The Sacramento Music Festival announced Friday that it's lowering ticket prices by 15 percent and booking national acts, such as longtime rockers Los Lobos, in an effort to attract a wider audience this year.
The 40-year-old festival, once known as the Dixieland Jazz Jubilee, will present the festival in Old Sacramento on Memorial Day weekend, from May 24-27.
Los Lobos will be the one of the headline acts to perform May 26. The Blasters and Wanda Jackson are May 25 headliners. Ben Taylor, the son of James Taylor and Carly Simon, is scheduled to perform May 24 (the headliners that day have yet to be announced).
Other acts on the bill this year include John Lee Hooker Jr., the U.K.-based the James Hunter Six and the popular blues harmonica player Kyle Rowland. More than 30 groups were announced Friday as part of the festival, which includes 24 venues.
The emphasis on a wider audience - and a broader musical focus than just jazz - started in 2012, and is meant to counter a slide in festival attendance. That decline is one that jazz overall has faced as well, with the musical genre showing double-digit declines in event audience attendance rates from 1982 to 2008, according to the National Endowment for the Arts.
The festival, which brought in $1 million in revenue in 2011 (its last year of available tax records), has seen a steady decline in attendance since 2002, when its revenue peaked at $2.7 million.
In 2012, the festival's lineup largely featured local groups or touring groups with limited followings. Few, if any, had the name recognition of Los Lobos.
"We came in this year and really tried to change the lineup and get some bands that would draw more of a wide demographic," said Mike Testa, vice president with the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau, who is handling publicity for the festival.
Testa said this is the first year the bureau has partnered with the festival for marketing and booking.
This festival is hoping the headliners, combined with lower ticket prices, will spur attendance. The 2013 daily passes cost $39 - a 15 percent reduction from last year's price. A four-day pass now costs $110, or $99 if tickets are bought by April 1.
Testa said that the festival is tapping new talent wranglers, such as locally based concert booker Mindy Giles, who did a limited amount of work for the festival last year.
"This is the first year they've asked me to book national headliners," Giles said. "My thought was that Americana is the linchpin that connects blues, jazz and American roots music - and this is why I went with my friends Los Lobos."
The headliners will perform in a new area dubbed "Turntable on the Green," which will use the large grassy area south of the Railroad Museum.
As was the case last year, traditional jazz bands offerings will be robust, Testa said, with many performances scheduled in and around the Hyatt and Sheraton hotels.
Testa said this year the festival is contracting with a new security company, but that it is not taking any extraordinary measures after the New Year's Eve shooting in Old Sacramento that left two men dead and three people injured.
Testa said the Visitors and Convention Bureau also handled coordination for that event, and in his opinion, the shooting was a tragic but isolated incident.
"It's frustrating to me that every event that is held in Old Sacramento now, I get the question 'What about the shooting?' " Testa said. "We had one shooting in 12 years, at one event. So to me that question is irrelevant."
For festival information and tickets, call (916) 444-2004 or go to sacmusicfest.com.
Call The Bee's Edward Ortiz, (916) 321-1071. Follow him on Twitter @edwardortiz.