The Lessons of the Recent Events in AZ.

Once again, my apologies: I cannot make a post as of yet as to what happened with the Arizona Jazz Fest. I am privy to a fair bit of info, but seeing as there are still things coming into play, on account that it is all still incomplete, I am keeping mum. Also, I am keeping mum until I have a more concrete idea of how to present it. The last thing I want is to sound off prematurely.

I have, however, gathered all the news articles that touch on this subject in one place, and here they are:

First news article: http://www.abc15.com/news/region-northeast-valley/scottsdale/canceled-arizona-jazz-festival-leaves-concert-goers-confused-and-without-their-money

And more about this from other news outlets:

From PhxSoul
From AZCentral
From KPHO

And from ABC15, again.

From Phoenix New Times, complete with BTW’s response.

What I recommend is 1. read the articles and 2. read the comments. I always find that comments are generally very revealing as to where things stand.

My opinion on them making an all-R&B lineup with only a tiny smattering of jazz artists and calling it a jazz festival is going to be put aside here – it’s another rant for another day.

The one thing I can tell you is that, if the comments are of note, filing a bank/credit card dispute has proved to be a good way of getting your money back. If you have not done so, do. I also advise, very strongly, talking to Mitchell Allee at the AZ Attorney General’s office, or filing online at http://www.azag.gov.

That all said, there is a lesson to be had from this:

Fans: ALWAYS! research who puts on your shows – and I don’t mean the artist lineup.

First of all, let me be clear about this: what happened was not your fault, and nor will it ever be. Whether BTW really was a victim of fraud or not, it is still not. your. fault.

But in light of this, I think knowing who’s putting on the shows should become a factor in your decision to attend an event.

I know, I know: you see a great lineup, you get excited and you want to go and have a great time. Believe you me: I get it. However, you really want to do your due diligence as a consumer and find out about who is taking your money. The old saying is an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Believe me when I say it’s more than applicable in the world of music. Spend ten minutes on Google, look up reviews. It’s not much, but it’s something.

Among the people who have contacted me looking for help in sorting out what happened in Arizona, more than one person said that had they known that BTW also bungled the Maxwell and the Seven Seas cruise, they’d have never given them a cent for AZ. This is an example of the due diligence that needs to be done, and that is precisely why I wrote the post about that cruise. In light of that particular fiasco, I also found out about the Kem New Year’s Eve show that BTW was putting on some years ago, that they suddenly canceled on short notice as well. What the fallout was from that, I don’t know, but already, there has been enough in the air about BTW over the years that even if I never found out about Kem, or even if they didn’t bungle anything, they would not have received a penny of my money. Money isn’t so plentiful that we can afford to put it into unscrupulous ventures, and if we invest it in a show – yes, music events are an investment in a sense – then we need to be sure that we are going to get a good return on it.

Yes, I have had the good fortune to work with and befriend a fair few musicians, who told me a fair few things. But – the former attendees talked as well. A lot. People who attended the show and did not have a good experience told me of what happened to them, and the stories range from ridiculous to enraging. This is the sort of research that’s necessary, and though you may say word of mouth may not be the most reliable reflection of a business, when it comes to music events and concert promotion, it’s the first, if not the only, reference.

And, like it as not, reputation is the most important factor of a promoter. In a business like music, where sometimes reputation is the only thing one can go on insofar as attendance, whether or not to work with that production, etc, it’s crucial to research it. And in my experience, most people whom you ask are willing to give you the answers you need. It’s A-OK to ask questions.

The other thing is, a lot of information is publicly available. Corporate registration is public record in Arizona, as well as a lot of other states. And it will help you unearth some crucial information.

For example, let’s take BTW’s ticket processor, Alternatix. Most people don’t think twice about the ticket processor. Take a good look at the ownership on the Arizona corporate registry – it’s public and free to access – and you will find that the owner of Alternatix and BTW Concerts is one and the same. Ordinarily, things like these are what people either overlook or not think about in the slightest. And you know, with a majority of shows, you don’t stop to think about the ticket processing. But what would that mean when the show doesn’t go on? The first impulse would be to contact whoever processed the sale; the ticket agent. And if they’re owned by the same person who folded the event?

It’s important to research who puts on the show, and what the details are. It may seem like extra time, but truly: it prevents a lot of headaches if you do a little digging.

What really got to me, though, is that some people didn’t know about the event cancellation until they came to Arizona. Yes, the news outlets ran with the story well before the scheduled event date, but I’d bet you that coverage was localized to AZ, and possibly CA, and the reason it spread is because of the social media response. Some people didn’t find out until others told them. But imagine getting on a plane, spending money for a hotel, going to the venue, only to find out it’s a no-go?  I would be enraged. From what ticketholders of the fest told me, BTW did email them about the cancellation, but they have done so only after the media (ABC, etc.) have picked up the story and ran with it.

Now, here’s another part to this, and I am likely going to earn some consternation, but this needs to be said:

Musicians: note how the fans are treated at your gigs.

And believe me, I know your situation as well. This is a tough time for jazz all around. This is a tough time for live shows. The music industry has been turned upside down the past fifteen years, and I know: you all have families. You have dinners to put on the table. You have records to produce. Bills to pay. I know that you need to make money as much as anyone else does, and far be it from me to ever tell you to turn down one gig or another.

HOWEVER.

You also may not realize just how much power you have insofar as dictating your treatment, as well as the treatment of your fans.

I know you love your fans. Believe me. Otherwise, I know you wouldn’t do business with unscrupulous individuals. I know you guys, and I know you well. I’ve seen you take charge behind the scenes, and I’ve also seen the treatment that you had to put up with over time. It’s not all roses. The fact that you’re doing this for the fans is very commendable. I would not be able to do what you do, because my built-in bullshit meter would not survive. I take my hat off to you.

However, you need to be mindful of this: you have a lot of power when it comes to how your fans are treated at your gigs. And I mean a lot. If you have someone offering you a gig and you know that person doesn’t do right by the ticketholders, you will not have anywhere near as much of a turnout as you would if you take a gig with a smaller, perhaps unknown promoter, but one who has dotted every I and crossed every T on the contract. Why? Because if your fans, no matter how longtime, have been mistreated at a show before, they will not come back if they know it’s the same promoter. What does that do, ultimately, to your fan base?

Do you know how many of the people who love you utterly refuse to attend shows by certain promoters? The number would surprise you. And if people actually did their research about who puts on these events, you know that they won’t come to where they know people got burned.

Think on it as an even exchange of support. Your fans will come to any show you put on if they’re in town, and/or travel for it if it’s so possible. And I promise you this: your fan base will, without fail, rally behind you if you are burned in any way. If you are ever treated unscrupulously, your fans will make their displeasure known, and most crucially, they will not attend the shows put on by anyone unscrupulous. Their money ultimately talks. If they are mistreated, their money will talk the same way. It is in your best interests to look after your fans, and believe it or not, you and your management team hold a lot of power in whether or not your fans are treated well. Does it mean turn down a gig? Maybe, maybe not. That’s up to you, and I won’t dictate that – ever. But know that the promoters and the fans are well aware that without you, there is no show. That? Means power. Wield this power and wield it well.

My thing is this: research and reference is more than an expense category: it is an extremely necessary thing to do for the concert-goer and, if so applicable, to the artists as well. If I want to attend an event, I always ask: who is putting it on? What have their shows been like in the past? Done well? Attended well? What do the people say? And I ask. And if I know that someone didn’t get their dues, or wasn’t treated right, then I don’t attend. Not because I don’t want to see the artists, but simply because I know, and you know, and anyone else will tell you: no language in any market speaks louder than money. I will not buy tickets because I will not have a penny of my hard-earned cash go to anyone who will not do right by my people.

Likewise with my work. I photograph at a lot! of shows. A. Lot. And if I do not like the way an artist of mine has been treated, or if I know people had bad experiences, I would definitely think twice before inquiring about a photographer position. Yes, you can argue this limits my business. But you know something? There’s a certain caliber of people I prefer working with, and that caliber is reputable. I don’t want to take just any gig, shoot just any show. I want to work with people who will treat others well.

Far as the AZ jazz fest – still discovering more. I will do a comprehensive post once I actually have a clear picture and concrete evidence to back me up. If, however, I will find that posting the details will make for a dangerous liability, then I will let you know as such.

As usual, thanks for reading – and sarcastic social commentary too will resume. After all, it’s NaNoWriMo, and I am nose-deep in photo processing. Simultaneously. Busy girl is busy.

K.G.

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