American Jazz Museum officials said Wednesday that they still owe vendors $150,000 for the jazz festival held in May, but they are working hard to raise the money to pay those bills.
“We will correct the mistakes made from the festival and continue forward with this important programming for Kansas City,” museum executive director Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner told the City Council’s Finance and Government Committee.
The committee summoned museum officials for a discussion following news that 10 of the 75 musicians at the Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival, which was held May 26-28, had received checks that bounced.
All those musicians have now been paid. But Kositany-Buckner acknowledged that vendors are still owed $150,000. She said it could take three to six months for everyone to be paid.
The museum has acquired a line of credit and is looking at ways to raise more revenue while reducing operating expenses, she said.
A months long delay in vendor payments was a frustration for Larry Kips, president of Aching Backline Rentals, a longtime equipment company that provided stage gear and assistance for the bands at the three-day festival. Kip told the committee he got a check that bounced and said he is still owed $15,000.
Kips said he likes the people at 18th and Vine, but festivals that depend on ticket sales for their revenue, which this one did, have the biggest chance of problems.
“They’re becoming gamblers,” Kips said. “I’m a service provider. I don’t want to be a gambler.” He said the late payment won’t put him out of business but is a hardship. He said it could jeopardize the livelihood of less experienced vendors.
The museum is a city asset, and Kips said the city should be more involved in the festival and has to guarantee the payments.
Lisa Henry, who performed at the festival and has worked nationally and globally, told the committee that said she did get paid. But she described the situation as “a mess.”
She suggested the museum should reach out to musicians and vendors as a resource for how to move forward — something museum officials say they are doing, with a musicians’ summit scheduled for August.
The jazz museum is budgeted to receive $500,000 from the city this year, in monthly payments of about $42,000. But the city has advanced the museum $117,000 to help cover some of the money owed.
City Councilman Scott Wagner, finance chair, said those funds were for museum operations and were never intended to subsidize the festival event.
He said he wants to hear back in a few months how the museum is overcoming the festival’s financial challenges. If the museum ultimately needs additional funds from the city, he said, that would require City Council approval.
Museum officials said Wednesday they weren’t yet sure whether the festival will be held next year.
But Kositany-Buckner said Kansas City deserves a world-class festival, as jazz is what the city is known for globally. She said this year’s festival, with a budget of more than $500,000, was perhaps too ambitious and was hurt by rainy weather that kept some crowds away.
But overall, she said the attendees and performers who took part thought it was a terrific event.
“The attendees and musicians really had a wonderful time,” she said.