Randy Pench / rpench@sacbee.com

Country singer Wanda Jackson performs at this year's four-day Sacramento Music Festival, which revised its programming.

Sacramento Music Festival erases red ink with cost cuts, popular acts

Published: Tuesday, Sep. 3, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Sep. 3, 2013 - 3:37 pm

The Memorial Day weekend music festival known for decades in Sacramento as the Dixieland Jazz Jubilee may have found its footing with a more diverse lineup of musicians, headliner acts and a new concert venue, organizers say.

Without releasing ticket sales amounts, producers of the Sacramento Music Festival say increases in attendance this year helped the four-day event raise $867,412 in revenue and avoid a deficit.

The festival took some risks in changing its programming and making difficult spending cuts, said Mike Testa, the event's marketing director and senior vice president of the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau.

It trimmed expenditures from $1.1 million in 2012 to just under $800,000 this year.

While the festival took in less money than last year – and far from the $2.7 million raised in 2002 – operating in the black marks a turnaround from the deficit of $132,424 that the music fair posted last year, organizers said.

"2012 was definitely a turning-point year for us," executive director Vivian Abraham said. "When we looked at where we ended up in 2012, we realized something needed to be done."

Organizers sought to broaden the festival's appeal by moving away from traditional jazz to showcase acts like Los Lobos, the East Los Angeles rock band that performed to a sold-out crowd of 3,100 at the new Turntable on the Green venue, just south of the Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento.

"That sellout was very encouraging for us," Abraham said.

The change in programming has proved controversial with some Sacramentans and jazz aficionados, who said the festival is forsaking a nationally known trademark offering traditional jazz. But the festival has kept many traditional and other jazz offerings, which account for almost half of the acts it presents.

Abraham said organizers will push forward next year with elements that made the festival successful this year, including more name acts and the roundtable stage.

"We're going to move further into bringing in more headliners for each night, though nothing is committed yet," she said.

Aside from Los Lobos, acts like the Blasters, the James Hunter Six and Wanda Jackson were new to the festival this year.

Testa said the festival needed to make changes in order to survive.

"Because of the significant financial losses of 2012, the festival didn't have much choice," said Testa, whose organization has partnered with the festival.

"The organization simply could not have absorbed another significant financial loss and continue to operate," he said.

Aside from retaining the Turntable on the Green venue for headliners, the festival is toying with offering VIP seating and a special family ticket rate next year.

Call The Bee's Edward Ortiz, (916) 321-1071. Follow him on Twitter @edwardortiz.

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