Montreux Goes Full Circle To Survive

Cutting costs and restructuring the program has enabled Montreux Jazz Festival to end a four-year losing run and protect what was left of its financial surplus.

Annual downsides of between 200,000 and 600,000 Swiss francs had put a severe strain on the world-famous festival’s bank balance, but cutting from two main stages to one and restructuring the way the outside free events are run look to have produced a 2007 profit in the region of 700,000 Swiss francs.

It’s not enough to balance the losses of the last four years but, as MJF press officer Vincent Favrat explains, it does at least mean the festival can restore some of the surplus it’s been spending.

Another loss-making year could have seen the festival run out of cash, but dropping the 1,800-capacity Montreux Casino venue – which is a mile from the rest of the event and a big production expense – and cutting back on the outside entertainment has produced a turnaround.

In a way the festival has gone full circle back to where it was at the turn of the millennium when the casino – one of the original Montreux venues that had been dropped as the festival evolved – was brought back to use.

At around the same time, the free outside entertainment – which attracts around 130,000 visitors during the course of the festival – was stepped up.

Favrat says both moves proved costly as the casino is so expensive to run and the concessions income from the outside events wasn’t coming near to meeting the cost of them.

This year the headline acts all played in either the 3,900-capacity Stravinski Auditorium or the 2,000-capacity Miles Davis Hall, both part of the main festival site at the Montreux Congress Centre.

The acts helping to bring in some money for the Swiss to bank July 6-21 included Norah Jones, The Chemical Brothers, Faithless, Wilco, Jeff Beck, Rickie Lee Jones, Van Morrison, Seal, John Legend, Youssou N’Dour, The Good, The Bad & The Queen, Dr. John, George Benson & Al Jarreau and Paolo Nutini.