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Wilmington Ladybug preps for new show, next stage

Katie Tabeling
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The Wilmington Ladybug is expected to draw thousands of people to Market Street on May 31. | PHOTO COURTESY OF NATHALIE ANTONOV/GABLE MUSIC VENTURES

The Wilmington Ladybug Festival is expected to draw thousands of people to Market Street on May 31. | PHOTO COURTESY OF NATHALIE ANTONOV/GABLE MUSIC VENTURES

WILMINGTON Gable Music Ventures is primed and ready to launch Old Ellicott City’s inaugural Ladybug Music Festival this summer, but the first concert of the season will take flight in Wilmington at the end of May.

The one-day music festival is set for May 31 for the 400 to 500 block of Market Street with eight venues and more than 30 artists. Ladybug Music Festival has steadily grown since it first launched in 2012 from what Gable CEO and founder Gayle Dillman called a “little block party” of 300 people.

“That was without any social media push. It was crazy. Over the years, it got bigger and bigger with both local, regional and national acts,” she told the Delaware Business Times. “In 2019, it was a two-day event and it was estimated to be about 10,000 people.”

This year, the Wilmington Ladybug Music Festival includes Philadelphia local favorite Catbite. Other bands and songwriters come from different genres and all across the world, including Canada, Ireland and France.

Gable Music Ventures has evolved to producing entertainment events throughout the state, including various music festivals like Fortify Music Festival at Fort Dupont, Shazizzle Music Fest in Smyrna and more. The company has also put on the Wilmington Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Festival, the Darley Beer, Food, and Wine Festival and pop-up events on Market Street.

Dillman explained that the Gable’s model is to provide free entertainment with quality musicians within the client’s budget. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, it was hard to get by.

“A lot of events that went away during that time never came back and this was the first year we’re hopeful that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “Putting on a festival is expensive and production is the largest cost.”

Gable Music Ventures estimates that production is between 20 and 25% of the contract price its clients see. For entertainment production companies, inflation has caused costs with event insurance and songwriting licensing organizations like BMI and ASCAP to rise. 

With larger events like Firefly Music Festival which was produced by AEG Presents that results in thousands of dollars to pay for songwriting royalties. But with a business model that does not ticket events, like Ladybug, it’s a flat fee, Dillman said.

When Gable Music Ventures first brought Ladybug to Milford in 2018 as its second stop with the support of Downtown Milford Inc. (DMI), the company did not make a profit, after paying the production team and musicians and other costs.

“We maybe broke even [in 2018], because payroll costs are significant. Back when we started this in Milford, we picked a number everyone could live with,” Dillman said.

The Ladybug Festival will not be in Milford this year, as DMI declined to move forward on Gable Music Ventures’ proposed $65,000 for the event to reach market value.

The company estimated the festival grew from 2,000 people in its first year to roughly 4,000 in its final year in Milford.

Those attendance numbers also hold steady for the Wilmington Ladybug in the past two years. Each event brought between 3,000 and 4,000 people.

“We absolutely loved Milford. It was the perfect place to add to Ladybug, and it really helped elevate our brand,” Dillman said. “One of the purposes behind the festival is to not only elevate women in music but to be an economic driver for the community and bring people in from other areas and really see what Delaware and Milford is about.”

Looking to the future, Gable Music Ventures is moving to Maryland after years of discussions. Back in 2022, the company was in talks to bring a festival to Old Ellicott City, but was postponed due to city administration changes.

When a flood devastated the community, Dillman said that Old Ellicott City started looking for fresh ideas to draw people from outside the city limits.

“We’re in the process of finalizing our offers, including our headliner,” she told DBT. “We hope to continue on in Wilmington and we’d definitely be open to another festival in Delaware, as well as a micro-festival.”

The Wilmington Ladybug Festival 2024 will be held on May 31 from 5 to 10 p.m. on the 400 and 500 blocks of N. Market Street. Local food trucks, desert vendors and small businesses will also be on site.

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