The Reasons Why
By Emma Alois
It has been reported that the Miami Jazz Fest was cancelled due to poor ticket sales. The unhappy reality is that this is a mutation of the truth. Limited funds, limited publicity and over confidence led to the demise of the much anticipated event, shocking both audience and the festival’s team of organizers.
On Monday, founder Carmen Cartiglia wrote the jazz artists to express concern that they may play to an “empty crowd.” He explained that he did not want to embarrass them with low attendance. Tuesday night, November 13, the festival’s publicist Woody Graber released a statement cancelling the show, without informing the team beforehand.
Graber is renowned throughout Miami for being a successful live music event promoter. Voted “Best Flack” in 2011 by the Miami New Times, Graber is noted to have worked with some of the largest musical festivals to arrive in Miami. Unfortunately, the Miami Jazz Fest will not be added to his resume, at least this year.
The publicity for the campaign was modest, due in large part to the limited funds. The Greater Miami Convention and Visitor’s Bureau gave 69 posters on lamp posts to advertise with; however beyond that and a few advertisements in the local newspapers, the festival was not promoted on a grand scale. Howard Duperly, Director of Sales and Advertising for WDNA jazz radio station, describes their campaign as a “fairly decent campaign [with the radio station], but by no means a major one based on the caliber of the production.” With an excellent line up of Brazilian and American artists, as well as the great attention to detail the organizers put into the event, the Miami Jazz Fest had the trappings to become Miami’s newest shining star. According to Cartiglia, the marketing campaign will be stronger next year,and will expose these focal points, as leaders in the Miami community are keen to offer their resources next time around to see the festival actualized.
The deciding factor for its cancellation though was that the estimated 400 tickets bought in advance were not considered a high enough number to bring the artists in to perform. This number does not include the high volume of comp tickets or anticipated numbers of tickets sold at the door.
In terms of an international event with Woodstock proportions (like Ultra ot the Marley Fest, or events with maximum publicity campaigns like UR1), dismal ticket sales do indicate a failed event. When it comes to small, adequately marketed festivals, the opposite could be said. Advanced ticket sales gauge an interested audience which are seeking and wanting events of its kind. If the Miami Jazz Fest were to go ahead as planned, then the advanced tickets sales may have been matched, perhaps exceeded, at the door. The seed of a blossoming reputation as a “pure jazz event” would have been planted.
A final critical factor to consider is that the Amphitheater was an over-ambitious venue to plan for the first Miami Jazz Fest. With a seating of 7,500, it is no wonder that Cartiglia was disheartened with the ticket sales. The prime location would have been the Trina Hills Pavilion at the Bayfront Park, which seats 1,000. It would have been a full house, and a great sized crowd for the musicians. It can only be assumed that the zealous vision of a future great jazz festival overrode the reality of the present situation.
A lesson can be learned from the Miami Nice Jazz Festival. The daughter of the 64 year-old Nice Jazz Festival just occurred for its first of five annual concerts in October. Their organizers chose the festival to be held at the Gusman Center, which seats 1,567. The auditorium was not full, and certainly not empty. Cartiglia, an experienced trade show organizer, overlooked the important factor of matching appropriate venue size with realistic audience attendance ,and that was the MJF’s ultimate undoing, and Cartiglia’s Achilles Heel.
As the media sponsor of the Miami Jazz Festival, The Brickell Reporter encourages the organizers to plan the festival again for next year. With realistic expectations, careful planning, strong marketing and understanding of the Miami public, the Miami Jazz Fest will transform Miami into an even greater music mecca, and become a unique, successful Miami trademark event.
The community is waiting.