Moogfest moves to Durham

Photo by David Simchock

Moogfest 2016 will be held in Durham from May 19-22, according to an article by Indyweek, which confirms rumors of the multi-venue festival’s location change today.

“As far as the community of people that naturally stand to benefit from sponsoring Moogfest, there is no doubt that there are way more of those people in Durham than Asheville,” Moog Music Inc.’s brand director Emmy Parker told Indyweek. “If you want to do an event that is geared toward benefitting the community, that community has got to be able to stand on that platform and shine. There aren’t enough companies in Asheville yet to support something like this.”

Moogfest will stage its festival in Durham at least three times, according to Indyweek reporter Grayson Currin, although Durham city council member Dan Moffitt says local government hasn’t yet committed to financially back the festival.

The eastward move comes on the heels of less-than-stellar performance in Asheville in 2014, but not by the host of artists, speakers and exhibitors who ignited a tech and culture buzz across downtown, garnering significant media attention beyond the event’s five-day run. It was the numbers that hit a sour note, with Moogfest losing roughly $1.5 million, according to organizers.

Asheville and Buncombe County collectively provided $180,000 in cash and in-kind services toward the predominantly privately funded production, which cost about $2.74 million to put on in 2014. Moog Music Inc. president and CEO Michael Adams called the contributions “much appreciated,” but “really just a token gesture,” when he discussed the festival’s uncertain future with Xpress last July.

Despite citing Moogfest’s strong economic development goals and short-term milestones in 2014 (media attention from big name outlets like The New York Times, Time magazine, The Huffington Post, BBC, Newsweek, People magazine, etc., plus attraction of potential investors in the local tech industry and impressive potential sponsors for future Moogfests), Moog Music’s subsequent funding request for $250,000 was denied in May 2014 (shortly after announcement of the $1.5 million loss) by the county Culture and Recreation Authority.

In September 2014, however, an economic impact study surveying over 1,000 visiting attendees and analyzed by the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County and the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce found that Moogfest spurred some $14 million in spending within Buncombe County. Local and state taxes on this sum, analysts concluded, generated at least a 200 percent return on local government incentives.

It’s unclear the extent to which financial circumstances affected the decision to move the “synthesis of art, technology and music” to Durham, as Moog Music Inc. president and CEO Mike Adams publicly stated that he didn’t expect the 2014 production to turn a profit. Parker also told Indyweek that public funding from Asheville “county funds weren’t a deal breaker.” The event, Adams explained, was a long-term investment in the future and “was all about attracting entrepreneurs to Asheville to see what a great place we live in.”

After a split from Knoxville-based music promotion company AC Entertainment — who produced the festival from 2010 to 2012 after it moved from New York City to Asheville — and a break from the event in 2013, Moog Music took over planning and production duties for Moogfest for 2014 and beyond.

In addition to a programming overhaul, in-house control over the festival led to a biennial schedule, which the company called “an effort to maintain the authenticity of the event, as well as the financial and spiritual health of Moog Music and its employees, whose primary focus will always be designing and building synthesizers,” in a July 2014 press release. “Engineering a production of this scale is a process that can’t be mass-produced, much like Moog synthesizers themselves.”

Press release from Moog Music:

Leaders from Durham area civic organizations, cultural institutions, government and businesses announced earlier today that Moogfest — an internationally acclaimed festival of music, art and technology that has been held in Asheville since 2010 — will debut in Durham in May 2016. This announcement signals a long-term commitment by festival organizers, reinforcing the exploding technology scene and culture of innovation in the Triangle. The 3 day, 3 night event takes place May 19-22, 2016.

A limited number of discounted tickets for Asheville locals are on sale today for $99 at the Moog Store, located at 160 Broadway. The Moog Store is open Monday-Saturday from 10am to 6pm. Ticket buyers must show ID showing residency in order to purchase the specially-priced tickets.

“The decision to move the festival was not an easy one,” says Moog Music President and CEO, Mike Adams. “While we are grateful for all the support Moogfest received locally from the city, the county, private business owners, and festival goers, we have not been able to secure the necessary private and public investment in Asheville that’s needed for the festival to be sustainable moving forward.”

Moogfest has been a festival of electronic music since 2004, known for presenting performances by early pioneers in electronic music, alongside pop and avant garde experimentalists of today. Previous Moogfest performers include Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, Chic, Massive Attack, Holly Herndon, Flying Lotus, Terry Riley, M83, The Flaming Lips, Suicide, Pet Shop Boys, Grimes, TV on the Radio, MIA, St. Vincent, Tangerine Dream, Keith Emerson, Moderat and Squarepusher.

“Moogfest is a platform for conversation and experimentation with innovative programming that perfectly mirrors Durham’s position as the driving force of the technology, culture and entertainment scene in North Carolina,” says Emmy Parker, Brand Director at Moog Music

In celebration of today’s announcement, Moogfest releases “Translational Drifts: Moogfest Vol. 1,” the first EP in a series of free digital recordings that feature Moogfest artists – past, present and
future. Volume 1 showcases five contemporary acts reinterpreting seminal electronic music influencers that have shaped past Moogfest lineups. This premiere installment includes YACHT, ADULT., Julianna Barwick, Moses Sumney and Dan Deacon translating tracks by Devo, Pet Shop Boys, Suicide, Laurie Anderson and Brian Eno. Their renditions pay tribute to a rich history of electronic music, with new sounds that continue to push further into the future.

YACHT, a contributor and previous Moogfest curator, praises the company behind the collaboration, “We love how Moog brings artists together. The sound of the machines and the culture of the company are like a bridge across genres and generations.”

In 2014 Moogfest introduced its new festival format, an experimental lineup of daytime conferences consisting of one of a kind programming, curated by cultural, artistic and technological luminaries, and
nighttime music with iconic performers from early pioneers of electronic music to current musical innovators. Much like it did in Asheville in 2014, the festival will utilize many of Durham’s downtown event venues and public spaces with a mix of ticketed and free programming.

Moogfest announced in July of last year that it would move to an every-other-year schedule in order to maintain the authenticity of such an ambitious, multi-faceted event. Following successful runs in both Asheville and New York City, the partnership with Durham will help the festival continue to grow for years to come.

Moogfest is a tribute to Dr. Robert Moog and the profound influence his inventions have had on how we hear the world. Over the last sixty years, Bob Moog and Moog Music have pioneered the analog synthesizer and other technology tools for artists. Moog Music, the company Dr. Moog founded, recently became employee-owned and expanded their operations, buying almost the entire block where the factory is located.

“Transitioning to an employee-owned company was a way to ensure everyone who works with us has a stake in Moog Music and its future,” Adams continues. “Asheville is my hometown and the home of Moog Music. Moog Music, its employees and its factory are staying right here in Asheville. We will continue to be a part of this community regardless of where Moogfest is held. Moving the festival to Durham doesn’t mean Asheville won’t still be a part of it.”

For more information please visit Moogfest.com.

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About Kat McReynolds
Kat studied entrepreneurship and music business at the University of Miami and earned her MBA at Appalachian State University. Follow me @katmAVL

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15 thoughts on “Moogfest moves to Durham

  1. Certain things only work in certain cities and Asheville simply isn’t large enough or that interested in the artists Moogfest represents. There isn’t one experimental electronic music venue in this city, nor is there much of a dance music culture here. Apart from college age adults, most of Asheville is more into jam bands, Americana and bluegrass. Just listen to WNCW and you know what people like here. It’s just a bad match and has been from the start. Just as you wouldn’t hold a Mountain Music Festival in Miami, you can expect electronic music to be widely supported in a small, mountain resort town where the average person has no interest in what Moogfest respresents. Sad, but true.

    • Jim

      Wrong. Dance clubs around here play hip hop. Electronica is making a comeback but not in modern styles but 80’s retro. Witness the recent new radio stations coming on air 97.7 and 100.3. Beats the hell out of 105.9 which was super cool when BadAsh was a DJ. And 105.1 is a joke. Too bad Asheville is entrenched with a mentality that doesn’t embrace the 80’s yet.

      Asheville has no interest in such because when it boils down to it, it’s a bland town that takes itself to seriously and has killed anything fun. Lord knows when you stomp out cruising on Patton and take away other venues for young people to mesh that the old and out of touch sell outs think is beneath them, it’s pretty much a given that the city will suffer from a LACK OF PROGRESS and actual cultural growth. You can’t import cultural progress here no matter how much disdain you have for what made Asheville cool. That includes hole in the walls filled with cig smoke and loud music. And the hipsters who are too self centered to know what fun is can’t be bothered enough to look away from their screens.

      • Big Al

        “Too bad Asheville…doesn’t embrace the 80s’yet.”

        Fine with me, I am ALL about the 80’s, but when American culture “embraces” something, they inevitably commercialize it and screw it up, so I am fine with leaving the 80’s alone. We have already stereotyped the hell out of the 60s and 70s. The last thing I want to see on the streets of Asheville is unlined dinner jackets over muscle shirts, leg warmers and Members Only jackets.

        “And the hipsters who are too self centered to know what fun is…”

        Now you are just committing blasphemy. Hipsters (for better or for worse) are the trend-setters in Asheville. If only they would admit who they are.

  2. Gone: MoogFest.
    Gone: $90,000 in corporate welfare.
    Gone: SXSW of the South pipe dream.
    Not Gone: Progressive meddling in the economy.

        • Jason

          Progressive? Not sure. I like to listen to Yes, Genesis & ELP, so maybe. Regardless, Pollyanna was just an annoyingly over-optimistic character from the book of the same name…not a big word, just a proper noun. I was just being sarcastic…been reading your comments for a long time on the forums of the local news outlets..you seem to have a very pessimistic outlook on the world, that was all. Also, I messed up when I wrote ‘Clem’ too…got my characters mixed up…meant ‘Henny’, as in Henny Penny. :-)

          • Wow. You know how to make invalid ad hominem arguments. Alright Clem. Thanks for making this a thread about me. But, what else would you do? Moogfest is so over.

          • Jason

            Holy cow, Tim. I just read about your past in Creative Loafing. Your anti-progressive statements make sense now. I withdraw my comments & apologize.

        • hauntedheadnc

          By being as hard to ignore, and as welcome and pleasant, as a wet fart in a crowded elevator. Why — how did you think he does it?

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