Wednesday, January 05, 2011
Chicago Blues Fest Might Cost You This Year
This is a shot of me and Piano Willie at the 2005 Chicago Blues Festival (photo by my friend Alex Cuevas aka Big Alex). This event has been the largest free blues event in the world (I think) for many years. I just caught a press report that the City of Chicago is thinking about out-sourcing the management of all of its free festivals (including the music events and Taste of Chicago). Here is a link to the Sun-Times article on this situation.
Remember what happened to parking fees when the parking meters were privatized in Chicago? Well, the same deal will be struck on the festivals. No more free blues, folks - at least $10/day for the Blues Fest (and the Jazz Fest will charge admission, too). The city's finances are so messed up that it is willing to kill off some of the things that contribute to Chicago's civic excellence. The Blues Fest is still a bargain at $10/day, but of course the attendence will drop significantly. The size of the event would therefore have to be cut, the number of big-name acts would decline and a spiral would begin. I suspect that it would be the beginning of the end for the Chicago Blues Festival - it would eventually shrink away to nothingness. I hope I am wrong and that privatization will improve the Blues Fest. SummerFest in Milwaukee charges admission and it does well. But Summer Fest is huge and covers all types of music - it isn't a niche event like the Blues Fest and the Jazz Fest.
Of course, the lame duck Daley administration is moving so slow that the entire festival season is at risk. No acts have been booked yet, so I hear. Without privitization, there may be no festivals at all.
These festivals lose about $7MM/year. It would be nice if the foundations in the Chicago area would fill the gap so this civic treasure could be maintained. If it goes private, I fear that the Chicago Blues Fest will end up dead.