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Burlington Council Unanimously Approves Interim Financial Support for Sound of Music to Help Continue with 2022 Operations & Not Impact 2023 Festival Planning

Council Approved - Sound of Music Interim Funding - TW


The Sound of Music has been serving our city and community for decades and we’ve seen it act as a launching pad for several new bands. It fosters arts and culture in our community and contributes to better mental health — we saw that especially during the pandemic. We want to keep this festival afloat until we can build a sustainable plan with Sound of Music organizers. This recommendation from staff is the best way to do that now.

I want to congratulate the Sound of Music festival organizers on a successful return to live music this year. I also want to thank City staff for taking the concerns raised by organizers on the future of the festival (due to continuing negative impacts from the pandemic) and finding a suitable way to bridge the gap and keep the festival afloat so we can ensure a 2023 season — bringing forward a recommended solution so quickly. We’ve seen and heard from the Sound of Music organizers that this isn’t a regular business model — money is needed well in advance prior to the festival’s run date. I’ve also learned that we don’t get to pick the timing of when challenges come to our door at the City and at Council.

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This is the motion Council unanimously approved at our Sept. 20 meeting:

  • Approve a short-term loan to Sound of Music Inc. in the upset amount of $200,000 to provide interim financial support for the remainder of 2022;
  • Direct the Chief Financial Officer to advance the Sound of Music Inc.’s 2023 base budget of $100,093 in January 2023 to provide financial support in the early part of 2023; and
  • Authorize the execution of any documentation (agreements) necessary to secure the City’s interests, subject to the satisfaction of the Executive Director of Legal Services and Corporation Counsel.

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Sound of Music Inc. (SOM) is a non-profit organization that has been bring people to the City of Burlington’s waterfront to celebrate live music for over 40 years. They host two live entertainment events each year: Live on the Lake and The Sound of Music Festival.

These events are made possible by the support of local levels of government, sponsors, and volunteers. The events provide cultural and community value to Burlington, while also providing a strong economic impact to local businesses.

As with many live entertainment events, SOM was severely impacted by the pandemic over the last 2 years. The in-person festival was cancelled in 2020 and 2021. The event in 2020 was moved to an online platform designed to entertain, educate, and support the community during the COVID-19 pandemic and 2021 saw a revised experience that had multiple events that took place over several months. The return of the SOM festival in 2022 saw the event flourish with a record turnout.

Unfortunately, revenues fell short due to the loss of sponsors who were struggling with their own pandemic issues. Uncertainty around COVID recovery also impacted the SOM’s ability to sell tickets to their “Live on the Lake” event. Compounding to the impact of the revenue losses was an increase in costs due to supply chain issues. These factors devastated the festivals’ ability to generate a profit in 2022 despite the successful turnout.

The SOM needed immediate interim financial support in order to continue their operations through for the remainder of 2022 and in order to not impact the planning for the 2023 festivals.

The SOM events provide a cultural, community and economic value to the City. For these reasons, City staff recommended that Council support the request for funding through a short-term loan and advancement of their 2023 base budget allocation to assist SOM’s need for financial support.

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