The Vancouver Folk Music Festival Society’s finances were in very good shape during the first two years of the pandemic.
According to its disclosures to the Canada Revenue Agency, it posted a $184,064 surplus in the fiscal year ending on August 31, 2021.
At that time, it had assets of $365,027, including $317,619 in cash, bank accounts, and short-term investments. The society listed liabilities of $179,144 that year.
Meanwhile, in the fiscal year ending on August 31, 2020, the festival recorded a surplus of $177,122.
The $361,186 surplus over those two years was partially attributable to plummeting advertising costs when the annual event did not take place in Jericho Beach Park.
The society spent just $10,918 on advertising and promotion in 2019-20 and $16,412 in the 2020-21. That compared to $79,993 on advertising and promotion in the non-pandemic fiscal year of 2018-19.
On January 17, the society’s board announced that it had decided to cancel the 2023 festival in Jericho Beach Park.
“Since we will not be producing a festival this summer, we do not have the capacity to retain our two staff-people and have had to give them notice of lay-off,” the board stated. “Having fought for the festival for so long, they appreciate the challenges and are understanding of the decision.”
The Canada Revenue Agency has not released the society’s financial statements for the fiscal year ending August 31, 2022.
Folk fest board cites demand for up-front payments
Last summer, the society put on a live folk music festival for the first time in three years.
“Coming back after two years of COVID-restriction-related cancellations, we found that the environment in which we were operating had dramatically changed,” the board said in its January 17 statement.
“From long-time suppliers being out of business, to cost increases, to many providers now requiring payment up front, it was a herculean task to produce the 2022 festival,” it continued. “In fact, we were only able to produce the event because of special COVID-relief grants that were available to organizations like ours last year.”
These demands for up-front payments present a cash-flow problem, according to the board.
As a result, it insisted that it would require an additional $500,000 up-front every year to continue holding the annual festival. The board has asked society members to vote to dissolve the organization at its upcoming annual general meeting on February 1.
The board made no mention of the fluctuating Canadian dollar in its statement, even though it brings in many acts from outside the country. It was trading at nearly US$0.77 when the festival was held from July 15 to 17, 2022. It’s currently around US$0.74.
Management and administration costs increased from $239,783 in the non-pandemic year of 2018-19 to $247,217 in the pandemic year of 2020-21. The society posted nearly $1.1 million in revenue in 2018-19 from the sale of goods and services, including tickets.
In 2017-18, the society posted an operating surplus of nearly $45,000 on total revenue of $1,823,977. The following year, it recorded an operating deficit of nearly $87,000 on total revenue of $1,771,058.
Jericho Beach Park is in the provincial constituency of Premier David Eby, who represents Vancouver–Point Grey in the B.C. legislature.