Update at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 25, 2017: The Bomb Factory confirms it will partner with several Deep Ellum venues to host Oaktopia 2017, a music festival that once took place in Denton. The newly moved fest will take place Nov. 17 through 19 and headliners are 21 Savage, Phantogram, strfkr and more.
Original story from March 9, 2017:
The co-founder of Oaktopia, an award-winning music and culture festival in Denton, said Tuesday afternoon the popular event might relocate to Deep Ellum, an entertainment district near downtown Dallas.
"We're not partnered with Sparky anymore," said Matt Battaglia, who co-founded the multigenre festival four years ago.
Argyle businessman John "Sparky" Pearson was the key investor in the festival, which filled downtown Denton with rock, pop, hip-hop and folk music for three days in September. The event attracted thousands of music fans.
"We're still friends," Battaglia said. "There's no bad blood or anything. Sparky just has a lot going on right now, and a music festival wasn't something that fit for him right now."
Requests for comment from Pearson weren't returned.
Oaktopia typically takes place in late September, and Battaglia said it still could happen in Denton despite the current uncertainty.
Oaktopia's possible move is the third announcement of major changes to Denton's festival season in as many months. Organizers of 35 Denton music festival announced they wouldn't stage the event in 2017, but they intend to return in 2018.
The Oaktopia announcement also follows a shakeup between rivals on the staff of the Denton Comedy Festival, which took place last July. Those rivals have now split into two groups, each promising to host separate comedy festivals this fall.
Battaglia said Oaktopia has enough funding to stage this year's event "at the same size as last year." He just doesn't know whether the festival will happen in Denton again or in Deep Ellum.
Oaktopia wouldn't be the first festival to move from Denton to Deep Ellum. Before the demise of the Delta Lodge, the assembly of college grads and music fans moved their rowdy music festival Fry Street Fair to Deep Ellum from its cramped quarters on the streets flanking the University of North Texas.
"Some of our staff members were with Fry Street Fair when it moved to Deep Ellum," Battaglia said.
The most expensive part of Oaktopia is booking talent, Battaglia said. Last year, the festival booked rising hip-hop stars Rae Sremmurd, UNT alumna and jazz star Norah Jones, singer-songwriter Cat Power, and indie rock band Dr. Dog. The festival also fit soul and old-school rock into its schedule.
"A lot of festivals try to cover their costs with ticket sales and everything else is profit," Battaglia said. "But if you do that, your model is kind of backward. Really, you should try to cover your costs with corporate sponsorships, and then everything else is profit."
Battaglia said Oaktopia's infrastructure costs are considerable, too. The 2016 festival was the first to have a paid position -- a production employee -- and to contract with a professional PR team.
"Working with the city has been really great, but that doesn't mean it's cheap," he said. "A lot of people have no idea how much just one stage costs, and we used pretty small stages. If people saw our generator bill, that would convince them not to do a festival."
Battaglia said organizers are open to Denton investors, but they will talk with Dallas investors in the next few weeks.
"What we want to see happen is to have Denton artists on the lineup, but after that, we want to see the festival come back to Denton," Battaglia said.