Recap of the 41st Jazz Festival Saalfelden

Friday, 03.09.2021

Recap of the 41st Jazz Festival Saalfelden

Several thousand listeners attended the total of 63 concerts on various stages in the town, in the forest and on the surrounding mountains at the 41st International Jazzfestival Saalfelden from August 16 to 22. An interview with production manager Daniela Neumayer and artistic director Mario Steidl about the experiences and insights of this year's round of events.

Mario, are you satisfied with how this year's festival went?

Mario Steidl: Definitely. We are really very satisfied - even though it was very exhausting for all of us. The expansion to a total of seven days in conjunction with the implementation of the Covid prevention concept demanded an insane effort from us. But in the end, we facilitated a week of culture, joy and exuberance - and that's what counts.

What made you particularly happy this year?

Mario Steidl: Spontaneously, two things come to mind. Obviously, we are succeeding in building bridges to the younger audience and attracting them to our events. Many of them are surprised at how diverse our musical offerings are. In addition, the new stages have worked extremely well, especially the Gruber Hall or the concerts in the forest in a truly unique atmosphere!

Speaking of new stages: This path has been taken in Saalfelden since 2019. Why was this step taken?

Mario Steidl: Because we think we have to do it. No question: Mainstage and Nexus are the flagships of the Saalfelden Jazz Festival - and they should remain so. But just offering concerts in these two locations is no longer enough these days. At least not if you want to attract a new, especially younger audience. And, of course, that also includes the fact that admission is free for about two-thirds of the live performances. It was also important to me to finally have the opportunity to present more artists, to connect them with each other - as in the impro sessions, for example. And that would not have been possible in this form with only two stages.

One more question about this year's program: Was it a coincidence or intentional that so few "big names" were guests this year?

Mario Steidl: No, that was no coincidence. For some time now, we have been pursuing a strategy of focusing on young talent and the "stars of tomorrow" - and not on the expensive, mostly old heroes of bygone days. If I spend 50,000 euros on such a so-called "top act," half of my corresponding budget is gone. That makes no sense for us. And our audience also comes to Saalfelden because they want to hear something new and not always the stars of yesterday.

Daniela, what were the actual sales and visitor figures this year?

Daniela Neumayer: More than 3,000 people registered online in advance to attend the free concerts. In addition, there were another 1300 listeners who signed up on the lists on site. The Gruber Hall, for which 300 visitors were approved, was completely full on Friday and Saturday, and on Sunday there was a 70 percent occupancy rate. In the City Park, the maximum of 1,000 people was reached on both Friday and Saturday. At the Forest Concerts, we had 200 guests on Saturday and 250 on Sunday. And at the "Nexus+" series, the maximum permitted 300 people were always in the hall from Wednesday to Sunday.

How was it with the concerts on the MainStage and the Shortcuts, for which tickets had to be purchased?

Daniela Neumayer: In the Congress, we had a capacity utilization of 80 percent on all three days. The shortcuts in the Nexus were sold out on Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, we had a capacity utilization of 75 percent.

On the one hand, more costs due to twice as many staff as in 2019, on the other hand, lower income due to fewer tickets sold and the withdrawal of sponsors: Does this leave a hole in the 650,000-euro budget of this year's jazz festival?

Daniela Neumayer: No, we had already anticipated a decline in sales due to the late start of the ticket sale and higher personnel expenses and calculated accordingly.

In order to achieve higher revenues, admission could be charged for more stages ...

Mario Steidl: Yes, that is theoretically conceivable, of course. But I can't say anything about whether that will really happen. This discussion is still going on.

From your point of view, what went better at this year's festival than you had feared beforehand?

Mario Steidl: Due to the Corona entry regulations, we were afraid that we wouldn't be able to get a few artists here. In the end, however, thanks to the great help of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, everything worked out well. We were also positively surprised by the extremely high number of visitors to certain stages, especially at the concerts in Kollingwald and in the Industrial Hall.

What was praised most often by the visitors?

Daniela Neumayer: The new locations such as the Otto Gruber Hall and the stage at Kollingwald were praised most often. But of course also the line-up and the friendliness of our staff.

And what was criticized most?

Daniela Neumayer: Our camping site at Ritzensee was sorely missed. But next year - as long as Corona doesn't throw a spanner in the works again - it will of course be installed again.

It's hard to believe that there were no problems and hardly any criticism ...

Mario Steidl: Of course there were problems, but really only in the run-up.

Can you give us some examples?

Daniela Neumayer: Again and again there were changes in the law, what is possible and especially what is not possible because of the Corona pandemic. One example: The Corona event ordinance was only valid until August 19; nobody knew what would happen after that, not even the authorities. It was only on the day of the first concert on the main stage that we knew that the ordinance would be extended as it was.

Were there also problems with musicians who were supposed to play at the jazzfestival?

Mario Steidl: As I said earlier, there were in this area - but less than last year at the "Weekender". This time - to give just one example - we refrained from hiring musicians from Norway in advance. In the case of other artists, we were able to solve potential problems with entry with the help of Austrian ministries. But as it is - in every single case it is quite a big effort that has to be made.

There was a Corona testing station in the basement of the Congress Center. How many tests were performed during the festival? And how many positive test results were there?

Daniela Neumayer: Unfortunately, I can't tell you the number because the test station was open to everyone, not just festival visitors. The good news: There was no positive case at the festival! At this point, THANK YOU again to everyone who helped with the hygiene and safety measures.

"Equal Pay" and "Fair Pay" are currently hotly debated topics in the cultural scene. What is the situation in Saalfelden with equal pay for men and women and fair fees?

Daniela Neumayer: We don't make any distinction between men and women when it comes to payment. We pay all artists fairly - even the newcomer bands. We don't have show cases where musicians are "allowed" to perform for free, as is often the case. There are also no volunteers. Everyone is registered and receives a more than fair wage for their work at the festival.

Finally, as always, the question: When will the International Jazzfestival Saalfelden take place next year?

Daniela Neumayer: The date is now fixed: the 42nd International Jazz Festival Saalfelden will take place from August 18 to 21, 2022. Our small winter festival is planned from 28 to 30 January 2022.

The questions were asked by Detlef Herchenbach.

In the picture from left to right: Daniela Neumayer (production manager) and Mario Steidl (artistic director).