Sound of Music sends a signal to council - we will be back with our hands out. That is going to be a tough sell.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

September 18th, 2019



Myles Rusk 4

Myles Rusak, Executive Director of the Sound Music seemed to be telling council that these huge events are no longer the attraction they used to be.

Myles D. Rusak had to wait hours before he got his ten minutes to tell city council meeting as a Standing Committee that he had wonderful news for them: From its humble beginnings in 1979 as a showcase for the Burlington Teen Tour Band to its current iteration as Canada’s Largest Free Music Festival; over the years this Festival has evolved in many new and exciting ways.

Rusak didn’t use the phrase Sound of Music – it would appear it is going to morph into the “Festival”.

Rusak was the last speaker during what had been a very full day – and it would run on into the evening.  He got his ten minutes but there were no questions – council was making a hard stop – they wanted to go home for dinner.

Band on stage

These huge events don’t pay the bills. The SoM board wants to re-imagine the event.

Rusak explained that the Sound of Music is a registered Non-Profit Organization that has an obligation to you, our stakeholders, to share with you how we operate, where our funds come from and the overall impact of the Festival on the community.

Myles Rusak 1

Moving forward we aim to be a resource for emerging artists, and a year round showcase for local talent.

Under new management (there was no mention of how the SoM unceremoniously dumped the previous Executive Director) we aim to evolve yet again to increase our capacity for supporting Music and the Arts in our community.

Our vision is to not be defined exclusively as a “festival” – moving forward we aim to be a resource for emerging artists, a showcase for local talent and a valued community partner who wants to see Music and Performance in this community thrive in new and exciting ways.

Our commitment to you is a new level of transparency and accountability; an admission that they had not been all that transparent or accountable in the past?

It was at this point that Rusak advised council that he wasn’t in front of them asking for money – but that he would be back.

Rusak apparently didn’t realize that for the most part the 2020 budget has been drafted and except for some serious tweaking there aren’t likely to be any major changes – unless the Mayor decides to continue with her raids on reserve accounts.

But I digress.

Rev - exp 2019

If the numbers are what we think they are – the SoM doesn’t make any money on the ticketed events.

Rusak told council: “We know you work hard for your money and you deserve to know how it’s used when you buy a festival ticket, VIP upgrade, merchandise or beverage at the Festival. I do hope this report answers those important questions.”

He trotted out that phrase that covers all past sins – he was going to be “accountable and transparent”.

Rusak had some astounding news:

The Sound of Music pumps $12.7 million into the local economy.

Local spending

These numbers don’t add up to the $12 million touted.

Raw data 1

A quarter of a million people attended – the spending doesn’t appear to be in sync with that figure. The 34% that were non-local – does that mean Hamilton?

Every dollar invested in the Sound of Music returns $160
MORE here

Rusak also had a dour note. The festival market is changing he said and “we have to change or we die”.

And that’s when he explained that the event had to become more than a three day event. Sound of Music had already grown to a couple of additional days when ticketed events took place.

Sound of Music is talking to Cogeco about doing something with the community cable operation.  An all year round program.

He talked about putting something together with the Performing Arts Centre. The folks over there have been trying to get the Sound of Music in their building for the past two years. PAC Executive Director Tammy Fox told the Gazette that she will get them in there at some point in the future.

Social media

Impressive numbers – what do they mean? No analysis was offered.

The Sound of Music Executive is currently working on a Strategic Plan that Rusak assured the Councillors would be made public. Sound of Music doesn’t have the best of reputations for telling people what they would like to know about the revenue and expense side of their operation.

Myles Rusak 2They tend to tell people what they want people to hear.

Rusak is new to both the organization and to Burlington.

He cuts a fine figure. Time will tell if he actually walks his talk.

Related news stories:

SoM volunteers don’t like what they are hearing.

SoM Board holds emergency meeting

New Executive Director appointed.

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2 comments to Sound of Music sends a signal to council – we will be back with our hands out. That is going to be a tough sell.

  • Steve W

    I live near Spencer Smith. Based on the lack of cars parking on our street during the SOM this year, it was obvious attendance was down, so something has to change.

  • Penny Hersh

    Does “The Festival” have to change and morph with the times? Absolutely. I also question if one can be called “Canada’s Largest Free Music Festival” when it is obvious that in order to survive, there are ticketed events that not everyone can be a part of.

    I question the statement that ” The Sound of Music Pumps $12.7 million dollars into the local economy”? Where are these figures coming from.

    Does “the Festival” have to occur over a longer period than 3 days? I like the idea of this group partnering with The Burlington Performing Arts Centre. I makes sense. There might be a group of residents who would prefer to pay to be sitting inside, in an air conditioned performance hall rather than being at the mercy of the elements.

    I believe that the owners of restaurants, bars and and any other business in the area of the “Festival” need to be part of this discussion – how much revenue are they making/losing over this time period?

    Lastly – over the next 3-5 years the downtown core will be a construction zone – how will this affect attendance?