 campsites was the deciding factor.

The speedway “provided us with a dot on the map where hundreds of thousands go to a race — it had a base,” O’Connell said. “I didn’t set out to do a festival at a NASCAR track until I got to the camping aspect. They’re experts on camping and customer service.”