Jazz Aspen rocking to age 17
ASPEN ” Jazz Aspen Snowmass has come along way since 1991 when its troubled beginnings indicated it might not make it. Fast forward 17 years, and it has become a multimillion-dollar nonprofit that brings some of the biggest music shows to the area, as well as funds music educational programs.
JAS began as two concerts in the Aspen music festival tent in 1991. Snowmass wooed the new organization with the offer of a little support, and in 1995, the group added the Labor Day festival.
Now, the June festival is held in the Rio Grande Park over four days. The Labor Day festival is held in Snowmass Town Park.
This year’s Labor Day festival started on Thursday with Widespread Panic and Global Noize, and ends Monday with headliner the Yonder Mountain String Band. Sandwiched in between was Bob Dylan, Dwight Yoakam, John Fogerty and a host of other artists.
During the tax year of Oct. 1 2006 to Sept. 30, 2007, the 501(c)(3) public charity brought in a little more than $6.5 million. Its expenses were $5.8 million, leaving almost $934,000 in net assets for the organization, according to its IRS tax filing.
Jim Horowitz, president of Jazz Aspen Snowmass, said the cost of producing the Labor Day festival hovers around $3 million. Costs associated with the set up alone for all of the tents and equipment in Snowmass Town Park cost nearly $1 million, he said.
Another notable expense is security, which cost $147,125, according to the organization’s IRS tax return. Catering for the VIP tent, provided by Syzygy restaurant, cost $238,600 last year for both the June and Labor Day events.
“Anywhere else, that would be double,” said Syzygy owner Walt Harris of his verbal agreement with JAS and Horowitz. “All we have ever had is a hand-shake deal.”
One of the larger and increasing expenses of the shows is the performers. Last year’s tax return shows that $482,590 was spent on musicians’ fees between October 2006 and September 2007. But that only lists the five highest paid independent contractors, meaning far more was spent on musicians.
Horowitz anticipates that expense to become much greater in coming years as the explosion of music festivals around the world continue to flourish and as a result, performers will command more money based on demand.
“There is tremendous competition on other continents,” he said, noting even statewide growth in music festivals is driving up costs with the most recent being Mile High Music Festival, where 80,000 people attended to listen to the likes of the Dave Matthews Band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Black Crowes and dozens of others.
But even with increased competition, JAS is still able to stay true to its mission.
“Despite the swirl of festivals, we still commit to a half of a million dollars in educational programs,” Horowitz said.
The tax return showed a loss for the organization of $1,587 in the 2006-2007 tax year. Horowitz said that was the year the Labor Day festival featured hip-hop artist Kanye West and country singer LeAnn Rimes, which raised eyebrows among festival goers who didn’t come in big numbers.
During the 2006-2007 tax year, JAS brought in nearly $2.4 million in ticket sales. Other revenue included $400,000 in management fees and $289,687 in concession sales.
Ticket prices don’t come close to covering the costs of putting on the festival, Horowitz said. Tickets cover roughly 40 percent of costs for the organization.
Corporate sponsorship of the festivals covers another 20 percent, and individual contributions (including those from family foundations) is another 40 percent.
Between 2002 and 2005, JAS has received $11,515,703 in gift, grants and contributions, according to the IRS filing. During that same time, nearly $9 million came in gross receipts from admissions, merchandise sold and services.
The seven-member JAS office is small when compared with its large budget.
According to Horowitz, the operating budget is only about 17 percent of the total.
There are a handful of highly-paid positions at the organization. Horowitz earned upward of $190,000 a year, while the executive vice president, Marc Breslin, earned $141,000, according to the IRS return. Mindi Van Moorsel, JAS’ CFO made $83,750 and Andrea Beard, the public relations and marketing manager made $67,500. Cynthia Kahn, development director, made $76,686.
Horowitz has a hand in nearly everything, especially when it comes to the big decisions ” finding funding, getting a title sponsor and choosing musicians.
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