Paul Hinrichs was eager to share his news.
The executive director of the Kaslo Jazz Etc Festival, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last summer with a sold-out smash success, was going over the numbers, filing reports and paying bills, when it started to become increasingly clear: they made a lot of money last year.
So when he walked into the festival’s annual general meeting last week, he was feeling pretty giddy.
“I was about to share our success with everyone. For the first few months after the festival you’re waiting for the dust to settle. But as things were getting paid off and I was looking at our bank account, it was looking more and more like we’d been very successful financially,” he told the Star.
The hard numbers?
“We had more than three and a half times the number of ticket sales in 2016 as compared to 2015, so that’s a one-year turnaround, and we essentially grossed like $300,00 just on tickets.”
Ultimately the festival made a profit of $140,000 compared to losing slightly less than $40,000 last year. In other words: they made $180,000 more this year than last.
“I don’t think anybody at the board level anticipated this. The whole lineup really took our festival to another level and sold it out, and we really didn’t expect that.”
Hinrichs told the Star earlier this year that depending on how the festival turned out it might have been the last one. Booking Michael Franti was a “Hail Mary” maneuver.
“We figured if we were going to go for it, let’s go for it. We’re going to blow it up or go broke trying.”
Luckily, it turned out to be the former. And following this success, he figures the festival is well positioned for the future — and ready to grow.
“This year we’re going to double our performer budget. Last year’s challenge was how do you turn this to a profit, now our question will be how do we sustain that profit? There are no slam dunks, I know that, so I’m being cautious.”
That means he wants to keep the same basic format, but taken to the next level.
“A lot of last year I’d like to repeat. We’re going to see more performers at the Franti level. We want more household names. My goal in an ideal world, if the budgeting and offers all come together, is I’d like to see someone of his name recognition all three days.”
And he wants to think outside the box.
“I come from a jam band background, and I grew up going to Bonnaroo, I’ve seen a lot of Phish and Dave Matthews. That’s where I got my affinity for live music was through jam bands, and I think that reflects in what I do.”
So he would love to see things be more interactive, and envisions a marching brass band parading through the campsites.
“I want to bring a little bit of New Orleans to Kaslo,” he said.
Another benefit of the surplus is the festival has hired a second year-round staff person, Jake the Lady. The dreadlocked performer, who performs with the Circus Act Insomniacs, acted as the face of the festival last year and was well-poised to take on a leadership role, he said.
“There’s an element of cool that I really respect in Jake, and that she brings to the table. She’s taken ownership, and I don’t mean in a bossy way. She’s seen how much work is involved in this project and she’s woven herself right in, just came in and took over.”
And she was “on the frontlines” all weekend.
“I think she killed it. She was the first person most people saw, and I don’t think I could’ve asked for her to do a better job. Having her there was invaluable. She put out fires I didn’t even hear about until afterwards.”
And Hinrichs thinks her work ethic is emblematic of the volunteer hours put in by countless people to make the festival possible. He just wishes there was a better compensation system set up.
“I feel like festivals are going to have to start hiring a lot more people. We’ve put some pretty crucial positions in the hands of volunteers, and they’ve carried that responsibility for a really long time. But we have to accept that in this market, and with the level of production we want to provide, people should be compensated.”
Last year they had 400 volunteers, and he acknowledged the festival wouldn’t have been possible without them. Any success they’ve had he sees as a collaborative team effort.
“Our organization isn’t like a pyramid. It’s more like a circle, with everyone in the same group working together and taking ownership. You recognize something needs to be done, and then you do it.”