Jazz festival stands out after COVID restart.
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The 2022 TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival wrapped up on Sunday. After overcoming COVID lockdowns and limits for two years, Nina Horvath, executive director of the jazz festival host Coastal Jazz and Blues Societysays the event was a winner.
The organization is the largest non-profit music presenter in BC.
“I think it really reaffirmed for all of us that there is no substitute for live music, and I’m very happy about that,” Horvath said. “The numbers were a bit slower than previous years, which is in line with what we’ve been hearing from other industry anchors. If you wanted to use food and beverage sales as a metric for free jazz weekends at the Vancouver Art Gallery and David Lam Park, they were pretty much the same. It was good to know.”
Attendance in 2019 was estimated at 600,000. Horvath says he expects about 200,000 fewer than that by 2022. While free events were pretty much on par, there’s still some resistance among the public to attending indoor concerts.
“Honestly, people haven’t gotten live shows back on their radar yet,” he said. “Even before the week before we launched, there were people who commented that they didn’t know we were back. It’s hard to know what to say with that plastered all over town, but I think he’s just looking for things to go out and do that has maybe died down in people’s minds in the last two years.”
With COVID still going strong and there being well-documented issues with travel, only three dates at this year’s event were completely canceled with no substitutions. Unfortunately, one of them was headliner Buddy Guy. The 85-year-old blues legend was forced to cancel dates due to health concerns unrelated to COVID.
Horvath notes that losing six or more performances out of 200 doesn’t stand out compared to pre-pandemic years.
A notable change this year was the reduction in the number of places, as club members in previous festivals did not participate. However, new programming at Ocean Art Works on Granville Island kept the nightlife going. Co-produce nightly DJ sets with Full Circle First Nations performance it attracted a newer and younger demographic. Horvath points out that supply chain issues are a challenge for venues, presenters, artists and crews throughout the live music industry.
“Many of the usual sources for rental equipment sold their inventory during the pandemic to stay afloat, thinking they could order again when things picked up,” he said. “Unfortunately, they are now looking for months, sometimes years, to restock due to global shortages. We are very fortunate that our veteran staff are very well connected to the local music scene and have been able to negotiate instruments and other equipment from various sources.”
While the festival is on solid financial footing, this is the last year with title sponsor TD. Horvath admits it will be a lot of work to find a new sponsor as companies reassess what they want their participation in arts and cultural events to look like in a post-pandemic landscape.
“We’re going to work with some people whose background is looking for sponsorship and they’ll be there on the lookout next year,” he said. “I am cautiously optimistic as to how it will go as we have a great product to sell. That doesn’t mean it won’t be a lot of work, and we could still do something without a title sponsor next year if need be. That is not the goal, but we are prepared for it if it happens.”
The 2023 event will be the first to take shape with the new board of directors as well as other new hires for key positions. Horvath says more organizational changes are expected.