SFAS Partners with SFJazz Center
In what may be the first collaboration of its kind, the San Francisco Audiophile Society (SFAS) has partnered with a major urban arts presenter, the SFJAZZ Center, to offer its members a prime block of “audiophile-approved” seats to major SFJAZZ Center events. The instant success of the SFAS Concert Series collaboration is reflected in the fact that all 30 tickets to the first event, a March 1 concert with Taj Mahal, sold out in four hours. In fact, SFAS “chief troublemaker” Alón Sagee was forced to cut the waiting list off at 20, lest even more people get their hopes up for seats that would never become available.
The idea for the partnership came to Sagee last September after his wife told him that the amplified sound in the venue didn’t hurt her ears. “I thought about it for a second,” he told Stereophile, “before realizing that the idea of putting audiophiles in with the Jazz Center made perfect sense.”
Sagee, who was already a member of SFJAZZ, contacted SFJAZZ CEO Donald Derheim, who immediately put him in touch with Barrett Shaver, Director of Development and Anne Calvert, Membership Manager. When all three spoke via conference call, Sagee was delighted with the response.
“The idea was about building more community around a mutual love of music,” says Sagee. “For me, being a member of both organizations, I saw two very social, music-oriented organizations with fairly similar goals, and audiences that should naturally overlap.”
Before planning the first event in the ongoing partnership, Sagee went into “research mode.” He attended five shows in two-year old, 750-seat Miner Auditorium, the country’s first standalone, purpose-built venue dedicated to jazz, and looked for the sweet spot.
“I discovered that there are many of them,” he says. “After listening a lot, I came to a band of seats across the main center area that really sound great.”
Then he and the SFJAZZ folks went about picking an event. Initial hopes to make it a concert with jazz piano legend McCoy Tyner were abandoned when SFAS’s membership director spied a potential conflict with a big football playoff. Rather than compete, they punted for Taj Mahal. With prime seats reduced from $67.50 to $51, with all ticket fees waived, SFAS members bit fast.
The mutual benefit of the partnership was not lost on SFJAZZ, whose memberships start at $60/year. “We know that our regular members come see 2–6 shows per year,” Tom Porter, SFJAZZ Manager of Corporate Partnership, told Stereophile. “That’s just off the charts compared to other performing arts organizations around the country, whose members may see just 1–2 shows per year.”
Off the charts also describes the response from SFAS members. Just 11 days after Sagee announced the partnership, six SFAS members have already let him know that they have become what he terms “dual citizen” members of both organizations. Porter calls it a “benign collision of two audiences, with the SFJAZZ Center serving as the mixing bowl.”
“It’s really great for audiophiles to step away from their glorious-sounding home systems and see some live music once in a while,” says Sagee. “SFJAZZ members are really tuned into seeing live music, and I thought SFAS members would natural gravitate to the experience in a group outing. I also always thought the SFJAZZ members we’d meet would naturally gravitate toward having superb sound at home. Many people don’t know what’s possible from home systems.”
Sagee has also demonstrated what is possible when fresh blood infuses an audiophile organization with new ideas. As a former coordinator of SFAS’ predecessor, the Bay Area Audiophile Society (BAAS), I initially had strong reservations about Sagee’s plans to change the name of the organization and turn it into a membership fee-based audiophile society. But, after initial opposition from some longtime members, response has been overwhelmingly positive.
Thanks in part to a major push at last August’s California Audio Show, made possible with the support of Constantine Soo, SFAS’s membership has grown to at least 250 members, each of whom has paid $25 annual dues. And that, I might add, is without enticing them with thousands of dollars of raffle prizes that, by some reports, often attract people more interested in profiting from their wins than listening to the music.
SFAS and SFJAZZ are currently contemplating making their second partnership event a mid-May sojourn, with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, an African-American string band. For more information as it develops, click here.
Read more at https://www.stereophile.com/content/bay-areas-unique-audiophile-jazz-partnership#M5Yhrwr22qhPSfmY.99