[Dixielandjazz] Re: The Ultimate Festival

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Dec 18 21:41:47 PST 2003

Listmates & Kurt:

Berk's Jazz Fest, Reading PA is the most successful jazz festival at which BSJB
performs. It is similar to the JVC Festivals world wide, promoted by George
Wein. Here is their recipe for success within the context of Kurt's questions.

> "Kurt" <bowermastergroup at qwest.net> wrote (polite snip)

> Keep in mind the following goals:  The festival can not lose money and must
> benefit the community where it is held.

They make a ton of money each year. Probably under the guise of a non profit
organization, so the show the excess as "retained earnings" and save it for a
rainy day, bailout.

> Should it be run 100% by volunteers, or should there be some paid staff?  Is
> it run by a jazz society or an independent producer?

They are run as a mix., volunteers and paid and produced by a paid INDEPENDENT

> Should the management be set up as a non-profit organization or a for
> profit?

Either will work, by they should be managed as a profit making enterprise.

> What time of year is best, or does it matter?  Is it best to avoid holiday
> weekends, or is it best to hold it on holiday weekends.

Doesn't matter. Most avoid holidays, but that can work also.

> What is the target audience of patrons?  Should the festival try to be all
> things to all people (multiple stages each featuring a different style of
> music), or should it focus on one style targeted to one particular
> demographic (such as males and females age 55+).

All things to all people, within a broad jazz framework. Go for those people
who spend.

> What bands would you book?  All traditional and dixieland, or would you
> include blues, ragtime, other styles of jazz, rock, Zydeco, country and
> western, Klezmer, etc.?  Are the all local bands, all national "name" bands,
> or a combination of the two.  Do you invite international bands?

Broad jazz Framework. No need for Zydeco, Country etc. Combine local and
national. Be sure to invite MAJOR JAZZ STAR Headliners. (the caliber of
Marsalis, Preservation Hall, Sandoval, Mangione etc.)

> What type of criteria is established for performer fees?  Is it one price no
> matter who the performer is (say $100 per sideman and $150 for leader per
> day), or is it on a case by case review based on the bands reputation?

Case by case review. Some acts will get BIG BUCKS.

> Should there be ancillary activities as part of the festival such as an art
> fair, craft fair, CD/souvenir vendors, etc?  What types of souvenirs should
> be sold?

Jazzy Souvenirs

> What about food?  If an outdoor location, are multiple food vendors selling
> a variety of items invited?  Is one person contracted to coordinate all the
> food?

Festival should be city-wide. Food provided by restaurants all over the city

> Is there a beer garden?

Not necessarily. Again, festival should be city-wide. Beer & refreshments
available all over the city and at every performance venue except the concert

> Is there preferred VIP seating/treatment for sponsors, donors, etc.?


> How do you get the local/national media to take notice?  Do you issue media
> credentials?  Is there a photo pit in front of the stage?

By making sure the local media, Print, Radio, TV are all SPONSORS of the
festival, contribute free advertising and supply volunteers. This is KEY. Make
sure the local politicos, Mayor, Governor, are involved.

> Do you have a dance floor?  If so, where is located in relation to the
> stage?

At some venues, yes. Right in front.

> Is there a souvenir program?  If so, is it free or is there a charge for it?
> Is advertising sold in the program?

Yes, Printed by the local Newspaper FREE because they donate it, but they get
ad revenue from it.

> What about sponsors?  Do you go for large national sponsors, or limit it to
> local companies?  What are the sponsorship dollar levels and what do they
> receive in return?  If a potentially controversial sponsor wants to be
> involved (such as a tobacco company, liquor, condoms, etc.) do you take the
> money and deal with the criticism?

Go for them all. Controversial sponsors are case by case. Tobacco & Liquor OK.
Condoms, maybe not as ads appear in all media. In Reading's case, major
sponsors are Berk's Arts Council, First Energy Corp (electric supplier for
City), several major banks, the leading newspaper, the leading radio station,
the leading TV station, the leading Department store, Coca Cola, Mercedes Benz,
Leading outlet stores and many other merchants & restaurants.

Other sponsors are Pennsylvania Council on Arts, Berk's County, City of
Reading, Berk's County Hotel Association, Reading and Berk's County Visitor's
Bureaus, Reading Musical Foundation and the Reading Downtown Improvement

> Do you include a youth band or other youth oriented activities as part of
> the festival?

Yes, but not much.

> How many days should the festival be (one day, two, three, a week, several
> weeks)?

10 days  Start Thursday, then the weekend, then M-F plus the following Sat Sun

> Are small venues (under 500) best, or would it be better to have venues
> holding many thousands?

Combination. Major concert hall holds 2100, 40 other venues range from small
clubs/restaurants, to country clubs, to large restaurants, to hotel ball rooms
to College auditoriums

> Number of venues/stages: Should it all be on one major stage, or spread out
> over several locations?  Should it be held throughout the geographic area or
> contained to one site such as a fairgrounds or hotel?

Spread out among 40 to 50 venues. Accommodating bands from single guitar to
Lincoln Center Jazz Band.

> Should it all be held indoors or a combination of in and outdoors, or all
> outdoors?

Either way. Reading in March is all indoors

> Is admission charged or does the festival rely on souvenir sales, beer
> sales, etc. for revenue.  Should there be all events badges? If so, how much
> would the patrons be willing to pay for a several day festival?

Admission is charged for each venue, and for each performance. No all events
BS. Some venues, restaurants etc., may not charge admission but rely on food
and liquor sales to make their nut. Others, concert halls, charge as much as
$80 per show, Last year Barbone Street appeared with the Dirty Dozen Brass
Band. Tickets were $35 for this 2 and 1/2 hour show, (one set each) in the
hotel ballroom. Sold out at 500+ seating capacity.

FYI Reading PA is a town of 90,000 people in a county of 300,000 people 80
miles west of Philadelphia. The jazz festival is run as outlined above. There
was NO OKOM there until Barbone Street convinced them it would work and draw
more audience for them four years ago. Last year there were 4 OKOM bands.

It draws 50,000 visitors to the city and reportedly brings in $25,000,000 in
new business, hotel rooms, food etc. The main keys are that the entire city
gets behind it. The paper prints schedules and handouts and runs ads. The radio
hypes it. The TV stations hype it. The restaurants provide venue space and
their costs are self liquidating. etc.

Barbone Street has done live promos on the radio and music for the weather
report on the TV, ("Blue Skies") as our contribution to the hype.

Preservation Hall has appeared there twice because of our success there every
year. 2002 & 2004. We have appeared yearly since 1999.

It is called the best "Smooth Jazz" Festival in the world by those magazines
that promote smooth jazz. It now offers a broad spectrum of jazz and does a
great job for the city. the musicians and the arts in general. It is a major
attraction in the tourist life of Reading at a slow time of then year for them.
Other major attractions are outlet malls, and Amish.

Steve Barbone

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