I was not trying to paint Sam Watkins or his band in a bad light in my recent article. At best I thought he had been duped into doing the now famous Haleighbug Benefit Concert. I had the opportunity to talk to Sam Watkins yesterday. And to say the least, it was illuminating.

The concert held in Austin, was to say the least, a bust, according to Sam Watkins, only two tickets were sold. With a case as high profile as Haleigh Cummings, I find that surprising. As Sam pointed out, the Haleigh story was known from coast to coast, even internationally. That much I can attest to we received emails and comments from many countries about the Haleigh Cummings case.

Sam told me that the involvement in the search for Haleigh started as a result of Facebook, Marie Griffis likes his music, and it was she that suggested that he put on the concert.

Sam went on to explain that due to security concerns, it was a high wire act. It is hard to advertise a concert, when you are not sure where and when it is going to be performed. Finally arrangements were made to host the event on a large ranch some 20 miles out of Austin.

I had to ask the obvious question, why do it in Austin? Why not Gainsville or Jacksonville?

The answer surprised me, yet in the same breath it did not. “Haleigh is so well known, we could have held it in London, England, or Florida. The point is, we were trying.”

When I asked about promotion, Sam explained that a press release went out to all of the local radio and TV stations, but none seemed interested. Again I find that strange, and again had the event occurred in Gainsville or Jacksonville it would have been a very different story.

The actual concert was not with out its own set of problems, a lack of suitable power, made the sound board a huge dead weight, it also created a nightmare with the lighting gantry. This also had a ripple down effect to the videographer and his equipment. ‘Yes he does weddings and stuff, but he is a true pro’ was the quote from Sam.

There has been much rumbling and grumbling about the number of tickets sold, and the number is TWO! I got that straight from Sam Watkins! Everyone else in attendance were friends and VIP’s with free passes.

I think it is fair to say that Sam Watkins had good intentions, but things just got derailed. Marketing was zero, in fact it was minus-marketing. A secret concert, at a secret location, does not make people very happy in dipping into their wallets. He had been told that security was a major issue, as a result he kept quiet about many aspects of the planned event until shortly before it happened.

Sam Watkins is a well known artist in the Austin area, and I do not feel that he in anyway was trying to benefit from the event. Although disappointed with the money outcome Sam went on to explain that he did derive great satisfaction from being able to talk at some length with Cystal Shefield, Marie Griffis, and Tim Miller. He is holding what little money was raised, and is trying to decide which organization to send it to.

I asked Sam the following questions: If it could be arraigned, and I am pretty sure it could be, would you take a second stab at this? If there was was a decent venue, costs were covered, and there was proper marketing?

His answer was yes, he would like to do whatever he can to help in finding Haleigh Cummings, and missing children in general. I think this is a brave answer, and Sam should be applauded for it.

In my opinion there were several mistakes made, none of them were deliberate, and all of them compounded to cause the event to implode from a money raising stand point. A poor choice of location was clearly a big factor. The marketing was poorly done and unfocused with an unnecessary level of secrecy. The final issue in my mind was the initial choice of recipient for any monetary gains. The Haleighbug Foundation has not been without its share of controversy, had he selected a mainstream organization like Equusearch, or even made it plain that the proceeds were going directly to the reward fund, I suspect the event would have had a far different outcome.

Simon Barrett

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