Domino effect of JVC Jazz Fest failure on Jazz Times?

New speculation on the jazz magazine crisis: Having no summer advertorial supplements for JVC Jazz Festivals (which aren’t happening) may have hugely hurt JT‘s seasonal revenues. How could the loss of three consecutive monthly multi-page inserts, all expenses paid for by the client, not shake a publication’s income stream?

Complete disclosure: I edited the JVC Jazz Festival program books in the 1990s, when they were inserts into Tower Records’ free monthly magazine Pulse!, and for a year when JVC America, responsible for the Japanese owned electronics firms’ promotional investment in George Wein’s international jazz fests, switched the contract to Jazziz. Ah, those were the days!

I had considerable leeway to assign interesting articles to good writers, in the hopes that the program books would a) attract Pulse! readers to consider attending JVC Jazz Fests, and b) give something interesting to read to whoever was at the Fests and picked the programs up. One of my coups was getting my very favorite crime writer Lawrence Block and then-budding novelist Jonathan Lethem to contribute short stories relating to jazz . . .but having nothing specific to do with the JVC fests.

That was then, this is now. A contract for 16, 20 or maybe 24 pages of four-color ads, inserted into issues of a monthly mag and also delivered as stand-alones onsite, is just what every print publisher dreams of. If they’re only dreaming, though, they won’t have the cash to pay writers, photographers, editors, printers, webmasters, ad salesmen or anybody else as they were when dreams were real. Jazz Times won the JVC program book prize what, 10 years ago? They were probably caught short, like everyone else, when Festival Network, which took over from Wein in 2008, buckled by over-reaching (according to FN principal Chris Shields in a New York Times interview) and/or was unsuccessful in securing JVC’s ongoing support (it’s unclear which came first).

Of course, the economic damage done by the loss of the JVC Jazz Festivals doesn’t only have impact on program book publishers. The JVC Jazz Fests took ads in music magazines like Down Beat and Jazziz, too. The JVC Jazz Fests brought tourists to venues across the U.S. and abroad, and attendees to vendors of t-shirts, crafts, food, gas, parking and lodgings. Oh yes, musicians made some $$ off fests, and record companies (remember them?) probably benefitted when players made new fans who went out and bought cds (remember going out to buy cds?).

Well, it’s a new world, folks, and if none of that has survived, something else will take its place. Here are some options:


If any of them is looking for an experienced editor to put together stunningly readable and relevant program books, will you let me know?
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  1. Forrest Bryant says

    Great piece; thank you for following these developments.
    One minor correction: the San Jose festival is no longer free, but it is still a blowout. And luckily, San Jose Jazz managed to secure title sponsorship from AT&T at a time when many other fests were losing corporate support.

  2. says

    1. What about Rochester Jazz Festival?
    2. As a jazz magazine publisher in Russia, I have just faced a choice of two options: a. to cancel one of the issues of our magazine completely, b. to make that issue a “special issue,” dedicated completely to the artists of a major outdoors jazz festival near Moscow. I’ve chosen b., and may God forgive me :)

  3. says

    Thanks for the continued reporting on these sad developments. I just wanted to give some attention to another summer event here in NYC. The guys at managed to secure an afternoon for jazz at the Northside Music Festival in June. They’ve booked Steve Colemen, Kneebody, Andrew D’Angelo, and Ken Thomson for Sunday, June 14 at 2pm. There’s more info here –

  4. says

    And there’s always Saratoga Springs, NY – the Freihofer’s Jazz Festival – just 3 hours north of NYC and kickin’ ! – June 27 & 28. – dig it.
    HM: Quite right, sorry that one slipped my mind. (I don’t know them all, but Saratoga, Rochester, Syracuse — right here in the Empire State!)