Jammin' on Main canceled
Weather, costs combine to scuttle music festival

By Cliff Peale
and Janelle Gelfand


Fans enjoyed the band The Roots during Jammin' on Main in 2002, the event's most successful year this decade. Bad weather cut into attendance the past two years, and Jammin' won't be held this year.
Enquirer file/Jeff Swinger
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Years of dismal weather, rising costs and unpredictable crowds for the Jammin' on Main music festival have caused Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra to cancel the May event this year.

The two-day festival presented more than two dozen bands downtown, including Fuel, Switchfoot, REO Speedwagon and '80s pop legend Blondie, who appeared last year.

"Sure, I'd like to save it, but you have to make good business decisions," said Mike Smith, chief executive officer of Music & Event Management Inc., the symphony subsidiary that presented Jammin' on Main.

Smith said the costs to book bands for Jammin' were up as much as 70 percent over the last several years, while other operating costs were up as much as 5 percent.

And sponsors such as naming sponsor Pepsi were constantly tightening their contributions, he said. Bad weather discouraged attendance the last few years and the symphony is in belt-tightening mode.

So it decided to cancel before starting to book the bands in early February, Smith said.

He said the symphony would consider whether to bring back the event in 2006.

The orchestra has run Jammin' for four years and has lost $200,000 on the rain-soaked event the past two years.

It canceled the event after Over-the-Rhine street riots in 2001. The next year the event was successful, with attendance of 29,100. But attendance slumped to 13,900 in 2003 and 14,500 in 2004.

Ticket prices in 2004 were $18 for a two-day pass and $15 for a single-day ticket.

The decision comes as the CSO looks to balance its operating budget. Other cost-cutting measures already include canceling a summertime orchestra series, "Bach and Beyond," and the holiday show "Home for the Holidays." In addition, the orchestra raised ticket prices an average of 25 percent this season.

The symphony had been contending with a $1.8 million accumulated deficit, which an anonymous donor wiped out last year.

In October, the orchestra settled a contract with its 99 musicians that called for a two-year wage freeze and a reduction to 92 musicians by the 2005-06 season.

Jammin' on Main was inherited from the now-defunct Cincinnati Arts Festival in 2001.

It arrived with liabilities, and the symphony took a $91,000 write-off in 2002.

The symphony formed Music & Event Management to add to the symphony's bottom line by producing other festivals and music events, such as the Tall Stacks Music, Arts & Heritage Festival and Jammin' on Main.