Buffalo Place Scrutinizes Concert Promoter

March 28, 2013 Updated Mar 28, 2013 at 7:30 AM EDT

By James Fink, Buffalo Business First

...

Buffalo Place Scrutinizes Concert Promoter

March 28, 2013 Updated Mar 28, 2013 at 7:30 AM EDT

BUFFALO, N.Y. - The same promoter that books the popular "Thursday at the Harbor" and "Buffalo Place Rocks the Harbor" concert series also books a handful of shows on Buffalo's Outer Harbor.

And, now some Buffalo Place Inc. directors are wondering if booking shows at two waterfront venues may either be stretching the staff of Funtime Presents too thin or if they are favoring their own self-produced shows over the ones they handle for the downtown organization.

At issue is the Aug. 2 concert with Flogging Molly and Lowest of the Low that Funtime is putting on the Outer Harbor. The show is set for a Friday night. Both are acts that Funtime has previously booked for Buffalo Place and have strong local followings.

Some Buffalo Place directors feel that show is direct conflict to the "Thursday at the Harbor" and "Buffalo Place Rocks the Harbor." The issue was raised during Buffalo Place's monthly meeting Wednesday morning.

"Who are their loyalties to? Us or them?," asked Buffalo Place director Rocco Termini. "Are they competing with us?"

Buffalo Place pays Funtime a fee to book the shows, however, when the promoter runs their own shows, they keep a larger slice of the revenues.

Representatives from Funtime could not be reached for comment.

At first appearance, it may look like Funtime is competing against its own client.

But, that may not be the case.

The "Thursday" shows are subject to a band's tour routing schedule. For many bands, Thursday is a dark or slow night and that allows them to be booked for the Buffalo Place shows. The weekend "Harbor" shows are also subject to a band's touring and routing schedule.

"If a band is playing in Montreal and headed to another East Coast city for a weekend show, we've been able to get them because their Thursday night was open," said Michael Schmand, executive director of Buffalo Place Inc.

Funtime is highly respected in concert promotion circles and by the bands. That reputation helps Funtime land acts for Buffalo Place that might have otherwise bypassed the region. In recent years, Funtime has been able to land such acts as LL Cool J, the J Giles Band, Tragically Hip, Elvis Costello and Great Big Sea for Buffalo's summer shows.

Funtime, last year, organized acts at the Outer Harbor. The company's founders, Artie Kwitchoff and Donny Kutzbach, own and operate the Town Ballroom, which hosts concerts on a year round basis. They also book one-stand shows at a wide range of local venues such as the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts, Artpark, Babeville as well as in Rochester.

"I wonder if they are potentially cherry-picking some of the bands and we may be losing some opportunities," said Mark Croce, another director for Buffalo Place.

That is not the case, top-ranking Buffalo Place Inc. officials say.

Anthony Colucci III, Buffalo Place president, said he has talked with Kwitchoff and Kutzbach in the past about their summertime, non-Buffalo Place bookings. In one instance, the acts were either available only on non-Thursday dates or didn't coincide with the "Rocks the Harbor" schedule.

Also, there were concerts the company handled on its own that the pair felt were not appropriate for the "Thursday" or "Rocks the Harbor" demographics.

"I had a very serious discussion with them," Colucci said. "I am comfortable with the bookings."

Colucci said he feels that Funtime is "loyal" to Buffalo Place.

The Buffalo Place concerts, which average 18 per summer season, attract more than 200,000 people to the Central Wharf site inside the Canalside footprint. It is considered a major fund raiser for Buffalo Place, based on concession sales. The dozen "Thursday" shows are free but the "Harbor" shows are ticketed events, usually with a $10 or $20 entrance fee.

This year's schedule, which is set to be released in late May, will likely run from June through August.