Jazz Aspen Snowmass always brings the beat
ASPEN Jazz Aspen Snowmass has grown from humble beginnings into a multimillion-dollar nonprofit that brings some of the biggest music shows to the area each year. 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.”As of 1995 it started to look more real,” Horowitz said. “It was on the brink for five years.” On Thursday, JAS opens the June Festival with Madeleine Peyroux, then Herbie Hancock and friends. The festival, the smaller of two major events the nonprofit puts on, ran through the weekend. Ticket prices – $168 for a four-day pass – don’t come close to covering the costs of putting on the festival. Jim Horowitz, president of Jazz Aspen Snowmass, 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. In 2005, ticket sales accounted for $1,748,166 in a year when total revenue topped $5 million.
“There are buyers, and there are believers,” Horowitz said. “Buyers support you if they like your product on that day. Believers support you in general. In the believer category, we have a great many of those people. Without those, there wouldn’t be anything for people to buy.” The seven-member JAS office is small when compared with its large budget. According to Horowitz, operating budget is only about 17 percent of the total.Horowitz has a hand in nearly everything, especially when it comes to the big decisions – finding funding, getting a title sponsor and choosing musicians. A sponsorship is often a combination of cash and a product for nominal price. For festivals like the ones JAS puts on, a sponsorship is about being associated with a lifestyle. “If we’re in a dialogue with a sponsor, they’re interested in this event,” Horowitz said. “It’s hard to find sponsors.”Horowitz is also involved in choosing performers for the events. He said that a festival like the one last Labor Day, when ticket sales dropped off from the previous year, doesn’t make a difference in finding a sponsor for the next festival. “I’m the artistic director,” Horowitz said. I negotiate everything. We talk about everything, but I’m the last stop, and I’m the person who executes all the calls.”He said the most difficult part of finding good talent for the shows is the set dates. A place like Red Rocks, he said, will be able to bring in big names and work around the schedule of the musicians. Further, musicians won’t plan very far ahead, so Horowitz said things really heat up in the middle of January as acts start to book dates. For example, JAS just booked one of the headliners for the Labor Day festival, John Legend, last week. “If I called someone and said, ‘We’d like to have you next summer,’ they’d be like, ‘What?'” Horowitz said. “My job is increasingly based on the critical relationships with people and organizations that help us thrive.”There are now three highly paid positions at the organization. Horowitz earns $190,000 a year, while the executive vice president, Marc Breslin, earns $132,000. Finally, a contract festival director position paid $121,000 in 2005. Other big-ticket items for the organization include event security, which Horowitz said can add up very quickly in order to meet demands from artists and local regulations. “A lot of the security requirements are imposed on us by the municipalities and what they require from a public safety point of view,” Horowitz said. “It’s one of those numbers where you want to read it and weep. There are lots of bodies, and they add up.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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