Jazz festival attracts upscale clientele

The Montreal International Jazz Festival, which each summer closes off much of the city's downtown core to create an urban fair for jazz enthusiasts, could not take place anywhere else in North America, organizers say.Jacques Andre Dupont, director of marketing and...

The Montreal International Jazz Festival, which each summer closes off much of the city’s downtown core to create an urban fair for jazz enthusiasts, could not take place anywhere else in North America, organizers say.

Jacques Andre Dupont, director of marketing and publicity at Le Festival International de Jazz de Montreal says Montreal has become famous for its many street festivals.

Dupont says visiting American jazz enthusiasts are surprised by a city that can close off part of its downtown core.

‘They say, if an American city did the same, there would be an opportunity for riots or stabbings,’ he says. ‘But not in Montreal.’

96,000 people

The festival’s main event, the July 7 open-air gala at the Place des Arts venue, drew an estimated 96,000 people to listen to a popular Montreal jazz fusion group, Uzeb.

Dupont says the event, held over 12 days in July each summer, allows Montrealers to rediscover their city.

‘The music takes the downtown area over, and 100,000 people dance as one to a new style of music,’ he says.

A consumer profile of the average festival-goer, completed through interviews by research firm Impact Recherche of Montreal, pointed to a decidedly upscale clientele.

One finding was 58% of attendees are male, a figure rising to 66% when considering audiences for paying concerts.

Festival-goers are mostly baby boomers, according to the survey. Their average age this year was 33 years for paying concerts, and 32 years for outdoor venues, roughly the same.

Only 5% of attendees were under 17 years of age. Most were between 25 and 34 years, with the majority of 18- to 24-year-olds already in university and aiming at professional positions.


Job-wise, the jazz set in Montreal comprises mostly students, professionals and white-collar workers. The three together made up 73% of both street participants and paying customers at the festival.

The average household income for attendees was around $36,200.

A break-down of that figure revealed an annual household income of $43,677 for those paying to see concerts, compared with $34,026 for street participants.

The upshot is, festival organizers know jazz consumers have money to spend and share an intellectual attitude to the product.

Just under 73% of festival-goers have an university education or had completed high school, according to the Impact Research findings.

Just over 52% of concert-goers said they owned a car. Another 37% said they planned to buy one during the next two years.

Bank account

What is more, 91% of respondents said they had a bank account, and 42% said they had an rrsp.

These figures are slightly up on figures in both categories for the Montreal general public.

Selling the jazz festival to such a well-heeled clientele called for a $1.5-million promotional budget.

This fuelled a multi-media budget aimed at drawing interest in the events through tv, radio, print ads and billboards.

A central marketing tool was the festival’s own dedicated fm radio station, CJZZ 91.3, which operated during a three-week period before and during the event.

Operating under a special licence from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, cjzz allowed jazz fans to listen to featured artists and decide whether they would attend one of their concerts.


The radio station was mostly French-language as research indicated 81% of street participants spoke French at home, with 82% of those at paying concerts doing the same.

Other promotional tools included publishing 200,000 program guides.

And 500,000 full schedules were distributed before and during the festival.

As the jazz festival gets larger each year, so, too, does media representation.

Three press conferences were staged before the festival: one to announce the event; another pointing to highlights of the indoor concert schedule, and a third in mid-June to announce the rest of the concert schedule.

During the festival, press conferences were held daily, including many to show off jazz stars appearing in Montreal.

And hundreds of pre-event interviews were held with visiting artists.

Journalists came mostly from Quebec, and across Canada. And they were joined by just under 100 foreign journalists, mostly from the u.s. and Europe.

This year’s event brought more than 2,000 artists to indoor venues and the streets of Montreal.

More than 100,000 people attended about 70 indoor concerts staged as part of the festival. Another 350 outdoor free concerts drew 1.35 million people this year to six outdoor venues spread throughout downtown Montreal.

This year’s festival was plagued by rain, but ticket sales rose 20% over last year, and indoor concert halls sold 93% of seats.

Sponsorship plays a large role each year at the festival.

Corporate sponsors such as Alcan, Labatt, Diet Pepsi, Canadian Airlines and Ultramar pitched in just under half of the $7-million budget needed to stage the jazz gathering.