This month we interview Walter Elmore, CEO of Turn-Key Productions the organizars of the Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival. We discuss the upcoming 2008 festival, the artists and the many challenges involved in planning this large scale event each year.
1. Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues is now a branded major calendar event on the Caribbean and Jamaica’s entertainment landscape. What do you consider to be the single most important factor that contributed to this achievement?
I would consider the high caliber of artistes that we have managed to sign one of the most important factors, but most importantly it is the dedication and hard work of the entire Jazz Festival team, which includes our staff, the sponsors, airlines, hotel partners, and the incredible support we have gotten over the years from Jamaica as a whole.
2. Many Caribbean islands now boast a major Jazz Festival of sorts. How do you plan on maintaining market share with the competition?
Each island in the Caribbean offers its own unique culture, flair and experience to their visitors. With this said, I don’t believe we are in competition with other festivals, each festival has its own cultural pull that draws patrons there and the Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues festival is no different.
3. Once again, the line-up for 2008 is chock-full of stars. What are the criteria for the selection process in choosing performers?
When choosing performers we first look at acts that would be most popular with our Jamaican audience, someone that has a broad appeal.
4. I can’t help but notice that it would appear for the upcoming 2008 event that there is a leaning towards female performers (overseas and local). (Ross, Baker, Scott, Etana etc.) Is this merely a coincidence or was it planned?
This was a coincidence.
5. Have Diana Ross or Anita Baker performed in Jamaica before? If so, when and where and why again? If not, explain why you chose these 2 well-known female divas?
They have not performed in Jamaica before, both Diana Ross and Anita Baker are musical legends, their music is timeless, and both young and old know and enjoy their songs.
6. Hugh Masakela is on 2 nights. Why?
Hugh Masakela is not performing two nights, he will be performing on Friday, January 25th.
7. Isn’t this the first time in like years that local band, Chalice will be performing as a band at such a major event? If so, how many or will all the original band members be present?
As far as we are aware it will be as many of the original members as possible
8. The venue change in 2007 presented numerous challenges whereby fans of former shows felt that the new venue no longer had (a) the intimacy that Air J Jazz fans came to appreciate and simply adored and in fact made it different to any other staged musical shows in Jamaica of any musical genre and (b) logistics of entering and leaving the venue to name a few.
We selected this temporary venue for numerous reasons, it is a beautiful, scenic venue, it is ocean side and is located on the historical Aqueduct of Rosehall. Our old venue had many issues due to the size and many other logistical problems.
9. Can fans expect the revival of the experience of that former intimacy?
We are currently in the process of creating a new venue that will recapture the intimacy of Cinnamon Hill but also give us the same advantages of our current venue.
10. Can fans expect a reduction of the repeated monotonous televised ads in-between acts?
These ads allow Corporate Jamaica to be a part of this event, they are able to reach their target audience. These ads also provide an important source of revenue for the festival which helps us to bring a high caliber of artistes.
a. Can fans expect a greatly reduced congestion in getting to and from the venue?
Our new highway and underpass are now open and complete ,this will greatly reduce the congestion to and from the venue.
9. The media too especially the overseas diaspora press – really your homegrown “pied pipers” complained bitterly of the treatment meted out to us/them regarding press proceedings. What steps have you put in place to ensure that this does not happen for 2008. To ensure a more balanced treatment of all press?Our goal is and always has been to treat all members of the press fairly
Media was severely hampered in doing their professional job with media and VIP in the same section – hand bouncing and manouevering through chairs?
We will have a separate press area this year, no chairs will be allowed.
10. Jamaican fans say that at Jamaican-produced stage shows there is normally no opportunity for fans to interact with the performers. For example at the major overseas shows – awards and otherwise — there is the red carpet, after party etc. Will there be any events at the show or off-site where fans can meet with the stars? If yes, please explain and if not, is this something you plan for the future?
We have to keep in mind that this is a music festival not an awards show, having a red carpet and after parties is not practical for an event of this nature.
11. Jamaicans visit Jamaica each year to see family and friends. Jamaicans returning to Jamaica as “tourists” is an acknowledged untapped market in tourism circles. Have you put in place any specific incentive programs to attract this market to the show? If so, please explain and if not, will you do so in the future?
A bulk of the marketing we do is geared towards Jamaicans who live overseas.
12. At this point in time, how are ticket sales?
Ticket sales are going very well online and locally and we expect that ticket sales will increase after New Year’s.
13. We at Jamaicans.com are known to ask tough questions. Based on press releases one of the investment clubs under the microscope in the Jamaican financial and legal sectors, Olint is a major sponsor. Isn’t this presenting a conflict of interest to the government-owned Air Jamaica where a sponsor’s funding cannot be indentified and is in fact currently in the Jamaican courts?
I am not aware of any conflict.
14. A recent report showed that Air Jamaica versus the other airlines has lost market share from the US destinations. What measures is Air Jamaica putting in place to ensure increased market share for 2008?
I am unaware of this issue, as far as I know Air Jamaica flights will be flying from numerous destinations for this year’s Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival
This is a huge business risk and undertaking. From a production and crisis management perspective what challenges do you anticipate?
We have been producing this festival for 15 years, we have the best of the industry on our team managing different areas and working together to stage a world class festival. Through the hard work and dedication of our team we are able to deal with any challenges that do arise and quickly get them under control.