Author: Cornish, Rick

Weathering the financial malaise

Just back from a quick trip to L.A. Reading U.S.A Today on the way back, (not a great newspaper, but free at the Radisson), I was shocked to read that Jet Blue, one of the airline industry’s more successful discount carriers, has stumbled on a brand new revenue stream. Starting immediately Big Blue will charge four bucks for a blanket and three bucks for a pillow. No, seriously. You get cold or wanna take a nap, no problem, but you’d better have cash on hand. Oh, and non-alcoholic beverages will no longer be comped; and yes, dear friends, that includes WATER.

Now, a year ago I’d have read this story and my blood would have started to boil. I’m a frequent flyer and I already feel utterly bovined while flying the friendly skies; quite honestly I believed Southwest and United and the others had pretty much played every dirty trick in their dirty trick book. And then the Jet Blue news hit! But that was last year, before my resolution to see EVERY partially filled glass of water as half full instead of half empty. So, with this new mindset, (and believe me, it’s knocked years off my age already) I immediately began looking for a silver lining to the blanket/pillow story and, voila, before you could say ‘White-House Spin’ I was able to turn lemons into lemonade.

I won’t even bother to brief you on the financial challenges of the California Bluegrass Association. Yes, we’re back in good shape, but the fact is every year our cost of doing business goes up and our revenues stay pretty much the same. So, I ask myself at 32,000 feet, why not steal from Jet Blue’s playbook? In less than ten minutes I’d come up with a handful of revenue generating ideas that would make Blue’s CFO green with jealousy. And I’ve just scratched the surface. Let me share just a couple of the more promising concepts.

Volunteer Dinner—Each year at Grass Valley we hold a dinner for all the volunteers who work to make the festival a success. We’d never dream of asking people to pay for their dinner….it’s our way of saying thanks. But how about charging for dessert? Say $2.75 per person and you can go back for seconds.

Late Night Jams—We’ve all heard for years that some folks enjoy listening to the jams that start up right after the main stage closes for the night even more than some of the stage acts. How about having a team of volunteers that would fan out across the camp grounds and pass around a ‘contribution bucket’ at each of the more heavily audience pick up jams. One-dollar minimum or the grinners are politely asked to move along.

Blind Auction Line Placement—You know how you have to get up AWWWWWFULLY early Thursday morning to get a good place in line so you can get your chair set up in a good spot in the audience area? How about doing a blind auction for placement in the line. The higher the bid, the closer to the gate.
Volunteer Shirts—And getting back to volunteers, who says we have to GIVE ‘staff’ t-shirts to our workers. I’ll bet we could get ten, maybe twelve bucks a piece for them. Even maybe have some Henley’s made up to be sold at a premium to the more fashion conscious.

Parking Meters—Now here’s a no-brainer. Ever notice how many cars are packed in the big asphalt parking area leading up to Gate Four? Why not rent some portable parking meters and stick ‘em out there. Huge revenue generator, and if we limit them to two hours and folks have to keep coming back to feed the meter, we could charge six bits for them to ride on a special tram from the audience area down to the lot.

Hand Shake and Howdy—I’ll bet that we could get artist from the bigger named bands to agree to doing a little shake and howdying for us immediately before or after their sets. Just three bucks per howdy, with a option for photo with the fans favorite picker for an additional ten bucks. Heck, we could even sell handshakes and howdies from CBA board members.

And keep in mind friends, we’ve only just barely scratched the surface here. This is America (okay, so Jet Blue is British), a country founded on the entrepreneurial spirit. With a little creativity and a truck load of chutzpa, I believe the Association can weather this, ah, umm, recession-like period. Hey, I think I’ve just written my candidate’s statement for this year’s board election.

Bruce will be here tomorrow….don’t miss the Wizard of Words.
Posted:  8/5/2008

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