The WWOZ Brass Pass has always included admission to every day of Jazzfest.
This year, as usual, they went on sale in September. The WWOZ page said "A WWOZ Brass Pass is your ticket to all 7 days of Jazz Fest ". And during the recent pledge drive, the DJs frequently said the pass was good for "every day" of Jazzfest.
Shortly after yesterday's announcement of the extra day of fest, they updated the page to says specifically "Brass passes cover 7 days April 26-28 and May 2-5", excluding first Thursday.
Now the page has been updated yet again, and emails sent to those who have purchased passes, saying "your 7-Day WWOZ Brass Pass is valid for Thursday, April 25 through Sunday, April 28 and Friday, May 3 through Sunday, May 5", including first Thursday but excluding second Thursday.
Lots of people are upset about this.
For residents who want to attend every day, it means the extra single day ticket won't be on the day when discount $50 locals tickets are available. That discount will be only first Thursday.
For visitors coming in from out of town, they may already have plane tickets and other travel plans where they won't be in town yet for first Thursday. They plan to attend the seven original days of fest, and now they can only get six days of use from their pass.
And it's embarrassing for WWOZ and the fest, not having a brass pass policy planned before announcing the extra day of fest makes them look pretty amateurish.
So what is going on here?
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation (who own Jazzfest) and Friends of WWOZ (that owns WWOZ) are separate non-profit organizations, but closely related. The Foundation is the "supported organization" for WWOZ, and all WWOZ board members are appointed by the Foundation. I assume that WWOZ pays Jazzfest a set amount for each brass pass sold. The receipt for the $600 brass pass shows $402 as the value of the pass and $198 as a tax deductible chartiable donation, so it's reasonable to assume that the $402 is what WWOZ pays to the fest. The price of brass passes is also tied to the price of Jazzfest tickets, usually the brass pass price increase follows a fest ticket price increase. Last year excepted, over recent years each $25 increase in brass pass price has followed a $5 increase in the gate price ($35 over 7 days). So it's also reasonable to assume that when adding the 8th day, the festival would want a larger payment from WWOZ (if the pass were still to cover all days). So what I initially expected yesterday when the extra day was announced, was that the brass pass would increase to $650 or $675 and be good for all 8 days.
WWOZ has never publicly said how many brass passes they sell (the number is capped), but I would have guessed a couple of thousand. Their tax filings include a line item for "Jazz Fest Expenses" of around $2 million. This may cover more than just the brass passes, like the cost of running the hospitality tent, but would seem to make the maximum possible number of passes at 5,000. That number is probably high, though - and however many passes they sell each year, I'd speculate that only a small percentage have been sold by November. If several hundred have been sold already, then the cost to honor an eighth day for those would come to tens of thousands of dollars, a relatively small amount of the total, that WWOZ could probably afford, and that the Foundation could certainly afford.
So that is what should happen. Raise the price of the pass, have it cover all days, and honor passes already purchased as a thank you to the loyalists who buy their passes early.
This begs the question, then, why isn't this happening? If this were just a normal fest with one extra day, and if neither of the non-profits were willing to cover the cost of the extra day's admission, then the original change (passes valid except first Thursday) would have stood. The decision to modify the previously announced policy change only makes sense if something unusual is happening on second Thursday.
Before this all went down, a couple of weeks ago, I heard rumors the the Rolling Stones would play Jazzfest on second Thursday. I hear rumors of big name acts all the time, and they turn out to be false often enough that I generally don't blog about them. But this all seems to fit. It's widely believed that the Stones will be touring the US next spring, dates not yet announced. The Stones are one of a few big acts that the fest has wanted to book for years, but could never afford. And if the Stones (or some other bigger-than-usual act) are playing the fest on Thursday, maybe that one day will have a separate - and higher priced - ticket. If a second Thursday ticket costs not $80 but $100 or $150 or $200, that would explain why they don't want to honor brass passes that day, and why they swicthed the original announcement of which Thursday would be excluded.
Of course, this is all speculation at this point. Yesterday's press release promised the lineup would be released early this year, December instead of the usual January, so we'll know for certain in a month or so.