City officials seemed receptive to granting a $300,000 lodgers tax funds request last week from the producers of “Bands of Enchantment: Tucumcari Sessions” so they could shoot a second season of the nationally distributed music-television show early next year.
Finding that $300,000 will be the tricky part, and city officials have about a month to do it.
“Bands of Enchantment” creator Ken Peterson and co-executive producer Vince T. Chavez, who appeared by teleconference, during a Tucumcari Lodgers Tax Advisory Board meeting Wednesday laid out the funding request and how their Elkhorn Entertainment company fulfilled its contact with the city after receiving $120,000 in assistance from lodgers tax funds earlier this year.
Peterson and Chavez said initial production of “Bands of Enchantment” actually cost about $220,000 the company “backfilled” after not securing as many sponsorships as anticipated.
Explaining the $300,000 request, Chavez said that is a “break even” proposition. He and Peterson said the 2022 production likely would require at least four weeks to shoot, compared to two weeks previously. Elkhorn was able to squeeze its earlier shoot into a two-week period because virtually all the musical acts weren’t on tour during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Peterson said production of the 10-episode second season would begin in March, with an air time in June. Possible acts include Margo Price, Leon Bridges and Robert Randolph, plus New Mexico-based music artists.
Lodgers Tax Board Chairman Matt Bednorz admitted he flinched at the $300,000 request — noting it is nearly half of the annual lodgers tax funds budget — but also admired what Elkhorn has done.
“Y’all did amazing work,” Bednorz said. “What you did was great in Season One. I’m for the (funding) idea; I really am.”
City Manager Mark Martinez, calling the program “amazing” and predicted it’s about to “blow up” in popularity, said finding the $300,000 would be difficult.
“Is it worth $300,000? Absolutely,” he said. “Can we afford $300,000? I’m not sure.”
Peterson said he understood city officials’ conundrum and said his company can wait a month to see whether the city could find other funding options. He said Elkhorn instead could shoot its program in another part of New Mexico but expressed reluctance to do so.
“I don’t want to go anywhere else,” Peterson said. “Our brand is here.”
Chavez said a second season would lay the groundwork for an eventual music festival in Tucumcari that would be “a big payday” for Elkhorn. In terms of funding challenges now, he said “I think we can overcome them.”
Peterson acknowledged “Bands of Enchantment” was eligible for tax credits from the New Mexico Film Office. He said he’s also tried to land funding from the state tourism office, but to no avail.
“I’ve been tapping at the door for six months,” Peterson said of New Mexico True.
Martinez added the state tourism office seems disinclined to support productions that espouse one municipality instead of New Mexico as a whole.
City liaison Todd Duplantis said he’d like to brainstorm with residents on funding options and monitor the tourism effects of “Bands of Enchantment” after episodes recently aired in the Amarillo area.
Tucumcari MainStreet Executive Director Connie Loveland suggested reaching out to the state’s Economic Development Department and sponsorships with Union Pacific Railroad or Gibson guitars.
Last year, Elkhorn initially promised eight 30-minute episodes of music performances filmed at the Tucumcari Railroad Museum and other spots in Tucumcari last spring. Instead, the company produced 10 episodes that have been broadcast to Public Broadcasting System stations in New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle. Peterson said several stations have scheduled airings around the long-running “Austin City Limits.”
Peterson announced Elkhorn recently secured an agreement which PBS-TV where episodes will be aired nationally for the next two years before a potential audience of 100 million people. He said PBS-TV was a “huge upgrade” over the previously planned Cowboy Channel, which has seen a 30% decline in viewership.
The agreement also enables people to view “Bands of Enchantment” shows on the PBS-TV mobile app on their cellphones.
In addition, producers secured a streaming agreement with IMDb TV and may have more streaming options through Roku and others.
Peterson said Elkhorn should have viewership numbers for the program within a few months.
A variety of news outlets, including the Albuquerque Journal and Yahoo! News, have published stories about “Bands of Enchantment.” The company has produced 20 videos for YouTube with more coming, plus clips on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and other social media that have been shared thousands of times.
Peterson made a similar presentation of Elkhorn’s funding request Thursday in front of the Tucumcari City Commission.
Afterward, Martinez said he thinks “it’s worth the $300,000 investment” but “we’d have to find a way to offset the cost.”
District 5 Commissioner Duplantis said it could help attract bands to perform at the Tucumcari Convention Center and could host festivals. He mentioned state Rep. Jack Chatfield is on the New Mexico Legislature’s Movies and TV Committee.
District 1 Commissioner Ralph Moya said the investment would “be like everything else: You take a chance.”
Peterson emphasized several times that Tucumcari has “right of first refusal” as the host city for the series.
Quay County Sun correspondent Steve Hansen contributed to this report.