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The organizer of a new Arkansas music festival said he has verbal confirmations from big-name celebrities pictured on the event's website, but at least one artist said there have been no discussions and another said he is not committed.

Cliff Aaron said The Fulcrum may fill the void Riverfest left when it ceased operations after 40 years. But he said it is also going to be something else entirely -- a daylong festival with acts chosen by polls on the event's Facebook page. The festival, he said, will be held March 17.

On Wednesday, the website for the event said the festival "will likely be held" at War Memorial Stadium, though a spokesman for Arkansas Parks and Tourism, which manages the stadium, said no event is scheduled and no contract is in place. Aaron is to meet with the stadium's management today, the spokesman said.

Listed performer options include Kelly Clarkson, The Roots, Migos, Solange, Jessie J, Bryson Tiller and Joe Jonas, with Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon as a host. Clarkson is currently in the lead, Aaron said.

Aaron said he has verbal confirmations from the management of each artist, thanks to his connections in the industry, and acknowledged that it might seem too good to be true.

"We'd love for people to say, 'This is fake news, girl, this can't be real,'" he said in a recent interview.

But Claire Mercuri, a spokesman for Fallon, said in an email last week that Fallon is neither confirmed nor in discussions to host a festival in Little Rock. She declined to comment on Fallon's name and photograph being associated with the event.

An email from a spokesman for Lil Uzi Vert, whose name and image also are on the site, said the rapper is "not committed to this festival."

Representatives for other artists listed on the website had not responded to requests for comment as of Tuesday afternoon.

A caveat on the website reads that the selected artists are "options" for acts "strictly for polling the public to see who we may bring."

The site initially said the festival is "now in line for acceptance from each of these major artists," but that line was deleted sometime after Aaron spoke with a reporter.

Headliners will be officially announced Dec. 1, though Aaron said ticket sales will begin soon. An all-inclusive VIP pass will go for $199, with lower-cost options available. People who buy before December will receive a 30 percent discount, he said.

The event differs from Riverfest in its advertising strategy, which Aaron referred to as "guerrilla marketing." If people vote for who they want, he said, they won't be disappointed by an out-of-date act.

Riverfest's executive director said that for the now-shuttered festival, she was unable to announce artists without their commitment in writing and a deposit because of booking agency policy.

"We had to make sure on both sides of the aisle that we were covered and the act was covered," DeAnna Korte said. She added that with several annual music festivals shuttering in recent years, booking agencies have become more stringent.

"They don't want acts announced without putting money down," she said, citing the 50 percent deposit some agencies require, which she noted in July was one of Riverfest's financial woes.

People would write on Riverfest's Facebook page requesting acts, but that had no bearing on who was booked, she said.

Aaron said he and other organizers have personal connections to many artists and did not go through a booking agency.

Though he has never been in charge of an event of this magnitude, the producer said his experience organizing events in Little Rock -- like a Prince tribute concert at the Rev Room in 2016 -- and playing drums at festivals such as Coachella in California and Bonnaroo in Tennessee gives him the know-how.

The organizational staff for The Fulcrum also includes musicians and promoters Susan Erwin Prowse and Cliff Prowse as well as Emma Willis, who leads the Arkansas 529 GIFT college investment tax plan.

Aaron said the group didn't know Riverfest would be shut down when it began planning the event in January. But, Aaron said, The Fulcrum is something different, targeting millennials on spring break with hot, current artists.

"Riverfest never had a concrete, target audience," he said. "All the millennials now have money. They'll spend $800 to leave Arkansas for Bonnaroo."

The Fulcrum is planned as an event for those 18 and older and will feature food trucks and vendors as well as tattoo and piercing stands.

The event is funded so far by private investors from Memphis and Dallas, Aaron said, and more sponsors have asked to come aboard.

"It's spread like wildfire," he said. "It's a real thing, it's a big thing."

The festival's profits, he said, will go to something even bigger: a music and arts academy and a record label that would break ground in central Arkansas in 2020.

"We're trying to keep our talent and producers here in Arkansas," he said. "We have resources here. ... We have people making records here, and nobody hears about it."

Metro on 11/09/2017

Print Headline: Planner, performers at odds over festival

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