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Milford’s Ladybug Music Festival expands to Maryland

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Ladybug Music Festival in Milford

Gable Music Ventures’ Ladybug Music Festival is headed out of state after four years in downtown Milford. l PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CITY OF MILFORD

MILFORD — The Ladybug Music Festival is spreading its wings as it heads out of Milford for Old Ellicott City, Maryland, but it will continue to have a show in Delaware.

Gable Music Ventures launched its first female-centric festival in Wilmington in 2012, and still plans to do so on May 31. Organizers brought a second rendition of the Delaware-based indie music festival to downtown Milford’s Riverwalk in 2018.

Over the course of its four-year stint in the dual-county city, thousands of people visited the Mispillion Riverwalk to watch a variety of female-led musical acts on multiple stages throughout the area that spanned several blocks. Gable Music Ventures estimates that about 1,000 fans visited the new Milford festival in 2012, followed by more than 4,000 people in its second and third years. In 2023, the fourth Ladybug Music Festival brought an estimated 4,000 fans.

Downtown Milford, Inc. (DMI) leaders said it was time to cut the ties, citing increased costs – the Ladybug Music Festival will not be returning to Milford.

“We’re glad other towns want to give it a try. It just wasn’t a good fit for DMI,” Downtown Milford, Inc., Secretary Terry Rogers said. 

Gable Music Ventures CEO Gayle Dillman later told the Delaware Business Times that the company was ready to host another Ladybug Festival, but they never received a formal response to confirm on whether it would hold the festival there.

“We absolutely loved Milford, it was the perfect place to do this, and it helped elevate our brand as well as serving a way to be an economic driver for the community by bringing people from other areas of the state so people could discover what a great place Milford is.”

It originally cost around $45,000 to bring the popular festival to Milford. Gable Music Ventures asked to raise it to $60,000, according to Rogers. 

While DMI was on the hook for the cost, it had previously been able to sell merchandise, donated libations and sponsorships to recoup the money. 

“They [Gable Music Ventures] require it to be a free concert. We couldn’t charge ticket fees or anything like that. In previous years, we were allowed to sell merchandise, at least,” Rogers told the Delaware Business Times. “But this year, they said we’re not allowed to do that and they created sponsorship packages that we had to follow to a tee and it didn’t appeal to our businesses.”

The attendance for last year’s event decreased, too, she added. Combine that with a financial loss on the festival of $11,000 for DMI and a new price hike, Rogers said the decision was clear. 

“We told them it wasn’t going to work. We received some fairly negative feedback about some of the musical groups, too, because locals didn’t know who they were and our businesses didn’t see a lot of extra business from the event. It just wasn’t great for us,” Rogers said. “The other feedback we got from businesses downtown was that that festival did not bring people into their business. It was designed to expose the artists more than it was designed to expose Milford.”

Gable Music Ventures representatives later told DBT that between 20 and 25% of revenue the company sees is used to pay for operating expenses in paying for more than 30 artists as well as audio equipment, music licensing, insurance and personnel costs. Gable Music Ventures did take back branded T-shirts, though representatives state that was to ensure the logo was correct. Gable has since made its branding guidelines more firm. Sponsorship opportunities were also agreed upon in advance by all parties ahead of the event, Gable representatives added.

Gable Music Ventures representatives also told DBT that it had booked national, regional and local acts in efforts to draw people to Delaware and Milford, in the hopes of exposing people to the area.

While Gable Music Ventures grows the Ladybug Festival out of state, DMI is focusing on rebranding and reorganizing to bring new and fan-favorite events alike to the Riverwalk area.

“We are in the early planning stages of a music festival. There will be a music festival of some kind again,” Rogers told DBT. 

She emphasized that DMI is working with the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford to make a new, city-wide music festival a reality, focusing on local acts. 

“We’ve had a lot of changes. We have a brand-new board, new executive director,” Rogers said. “So, we decided to take this year to do our normal stuff while planning some new and exciting things for the near future.”

The Ladybug Festival will be held in the 400 to 500 block of Market Street on May 31.

Editor’s note: a correction has been added to clarify that the Ladybug Festival will continue to host its Wilmington show. The story has also been edited to add comments from Gable Music Ventures. We regret the error.

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