For at least one festival—the one that is held in my hometown (and, standard full disclosure statement, the one that employed me on contract in 2009 and 2010)—a strong defence in favour of booking non-jazz artists has been made. At its annual general meeting this week, the TD Ottawa International Jazz Festival announced it posted a $162,419 surplus, despite paying 7.2 percent more in performer fees than in 2010. What's more, box office receipts were up 30 percent, to $782,447. The only non-jazz performer who tanked was Elvis Costello, who went onstage outside less than 90 minutes after a massive storm dumped record amounts of rain on the city.
So, for those hoping that headliners like Robert Plant, K.D. Lang and Daniel Lanois' Black Dub will just go away, that's not likely to happen. Cross-subsidization from popular acts like those to high-priced jazz talent like Brad Mehldau is a reality that festivals—and festival-goers—must live with.