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Deficit from JazzReggae Festival largest in past decade

By Joseph Vescera

Jan. 15, 2015 12:41 a.m.

The JazzReggae Festival’s loss of $120,844 last year was the largest in the past decade because of declining ticket revenues and mounting facility costs.

About $113,000 of the deficit was paid for with money from the Undergraduate Students Association Council 2013-2014 surplus, which councilmembers allocated Tuesday night. This cut the money left in the surplus in half, said Student Union Director Roy Champawat.

Because the festival is organized by the USAC Cultural Affairs Commission, the student government must guarantee that any JazzReggae deficits are paid.

Last year’s event showcased musical acts such as Snoop Dogg and Aloe Blacc, but saw a ticket revenue decrease of about $100,000 from the 2013 festival.

Champawat said the large drop in ticket sales was a key contributor to the deficit, and that the unpredictability of sales creates the possibility of a large loss each year. The festival also needs to almost completely sell out every year to cover the facilities costs of holding the festival on the Intramural Field, Champawat said.

Because of these financial difficulties and construction on the Intramural Field where the festival normally takes place, the 2015 festival will be shortened to one day and held at the Los Angeles Tennis Center.

The location was moved because of construction and not cost, but USAC Cultural Affairs Commissioner Irmary Garcia said she thinks the Los Angeles Tennis Center will be cheaper to rent and secure than the Intramural Field, though exact facilities costs of the new venue are not yet known.

Champawat, however, said he does not know if the new venue will be much cheaper than the Intramural Field after all facilities costs are finalized.

Despite less revenue from ticket sales last year, Garcia said she thinks the rising cost of holding the event on the Intramural Field hurt the financial stability of the festival the most.

The facilities costs, including rent, for the Intramural Field have risen by more than $50,000 over the past five years, reaching a total cost of about $331,000 for last Memorial Day weekend’s festival. The cost of renting a venue for two days was the main factor for shortening the festival to one day this year, Garcia said.

“We tried to do everything possible to keep JazzReggae a two-day festival, but at this point, it only makes financial sense to have it be one day,” Garcia said.

Shortening the festival will help cut costs of certain aspects of the event, including facilities and security costs, which are predictable in the months before the event, said Jasmine Pierik, JazzReggae Festival co-executive producer and a fourth-year English student.

UCLA Events, which rents campus venues for student events, could not be reached for comment regarding price increases.

Edgar Rodriguez, a fourth-year philosophy student, said he understands the need for changes to the festival but is disappointed nonetheless.

“It’s always been a two-day festival, so making it a one-day festival takes away from the spirit of it a little bit,” Rodriguez said. “Being on the IM Field reminded me of Coachella and other festivals, so the experience will definitely be different at the tennis center.”

The size of the deficit of last year’s festival is also due to the lack of money available from the JazzReggae Festival reserve fund, Champawat said.

In the past, profits from the festival were put into a reserve that would provide money to offset unexpected costs of future festivals. However, festival organizers exhausted the fund to help pay the deficit of the 2013 festival, which was more than $72,500, so no money was left over to help pay down the 2014 festival deficit, Champawat said.

Though festival organizers provided tickets for students last year through a tiered system of discounts, Garcia said the discounts did not cause the $100,000 ticket revenue loss, since the same discounts were used in previous years with no significant losses.

Champawat said he thinks a major challenge going forward will be to stabilize the festival’s income to prevent large deficits and funding uncertainty in the future.

Although the Los Angeles Tennis Center may turn out to be a cheaper venue than the Intramural Field, some students said they have mixed feelings about changes coming to the festival this year.

Nate Healy, a second-year psychology student, said he does not like the Los Angeles Tennis Center as a music venue because he thinks it separates the audience from the show, making concerts a less engaging experience.

But fourth-year materials sciences student Emily Mathison said she doesn’t think the student experience will suffer because of the festival’s shortening and venue change.

“The change in venue is inconvenient, but the music won’t change,” Mathison said. “I think the turnout will still be good and it will just be a different experience.”

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Joseph Vescera
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