Fundraisers, friendraisers, funmakers and funk
Originally published in Current, Sept. 8, 1997
Pubcasters are playing impresario with great success, pleasing their music listeners and raising funds with a wide variety of festivals and concerts in the warm months. That nice weather often includes November in Jacksonville, Fla., where WJCT-FM/TV hosts 30,000 to 40,000 fans a year in one of pubcasting's largest events, the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. But attendance in 1996 was cut severely by cold and wet weather.
As the 17th annual festival approaches, Nov. 7-15 , the station is closing in on an agreement for the city to build a new, partly-covered amphitheater that would limit weather risks, according to WJCT President Bill Dresser.
With major acts like George Benson, Bela Fleck and Diane Schurr and strong corporate underwriting, the festival can net $100,000 a year for WJCT on a gross of $600,000 to $700,000, while holding down the ticket price at $8. Companion events include a run and a jazz piano competition.
In Jacksonville's league is the annual blues festival sponsored during Labor Day weekend by KLON-FM in Long Beach, Calif. The 18th annual event drew about 10,000 people a day to a college athletic field with a special salute to Chicago-style blues, says spokeswoman Vickie Pearlson.
Deejays Dan Jacobson and Bernie Pearl started the event as a one-day affair. Now it's the biggest blues fest on the coast--so big that many fans watch on huge video screens by the stage. Major donors to KLON ($350 and up) get special tickets close to the stage.
For most pubcasting concerts, volunteers make the events possible by handling the zillion details of a large shindig. WJCT special events chief Vic DiGenti has 2,000 volunteers organized into 24 committees for the Jacksonville festival.
Volunteers take charge of nearly every aspect of the annual Live Oak Music Festival, an eclectic event held for the ninth time in June by KCBX, San Luis Obispo, Calif. The event raised $50,000 for the station in 1996 and probably as much this year, says volunteer Duane Inglish, a former bluegrass deejay at the station.
For $90, families can attend the festival and camp three nights at a county park in the hills above Santa Barbara. A 3-watt transmitter on site brings music from the stage. When Xioli Zhang-King, a player of the Chinese violin, began her performance last year, Inglish remembers, the crowd near the stage promptly tripled as curious listeners poured out of their campsites.
New Hampshire Public Radio just held its sixth annual White Mountains Jazz & Blues Festival over Labor Day weekend, headlined by the Jazz Crusaders. Attendance at the midday-to-dusk event has been running around 6,000, which is not bad for a broadcaster with a cumulative weekly audience of 88,000, says Vice President Cathy Ives. The Mt. Washington Chamber of Commerce and the festival organization are cosponsors.
The event isn't a big fundraiser; it's more of a "friendraiser," says Ives. She likes the location--in Mt. Washington Valley, up north where NHPR wants to expand coverage and will need to raise funds for a repeater transmitter.
In the Washington, D.C., area, WAMU-FM holds two annual events for its bluegrass music constituency. Jimmy Martin and his Sunny Mountain Boys led the lineup in April for the 18th Annual Bluegrass Concert at a Fairfax, Va., high school. Some 1,400 attend at $15 or $20 apiece. Also once a year, the station holds a free-admission, smaller Pickin' in the Glen event at Glen Echo Park in nearby Maryland, offering a setting for pick-it-yourself music as well as two stage bands and record swapping.
KLON in Long Beach also has smaller events during the year: five one-night "caravans," with shuttle buses circulating among 15 or 20 jazz and blues clubs in the L.A. area. For a $10 or $12 ticket, a fan can club-hop until 2 a.m. without driving or paying cover charges.
WJCT opened up its big Jacksonville Jazz Festival to a younger audience last year with acts like Medeski, Martin & Wood (above). (Video image courtesy of WJCT.)
Web page posted Sept.
21, 1997, revised Dec. 30, 2002