The numbers are in for the Harvester Performance Center. The results are mixed, but Rocky Mount is a clear winner.
According to the annual report, 34 of Harvester’s 146 shows – or 23% – reached an attendance rate of 85% or higher capacity. That includes 17 sold-out shows at the downtown Rocky Mount venue. That means attendance at the majority of the Harvester’s shows is less than 85%.
Matt Hankins, assistant town manager and Harvester CEO, said those numbers are standard due to the “nature of the business.”
“We don’t have an expectation that we are going to fill the house every night,” Hankins said. “We’d like to, but realistically, on an annual basis we are typically looking at about 50% of capacity.”
He said not everyone likes the same genres and the various musicians who come through have different followings. He also said that Monday or Tuesday night shows are typically not well-attended, but the Harvester sometimes books shows on those days in order to get certain acts to play the venue.
The Harvester increased capacity in April, especially for standing room only shows, according to Hankins. That could make hitting capacity more difficult.
Both Hankins and Rocky Mount Mayor Steven Angle said they believe the marketing strategy for the venue is on-point and that they are reaching the right audience in drawing show-goers.
“I think we are doing a good job advertising. It’s just people have a limited amount of funds they can expend for entertainment so they have to pick and choose what they are going to do,” Angle said. “But I know the variety of acts that Gary [Jackson, Harvester general manager]books crosses all the music genres so there is something that is going to appeal to everyone at some point in time. It is just like anything else. Some acts are more popular than others.”
In terms of finances, the performance center operated in the black for the first two quarters of 2018, making more than $24,600 the first quarter and $6,000 the second quarter. The final two quarters of the year resulted in a $43,000 loss and $14,500 loss respectively, ending in a net loss of $26,900.
This was the first time in three years the venue ended the year in the red. Hankins said summertime is slower for the year-round venue.
The Harvester operated at a profit of $42,700 in the first quarter of 2019.That margin is nearly 58% higher than the first quarter of 2018.
Officials cautioned they don’t anticipate that large a profit the rest of the year due to the high number of shows the Harvester hosted in March alone – 21 shows in 31 days.
Hankins said for every dollar the town has invested in the venue, $3.30 comes back into the town through retail, food and lodging. That is a win either way you slice it.
“We are very pleased with how things have gone for five years and we are looking forward to the future,” Angle said.