[Dixielandjazz] The Ultimate Festival

Tom Wood zenith at ans.com.au
Fri Dec 19 17:25:23 PST 2003

Hi Kurt,

Very interesting and thought provoking post for people who attend
festivals/concerts, to band leaders/sidemen, and festival/concert producers.

My contribution to the "blue ribbon" formula for the best festival

I agree that the Festival must be adapted to a set of local criteria
by local customs, habits and logistics and what brings tourists (if any) to
area now?

I agree the festival can not lose money and must benefit the community where
it is held.  You may get some people to sponsor by way of covering against
any loss for a concert in return for (say) 50% of the gain to get things
For example (say) underwriting an event at a festival.  As an ex-pat I have
done this in Edinburgh where an Australian concert was only if we could
cover against any loss.  Luckily ticket sales covered and it did not lose
One claim to fame here was that I got James Morrison to play for $100
provided I didn't tell his agent at the time.

Should it be run 100% by volunteers, or should there be some paid staff?
This is a tricky one.  Anyone on the local jazz scene usually wants to be
involved and is normally willing to give their services free.  Examples
volunteer drivers for visiting bands (in return for free entrance to venues
and/or other freebies)  I have seen situations where volunteers have let
and other friends into paying venues when they were on the door.  Taken to
extreme this can corrode festival income and suggests someone neutral should
perhaps be paid.  As Kurt suggested a compromise solution could be the jazz
society or an independent producer provided the situation was not milked
with extortionate fees.

Should the management be set up as a non-profit organization or a for
profit?  Again a tricky one - some guy in Australia set up a non profit
management company (an American actually) and his notepaper stated
"non-profit" organisation.  He became a multi-millionaire by just varying
salary and expenses each year as a employee to match the profit he would
otherwise have had to declare.

>From the musician and touring manager's viewpoint festivals that run for at
a week and include the usual bad weekday gig opportunities usually do best
can attract good bands especially if they have been smart enough to hook up
with either a festival the week before or the week after their own one so
that a
touring package can be negotiated for visiting artists (to the advantage of
Therefore it does not matter what time of year is best.  Around holiday
is probably best taking up some weekdays as well.

What is the target audience of patrons?  A difficult one again.  On the one
we have an aging population which means larger numbers in the 55 + bracket.
However as others have pointed out - its the younger one who seem to have
money to spend. Maybe not a festival that try's to be all things to all
people but
a compromise with something for the older patrons and something for the

What bands would you book?  Again maybe a compromise is needed but
certainly not all traditional and Dixieland.  Include blues, ragtime, other
styles of
jazz, rock, Zydeco, country and western with a combination of local bands
"name" bands and include .  Start smaller with Saturday/Sunday only, then
Friday/Saturday/Sunday and only local groups plus some drawcard
name and hopefully develop into a week long festival with international
bands invited.

One has to start small and gradually work up moneywise.  I know festivals
the prestige of playing is such that to get the festival engagement on your
band biog.
some guys will virtually play for nothing with the promoter never having to
look for
any groups to play.  There is probably a case by case review based situation
on the
bands reputation?

I agree there should be ancillary activities as part of the festival such as
an art fair,
craft fair, CD/souvenir vendors, etc?  Anything that can sell - some band le
aders may
be willing to auction their underpants.  Get each band to donate a couple of
CDs for
a raffle.

Yes to food and beer garden.  If an outdoor location, multiple food vendors
a variety of items should be invited with each being charged a commission
for the stall
space at your festival.  Even the playing venues could be donated for the

Some VIP seating/treatment for sponsors, donors could be provided within
but depends on the amount sponsored.  Try to get the local council involved.
a PR company (perhaps also partial sponsors?) to get the local/national
media to take
notice.  Get onto the high tech video clips for and press/media release.
Some venues
should have a dance floor just in front of the stage.  Sell wine/port and
with the name of all the bands playing on the label.  Also sell souvenir
programs cheap
at (say) $2 each with advertising (these same stallholders) sold in the

Start small with local company sponsors then try to move up the ladder with
sponsors and the bank.  Call the festival THE JOE BLOGGS DENVER JAZZ
FESTIVAL if Joe is a major sponsor and don't worry about condoms and any

A definite yes for youth bands and perhaps limited other youth activities
because it also
brings out proud Mums and Dads as well or other youth oriented activities as
part of
the festival?

Start with smaller venues (under 500) best spread out over several locations
within short
walking distance from each other and maybe a concert or major stage venue
holding more.
It should be held throughout the geographic area if your weather statistics
are favourable
contained to one site such as a fairgrounds but combined with a backstop
"wet weather
venue" if such as a large hotel with a few function rooms.  This results in
a combination of
outdoors and indoors.  Admission should be charged with a combination of
income from
souvenir sales, beer sales, plus nominal daily events badge fee, etc. with
special deals for
advance purchase of events badges and weekend passes.

Tom Wood
PS for Kurt
Unless Florida comes off around mid May (after Dresden last
gig in Europe on 15 May 2004) I don't think we can make it next year.
If this happens maybe we can do something for May 2005?

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