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Summer Rocks looks to take over Saint Louis' music festival scene

Panoramic shot of the Saint Louis Arch.
Panoramic shot of the Saint Louis Arch.
Ben Gillin / Flickr

Saint Louis' live music stage might soon be exclusively owned by a Los Angeles based company, at least during certain dates in the year. All hinges upon the passing of Board Bill 328 (also known as Festival Bill 328), which as of tonight has already been by an aldermanic committee and tourism committee and is heading towards a full obstacle course of aldermen and board meetings. Let's break down why this bill has so many local musicians and venue owners all fired up.

What is Board Bill 328?: As reported by the St. Louis Business Journal, the bill "would give Summer Rocks LLC, an affiliate of Los Angeles-based talent agency ICM Partners, exclusive rights to the Gateway Mall on those weekends" - those weekends being those of Memorial Day and Labor Day, which are rather huge weekends for outdoor events in the city.

According to the board bill summary, these restrictions also apply to "certain street rights-of-way adjacent to" the Mall in question, which would include such streets as Market Street and Chestnut Street. The document lays out such issues as the permits and licenses Summer Rocks would need to obtain, the non-complete clause that would make Summer Rocks the exclusive show during those above mentioned weekends, and upon what circumstances the contract between the Saint Louis city and ICM can be terminated.

It's a lengthy read, yes, but if you are a musician in the area or the head of a music festival who had been previously considering laying down roots in Saint Louis, it is absolutely essential.

Who are ICM and what is Summer Rocks?: ICM Partners, according to their website, is "one of the world's largest talent and literary agencies with offices in New York, Los Angeles, and London". One can imagine that if the bill goes through, ICM might be opening a new office closer to the Gateway area. ICM has been around since 1975, during which they have represented clients in about every possible medium of popular media currently available.

Summer Rocks is owned by ICM and is a weekend outdoors music festival that is looking to make Saint Louis their home base. It has already been compared to Chicago's Lollapalooza, which has been one of the Windy City's biggest shows in past years. It has not been made clear what kind of music acts will be welcomed to perform at Summer Rocks.

How will this benefit Saint Louis?: As long forgotten pop star Meja so plainly put it, it's all about the money. Like many festivals before it, Summer Rocks could end up being a major money magnet, drawing in visitors from within the city as well as surrounding areas. The further its reach goes, the more wallets it can draw in to spend money not only on tickets but Saint Louis' hotel, food, and entertainment markets.

Plus, it's not like ICM is not getting the Gateway Mall and surrounding areas for free. ICM will have to pay for the privilege, as well as cover the city's losses if they are forced to cancel the event, which equals more money in Saint Louis' official coffers.

Okay, so why is Board Bill 328 so controversial?: For one, the non-compete clause, which would completely shut out any outside festivals that are the same size and scope as Summer Rocks - for a maximum of twenty years. That is enough time to effectively close out any festivals and send them to other cities that aren't beholden to outside forces. Next, ICM is a California company, does not have roots in Saint Louis, and has made no outward interest to include Saint Louis talents for its Summer Rocks festival plans.

The bill has already lead to a MoveOn.org petition, created by Jeremy Segel-Moss from the Bottoms Up Blues Gang, which addresses all the issues its signers find odious about it, including "the 10-20 year Non-Compete Clause, lack of inclusion of St. Louis music, food and art, the displacement of already existing world class events, and the lack of an impact study on how Summer Rocks will affect St. Louis events and organizations".

What is happening now?: The Board Bill 328 is expected to be decided upon by Mayor Francis Slay at the earliest in the later part of April. What form it takes when it reaches Slay's desk, however, depends upon what the city alderman decide upon during their meetings. There is even a chance the non-compete clause will be weakened or cut completely, if local musicians can manage to put enough pressure on the board.

The bill has already been amended recently to address such issues as what events would be excluded from the Summer Rocks non-compete clause, the types of festivals that can be effected by the bill, and the standards that Summer Rocks must meet so it can have its contract renewed after the first ten years.

The current amended version of Board Bill 328 is available to be read online as a downloadable PDF.