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Ottawa Jazz Festival shows a 2013 surplus, mainly from non-jazz acts and beer

Ottawa Jazz Festival surpluses amd losses, 2009 to 2013.The Ottawa Jazz Festival reversed its 2012 deficit with a surplus in 2013 of $120,834.

Treasurer Jean Vanderzon attributed the surplus to greater sales of passes and single tickets, increased liquor sales, the new Signature concert series – and non-jazz acts like Willie Nelson and the Doobie Brothers.

Speaking to the festival's Annual General Meeting (AGM) on November 27, she noted that artists' fees exceeded $1 million for the first time this year ($1.115M), primarily because of big non-jazz names like Nelson, the Doobies, and David Byrne and St. Vincent, as well as R&B/jazz crossover artist Boz Scaggs.

It also reflects “the continually increasing cost of artists”, she said. “Every time Catherine goes out and talks to somebody, it seems their fee's gone up from last year and the year before.”

This compares to only $710K for musicians in 2009 or $922K in 2012. In 2010, the festival spent $885K on musicians for its 30th anniversary, which featured major names like Dave Brubeck, Herbie Hancock, Bill Frisell, John Scofield, Roy Hargrove, George Benson, Joe Lovano, and Tord Gustavsen.

Beer sales were particularly good on the evenings when Nelson and the Doobies appeared, Vanderzon said. “[They] brought in a different crowd, and I guess they drink a little more.” Overall, it was a “fabulous” year for beer and wine sales, she said, with revenue from concessions, which includes food stand rentals as well as beer and wine, almost doubling to $225K in 2013, over $136K in 2012.

Ticket revenue for the summer festival was $880K, up from $629K the previous year. Festival executive producer Catherine O'Grady said that attendance for the festival (which is counted separately for each concert attended) was 301,000, up from 291,000 in 2012. Vanderzon said that both adult and youth pass sales were up as well as single ticket sales (but gave no specific figures). She said single ticket sales for the Signature series at Dominion Chalmers United Church (which included a mixture of jazz, gospel, and world artists) were particularly good.

Some of that revenue came from an increase in some pass prices over 2012. Bronze passes increased by 6% to $185, and youth passes by 8% to $85.

Overall, gold passes have increased by 46% since 2009, bronze passes by 68%, and youth passes by 70%. By contrast, the Consumer Price Index for Ottawa-Gatineau increased approximately 7% during that time.

Ottawa Jazz Festival price increase, 2009-2013.Revenue for the winter series of concerts, which included both stand-alone concerts and the second year of the Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival, almost doubled over 2012 – to $51K from $26K. The format of the Winter Jazz Festival did not change dramatically from 2012 to 2013, but there were more non-Canadians in the line-up.

Corporate sponsorship was up from $415K to $477K, but sponsor donated services, which includes hotel rooms, meals, rental cars, and advertising in the Ottawa Citizen, was down by 19% to $721K. Revenue from the VIP tent rentals and the festival fundraising concert was down by 15% to $82K.

Total revenue in 2013 was $3.38M, up 8% from 2012. Total expenses were $3.26M, up 3% from 2012.

One item not much discussed at the AGM was the individual jazz performances at the festival, other than the turnout at concerts. Wayne Shorter and the Bad Plus were the only jazz artists mentioned in the presentations. A photo of David Byrne and St. Vincent formed the background to one of the highlights slides; no other recognizable musicians were shown. There was no reference made to the Festival's popular late night jam sessions, which almost did not happen in 2013, nor of jam plans for 2014.

Former festival programing manager Jacques Emond used to give detailed recaps of that year's musical successes (and occasional flops) at each festival AGM. But there was no report at this AGM from current programming manager Petr Cancura, who also did not attend. As in 2012, there were no hints of what artists or concert formats might be expected for next summer.

A count of people in the room showed about 35, including approximately ten board members and staff (the meeting was restricted to festival members). The festival has more than 500 volunteers, each of whom is a voting member.

Festival volunteer coordinator John Cvetan was recognized again for his Volunteer of the Year award bestowed this spring by the Ottawa Festivals Network. In closing her verbal report, O'Grady thanked all the volunteers who contributed “so fabulously” and “just support me no matter what.”

Two new members were elected (by acclamation) to join the festival's board: management consultant and former classical musician Elizabeth Lance, and federal government official cum food writer Poppy Vineberg .

At the end of the meeting, O'Grady noted that ticket sales to the festival's annual fundraiser, this year featuring NYC singer Jane Monheit, were “slow-ish”. The festival is also bringing in the Preservation Hall Jazz Band for a Christmas concert later in December, and will hold its third annual Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival February 14-16, 2014. The 2014 Ottawa Jazz Festival runs from June 20 to July 1.

    – Alayne McGregor, with files from Brett Delmage

Full disclosure: Alayne McGregor is a 24-year volunteer with the Ottawa Jazz Festival, in the Souvenirs (T-shirts) area.

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See coverage of past Ottawa Jazz Festival AGMs: