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DEMF deficit

For all the happy hoopla surrounding the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, the event, which is free to fans, hasn’t been cheap for city taxpayers. In addition to the $340,000 a year Detroit pays Pop Culture Media to produce the Memorial Day weekend festival, and the unknown cost to pepper Hart Plaza with police and emergency workers, the festival ran a $300,000 deficit its first year and went $150,000 in the hole its second year, says Phillip Talbert, special activities director for the Detroit Recreation Department. This despite projections that the inaugural 2000 festival would earn $50,000 for the city. Instead, the city bailed out the DEMF — a previously undisclosed fact. This means that the city has paid $1.6 million for the festival over its first three years, not counting any deficit racked up this year.

Pop Culture Media is owned by Carol Marvin, a Plymouth resident whose stewardship of the festival and seeming inability to pay bills on time has generated controversy. Pop Culture has until July 25 to give the city all receipts from this year’s festival.

Despite the cost, Talbert sees the DEMF as a success. The festival markets the city globally and generates millions of dollars for local businesses. "It’s kind of hard to put a dollar figure to that," Talbert says, "It may even convince some young people that, hey, Detroit isn’t a bad place to come and live." This year’s festival was as peaceable as the first two, Talbert says, thanks to a "wonderful group of kids" who migrate to gyrate to techno.

Pop Culture Media’s contract expired May 31. No negotiations for an extension will take place until the books are closed, says Talbert. The city isn’t married to Pop Culture. "We’ll look at any proposal put forth by anybody," he says. He doesn’t know if the city will continue subsidizing the festival. But the city wants DEMF to continue. "We look at whether folks come back to visit. That should be our goal. We should keep our eye on the ball, and that should be the ball." Lisa M. Collins is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail

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