After Losing Sponsor, Detroit Jazz Festival Draws Crowds

Classic Arts News   After Losing Sponsor, Detroit Jazz Festival Draws Crowds
Months after losing its longtime sponsor, the Detroit International Jazz Festival boosted attendance and posted a surplus, organizers announced.

The Ford Motor Company announced in February that it would end its support of the festival, which is billed as the largest free jazz festival in North America. A month later, with the festival on the verge of shutting down, Detroit's Mack Avenue Records agreed to take over the sponsorship.

The company's only condition was that the festival remain in its traditional Labor Day weekend slot, rather than reschedule to avoid competition with a street fair in Pontiac, Michigan, as its organizers—the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts—had planned.

That stipulation now seems inspired: The festival drew approximately one million people, up from 600,000 in 2004. The increased attendance helped boost food and beverage sales by 80 percent and merchandise by 20 percent. The festival posted a $150,000 surplus.

The increased attendance may be due in part to the addition, for the first time, of blues and funk performers such as Dr. John and the Funk Brothers to the lineup. Jazz performers this year included Dave Brubeck, David "Fathead" Newman, McCoy Tyner, and Charles McPherson.

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