The Brookhaven City Council will spend $125,000 for “nationally known” music acts at the annual Cherry Blossom Festival set for March 24-25 at Blackburn Park.

City spokesperson Burke Brennan told the mayor and City Council at its Jan. 23 meeting that Live Nation, founder of Music Midtown, is currently negotiating with four nationally known acts to play at the festival. Live Nation partnered with the city this year to bring in some major names to the fest for a $1 fee to the city, Brennan said.

“Live Nation is in the midst of negotiations with four nationally known acts, and a few smaller ones on behalf of the city of Brookhaven for the fee of $1,” he said.

“In our first year of the Cherry Blossom Festival, we had a couple of established, but very ‘golden-oldies’ acts,” Brennan said. “In subsequent years, we have had some great music attractions with some name recognition. This is the first year that we are partnering with Live Nation.”

Last year’s headliner was Ed Roland of the hit rock band Collective Soul, who lives in Atlanta and performed at the festival with his Sweet Tea Project. Other smaller music acts included a blues band, an R&B band and some classic rock such as Wesley Cook, the Breeze Kings and Gurufish.

The city currently has $90,000 out in offers, Brennan said, and the additional $35,000 is for “collateral expenses” such as equipment, catering, hotel and contract riders.

This year, the city will also spend approximately $25,000 for local promotion.

“In year’s past, we limited ourselves to freebies and to the exposure afforded to us through media sponsorships,” Brennan said. “This year you will see ads in many of our weekly print publications in addition to media sponsorships.”
Stone Mountain Park is one of the festival’s media sponsors and has advertisements for the festival at its Summit Skyride and Snow Mountain area.

“Our partner and sponsor Discover DeKalb has earmarked $90,000 for regional and national marketing and branding,” Brennan said, an approximate 50 percent decrease from last year.

Last year, Discover DeKalb, the official nonprofit hospitality and tourism agency for DeKalb County, spent nearly $200,000 advertising the Brookhaven Cherry Blossom Festival, including paying out $45,000 to “digital influencers” to promote the festival on social media and more than $70,000 on out-of-state billboards. About 15,000 people attended the fest last year, the same as in 2016, according to city officials.

This year, Discover DeKalb’s spending will go toward: $40,000 for regional radio advertising; $39,000 for the City branding, media development and execution from Porter Novelli; $11,000 dedicated for social media influencers, including Geo-targeted social media postings.

The city also has its own request with Porter Novelli about the development of an interactive festival smart phone app.

“Depending on pricing and lead time, we may ask for an additional allocation as it pertains to this,” Brennan said.

Brennan said all the funds to pay for the festival are from hotel/motel taxes “and because the event is regional in nature, the funds will benefit the area hotels that are paying the taxes in the first place.”

Discover DeKalb is also a partner and sponsor of the Cherry Blossom Festival, and is sponsoring a digital billboard campaign at no additional cost to the City of Brookhaven, Brennan said.

Last year for the first time, Discover DeKalb spent more than $70,000 renting billboards in other states in what it called “feeder” cities to metro Atlanta to promote the Cherry Blossom Festival. They included seven billboards in Birmingham, Ala.; four in Charlotte, N.C.; nine in Columbia, S.C.; one in Chattanooga, Tenn.; and six in Nashville, Tenn. Discover DeKalb also rented billboards in Rome, Ga., and Calhoun, Ga.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.