Chicago Jazz Magazine Responds to Criticism over High Fee at Chicago Blues Fest

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Yesterday, blues fans took to social media, phones, and email to express their concern and anger over a document, released by Blues411.com, showing artists wishing to sell their albums at the Chicago Jazz Magazine tent at the Chicago Blues Festival would be charged a 45% commission.

Many posted their concerns and anger on the official Chicago Jazz Magazine Facebook page and sent emails.

Late last night, the owner of the Chicago Jazz Magazine posted a response to the criticism, which can be found in it’s entirety below.

Editor’s note: The magazine had a side note stating that a report of them selling t-shirts and other merchandise, as reported by this publication, was inaccurate. We apologize for the error.

Hi Everyone

I wanted to post this so that everyone is aware of the situation. I was at a gig tonight and suddenly I was getting hate e-mails from people upset about the consignment deal we have to have at the Chicago Blues Festival.

People calling me “A Greedy SOB” or “An Uncaring Bastard” or her is a good one for those of you that know me…”You Hate Musicians That’s Why you are doing this!”

So I responded to someone that wrote me an e-mail asking about the outrageous commission deal I have at the Chicago Blues Festival this year. I want to make sure everyone knows what is going on so the e-mail I sent him back is below. As you all know I work very hard to promote the music scene in Chicago and I don’t want people to start rumors about things that are not true.

RESPONSE TO E-MAIL

Actually I am not aware of any conversations on Facebook and Twitter today. I was wondering why I was being attacked by e-mail from several individuals calling me some very unprofessional names. I guess that is the reason.

I am not sure if you are aware of this but I am a working musician in Chicago and I just got back to my office from a gig. I wanted to get back to you tonight because it is going to be the only time I have for the next couple of days. I have gigs the next five nights so I will not be able to be on your show but hopefully this will help you to understand the situation.

I realize that 45% commission is higher than it has been in the past at the Chicago Blues Festival, last year it was between 15%-20%. If you know about me and everything that I do, you would know that I am not happy about it either. I have tried to explain the situation to musicians that have called and e-mailed me. Many understand the situation once I explain it to them. Some musicians are selling through my booth and others are going to sell CDs on their own at the festival. That is OK with me I am not trying to force anyone into working with me.

I am a musician myself, I started Chicago Jazz Magazine and ChicagoJazz.com over 10 years ago as a way to help promote the musicians that make up the scene here in Chicago. I have spent literally 1000’s of unpaid hours helping to promote musicians in Chicago. I have created performance opportunities for musicians, I have filmed and promoted musicians through my online TV show and radio show, I have written hundreds of articles about musicians and have told their stories in Chicago Jazz Magazine at no cost to them.

I have never been in this for the money because if I was in it for the money I would have gotten out of it along time ago. I perform music because I love music, I have created the website and the magazine because I love hearing live music and I want more people to get out and see it. Anyone that thinks otherwise is very wrong and doesn’t know me.

Now that you have a better understanding of who I am, the reason there has to be a 45% commission on CD sales at the Chicago Blues Festival through my booth is because of the enormous expenses that I have in running a successful booth. I wish it was just as simple as me setting up a tent in Grant Park for three days and selling CDs, taking in cash and that is the end of it. Unfortunately in order to get to the point where you are setup to start selling CDs there are a ton of expenses.

Here is a list of just some of them so you have an idea of what I am dealing with:

-Liability Insurance (3 Million Dollar Policy)
-Storage (overnight storage for three days)
-Truck Rentals
-Employees- (4 not including myself and my wife) 12 hours each day including Thursday
-Setup costs for Thursday, Friday morning, Saturday morning, Sunday morning)
-Break down costs on Sunday after the festival.
-Credit Card processing charges
-on site phone line installation for credit card processing
-signage
-equipment for sales-cash register, inventory database, etc.
-Meals for employees
-Taxes
-Accounting costs

I could keep going but I hope you understand the severe costs that occur when you are selling CDs at a festival. We also incur all the liability for the costs even if we don’t sell any CDs. The consignment deal is very simple, if the artist doesn’t sell anything the CDs are returned to them. Unfortunately I still have to pay for all of the above expenses.

I have several CDs out myself with different groups and I have encountered ranges of commission from on the high end 55% commission deals at some venues and festivals down to 15% commission deals.

I have been at the Chicago Blues Festival on site at a booth for the past 6 years and I know what the CD sales numbers roughly were from the past few years and unless something incredible happens at this festival I will be very happy just breaking even with all my expenses. A tough economy and online downloads have ,over the past few years, really hurt the CD sales market at festivals.

Hopefully that helps you and your listeners to understand why the consignment deal has to have a 45% commission. I am not a large corporation I am an individual working with a very tight budget.

Thanks and I hope to meet you at the fest.

Mike

PS: Here is a break down of the price points and the split:

Price Artist/Label Payment
$20 = $11
CJM-$9

$17 = $9.35
CJM-$7.65

$15 = $8.25
CJM-$6.75

$10 = $5.50
CJM-$4.50

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