[Dixielandjazz] Victoria Jazz Festival/was declining festival attendance

TCASHWIGG at aol.com TCASHWIGG at aol.com
Wed Dec 17 03:12:20 PST 2003

Dear Len:

In reading your post explaining the problems of the Victoria Festival, I see 
several areas for obvious price cutting and income growth for the Festival, 
that could greatly increase the bottom line potential of the event.

I have been promoting events and concerts for well over twenty five years and 
have also done a substantial amount of volunteer work on other events, and 
know exactly how frustrating and often hearbreaking it is to experience an event 
you  ove and work so hard for go down to defeat.

The first thing that jumps out at me from your post is that while Victoria 
may have once been a much copied festival and example setter, what has 
apparently happend is that so many folks in other cities copied you so well that they 
have attrated a substantial amount of your former attendees to come to their 
events closer to home thereby saving them time and money.

Why do I say this, Look at the names of the bands that you say played at 
Victoria and then look at the rosters of bands at all the festivals advertised 
just in the American Rag.

They are all the same, nothing much new to attract anyone back, especially if 
they can now see the same acts in their own city or much closer to home.   In 
my professional opinion the OKOM festival circuit is over saturated for the 
current available leisure time dollars of the perceived clientele.   Add this 
to all the  Dixieland cruises offered with the same list of acts, all catering 
to the same marketplace.

Guys Like Steve Barbone and I keep stressing the point of going after new 
audiences if  for no other reason than to expand your shrinking attendance 
records.   Look for other avenuies and sources of revenue, maybe even have some 
special free or l ow cost first time attendees badges just to get new yoiunger 
folks into the gates to be exposed to the market and the music, increase your 
prices on badges to reflect the monetary gap between Us and Canadian dollars,   
it is done all over the rest of the world.  

This is 2003 and things cost more and more every day whether we like it or 
not, so event and festival organizers must change with the times or go out of 
business, it is as simple as that.  We will all bitch about the rising costs but 
if we really want to see and hear something we will pay what ever it costs in 
today's terms to get it.

This game of festival and concert promotion got out of hand many years ago 
with promoters trying to compete against each other by offering more and more 
groups for the same money.   Unfortunately they also in many cases have to 
resort to offering inferior groups to make up the numbers game to compete in their 
minds with the next festival.

They have 25 band so we must have 26  etc. etc.

I learned about this game tactic in my first year of promotions, back in the 
1960s  I used to promote my BAND  yep just One band on a Saturday night for 
$2.00 a head, and sold cokes and snacks for $.50 to .75 cents.   Did very well 
drawing about 500 people a night.

It was so successful that another promter decided to start promoting another 
band on Friday night to get to the same audience before I did and dip into my  
pioneered money bag.

When he found out that was not getting all of my audience and we were only 
splitting it, he started offering two bands on Friday night for the same money.  
 I had to offer two bands on Saturday to keep up, then three bands etc. free 
cokes, free records for the first two hundred people who paid etc. and on and 
on till neither of us could possibly make a profit or even break even and pay 
our bands.

I see the same thing happening in the OKOM market in the US for certain and I 
can see how it would drastically affect the Canadian market even faster with 
the difference of 40% in dollar valuation.

I do see other major Jazz events in Canada however that offer much more than 
Dixieland and OKOM music and they are very financially successful and attract 
those elusive major sponsor dollars that you say Victoria is losing out on.

This is when a good group of well meaning volunteers need to get some very 
good professional help to analyze their operations and show them how and why 
they need to make cuts and specific changes that will at best keep them 
competitive in the marketplace.

Having a good large group of volunteers is wonderful, but they are not 
fiscally accountable for the bottom line of the festival, Sacramento boasts of 
having about four thousand volunteers, however when I attended last year I saw a 
great many of them that should have been badge paying customers because they 
were doing nothing useful except getting to walk around and enjoy all the free 
entertainment.   In all fairness I also saw some very dedicated hard working 
volunteers as well.

Having been in this business for a living for many years I have learned how 
to recognize them quickly.   There are other ways to use volunteers and get 
them to be accountable and understand that your festival bottom line is important 
not only to the festival but to them and their organizations and the citizens 
and businesses of the entire community.

Sacramento not long ago was also bragging about how long they had been 
presenting their festival and how it was the most successful one in the USA etc, and 
then somebody took a closer look and found it just was not true.   

Like Victoria, Sacramento could quite possibly be a victim of it's own former 
success, and became complacent in its operations assuming that everything 
will just continue on indefinitely just like it has for the past twenty years,  
just not going to happen, change has got to come.   Fortunately Sacramento saw 
it and acted quickly, let us hope that the new regime can turn it around and 
get it back onto the road to greatness as it well deserves in the name of it's 
talented and professional founder Bill Borchers.


Tom Wiggins

Bye the way just for the record:

I am the USA promoter who convinced the Cirque du Soleil to come to 
California after they had lost 13 Million of the Canadian Governments dollars as a 
provencial circus in Quebec existing non subsidies.   They convinced the 
government in Motreal that they would come to California and lose $750.000.00 more, and 
I sent them home four months later with a Ten Million Dollar profit for a non 
profit organization.   They now have a permanent production playing in Las 
Vegas and at least three units touring the world year round.

Not a bad ending for a story about a young Quebec lad who started out as a 
fire eater on the street corner.   I think his little brother sold a couple of 
million dollars worth of popcorn over the past ten or twelve years as well in 
their travelling concession stand.

Mind you this was a circus that started at $12.00 a seat and one month later 
was charging $30.00 a seat and scalpers were getting $200.00 a seat every 
show.  They also operated in Canada with mostly volunteers for many years.

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