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I have recorded over 25 CDs in my strange career; I've been reviewed, and have had the privilege of working with some of the greatest musicians ever (Ros Rudd, Julius Hemphill, Nels Cline, Doc Cheatham, David Murray, Marc Ribot, Ken Peplowski, Don Byron, Lewis Porter, Jimmy Knepper, Randy Sandke, Frank Lacey) - and we played for people, actual people. So at age 67, half dead, I get a little impatient with these questions. I have a small but steady audience which buys my releases (and my books) and allows me to keep doing my life's work. The way to do it is to do it. Straight and simple. I love the music and the musicians who play it.
 

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Who is the target for smooth jazz CDs and tickets? I anticipate that it is overwhelmingly female and affluent. Seen any market research on this? My wife bought tickets to see Dave Koz 25 years ago and I seem to remember it being 75% women.
 

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I dunno, jazz seems OK in south Florida with several fully-subscribed concert series, good jazz bands and band directors in the big high schools, several college and university programs with active departments (including U Miami Frost School, obviously), jazz programs on radio, a couple of semi-serious jazz clubs, a few open mics. Maybe its just the old folks, but I see plenty of young in the audiences too.
Couldn't you make the same argument about Classical (man, all those poor university graduates competing for VERY slim orchestra jobs), or Opera? Not the pop or hip-hop markets, but thank god for that!
Does Jazz at Lincoln Center suffer for audience or funding? Yeah, an extreme, but also exemplar.
Folks who get jazz, need it, seek it, and some play it; it will endure.
 

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I don't think that the problem is purely a lack of audience. There is also the issue of cultivating that audience and having a space for that audience. Jazz clubs used to be a thing - people knew where to go and what they were gonna get within that broad category. Nowadays live music, even rock, is much less of a thing. This was true BEFORE the pandemic. You have to find your audience, find venues, and create that space. It doesn't just exist like it did in 1950.

Being in the entertainment business, much less the practice of art itself, is not easy. The rewards are rarely monetary. I used to work in a factory. If I had stayed there I would be making good money, and have the respect of society, but to me it was torture. I respect those that can do that work but it's not for me. If you want money and respect, your choice is to try to build your reputation and audience, or to stick to your day job.

I often watch vtubers (virtual youtubers) - basically people livestreaming on YouTube and using an animated character overlay. It's a thing that has blown up in popularity in the last year or two. Many of them sing or make music. I follow several that have over a million subscribers and who regularly pull in ten thousand people when they do karaoke streams. I am also following an incredibly talented rock band of vtubers and their newest song has less than 2,000 views on YouTube. This is a band where 3 of the members have made multiple solo albums, one does their production, one is also a very talented artist and animated(!) the video, and yet... less than 2,000 views. I follow a poet who creates incredible performance art in VR (I have only been able to see it on YouTube so far). They posted a video of a VR live performance on YouTube, less than 300 views.

It's not that jazz is wallpaper (though if you're playing the same old standards, that is always going to be a limitation). It's just the situation as it is.
 

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I tried to make a living playing jazz. I make a decent living playing pop music.

Jazz is a niche market, it has been for decades, and it's even harder to make a living playing pop music than it was when I was young.

I suppose there is a market for it, but there is a market for polka bands, Klezmer bands, Ragtime and other genres. Just not a very huge market. In other words, you're lucky if you get to do it and pay the bills. Not that it can't be done, it's just not that easy.

You can play for yourself, you can play for other musicians, or you can play for the general public. If you are good enough, you will get the audience you asked for.

Insights and incites by Notes ♫
 

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I always question why I have spent so much time and money and have even sacrificed relationships and perhaps career promotions that might have cut into my playing time. Looking back was it worth it?

When I was in the big bands, there were lots of well paying gigs, large audiences dancing, having fun listening to us, and upscale venues. Being part of an orchestra and playing a somewhat historic music of the likes of Basie, Ellington etc, felt like it put me in a direct line to the history of this music and its origins and masters some of whom I met and were inspired by.
I am retired now but still enjoy getting out the horn and challenging myself to get better, play better with no lust of result.

Jazz is probably a thing of the past and whether it is still relevant in this turbulent time, I am not so sure, but whenever I question my purpose in continuing to play music, even if it is for myself, I come to conclusion that it something that is part of me and there is still a love for this music in my being and probably will be to the end.
 

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I tried to make a living playing jazz. I make a decent living playing pop music.

Jazz is a niche market, it has been for decades, and it's even harder to make a living playing pop music than it was when I was young.

I suppose there is a market for it, but there is a market for polka bands, Klezmer bands, Ragtime and other genres. Just not a very huge market. In other words, you're lucky if you get to do it and pay the bills. Not that it can't be done, it's just not that easy.

You can play for yourself, you can play for other musicians, or you can play for the general public. If you are good enough, you will get the audience you asked for.

Insights and incites by Notes ♫
Nothing today is what it once was in my opinion, FWIW. Amongst other musical endeavors (rock, R&B, soul and funk on the saxes), I grew up in a polka environment. My dad had a band for 50 years. Back when I was small (early 70's), he was out nearly every Saturday night gigging. From about May to October, he'd do a 1-5 wedding on Saturday then have a 9-1 gig. When I played in his band starting in 1982, we had at least 1 gig on most weekends. If you go back even farther, guys were gigging 5 to 6 nights a week with restaurant/lounge work then weddings and dances on the weekends. I was told stories by some old timers that are passed on now that all you had to do to fill a dance back in the 50's was put a sign outside the hall that day. The venue would be full. My dad payed off his house that he built in 1962 in 5 years with all his gig money going towards the mortgage. Now while there are some young people who are fans, the old folks keep dying off, leaving a gap.

Most of the jazz clubs are long gone as are the rock and roll clubs where I used to play in the 80s in my area.

Oh well, enough whining. As you were.
 

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The Pixar film "Soul" was good, but when they started going on about how jazz was black classical music, as a white guy I thought: just like not many people listen to Western classical music either.
 

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Let’s broaden our concept of what Jazz is. . . As Yusuf Lateef did not like the term “jazz” and coined the term Autophysiopsychic music: “music from one's physical, mental and spiritual self.” Most Jazz, Blues, Funk, Soul, and Rock are just different junctions on the same continuum.

The problem with what most people view as “Jazz” is that it has not evolved and innovated. An exception would be Miles Davis did and he is in the rock and roll hall of fame for his efforts. Miles Davis | Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

What is needed are Jazz performers who are able harness the raw emotion of their playing, incorporate rhythms that people can dance to with some vocalist applying some icing on the cake.
 

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If you love jazz, then play it...it's good for the soul, but do not look to it any longer as a way to earn a living. Same thing with classical, and the Metropolitan Opera orchestra has been out of work for a year and a half, most have either retired early or are working nights stocking shelves or whatever to pay the bills. They are being offered a new contract, but at less money, and even that may end up with no work.

When I was coming up in the 60's and 70's, there were a lot of jazz clubs in town, touring name big bands, and plenty of other kinds of gigs to make a living playing music. I got lucky I guess, and did well. That is ancient history now, all those jazz clubs are gone, the name big bands that toured are gone, and their leaders from another generation are long dead. There just isn't any work out there, and I speak to a friend in New York City, and jazz, classical, wedding bands, whatever have been decimated by the plague. Truly fantastic players with a great resume have no work. It is pretty sad, hate to see that era gone, but it is. Part of it may come back, but not enough to make a living anymore.

The only place where jazz is still alive is in high school or college, and they may have a big band, or small ensemble. I've seen too many musicians take out huge loans to get a music degree, and there is simply nothing there when you graduate. They never tell you that in college because then the teachers would be unemployed. Everything must change, nothing remains the same.
 

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Folks who get jazz, need it, seek it, and some play it; it will endure.
But will it become like classical music and ballet, dependent on corporate and foundation grants for its survival? I suspect it is nearly there.
San Francisco has a lively jazz center. Not sure where its funding originated but I assume it’s the above mentioned grants.
 

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I have to bring up the lack of music education in middle and high school. It's brought up many times here on this forum.
I would never have been a life long hobbyist on the sax nor a life long fan of jazz if I did not play in band for 3 years of middle school and a few years of band in high school. No one would have introduced me to Miles Davis, Coltrane, etc. I would never have been turned onto Beethoven nor Mahler. I would never have learned the joys of Italian Opera.
Even my education into good pop and rock would have been stunted...
No wonder people listen to what they do now.
 

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Two things might work:

1. Learn to sing, or base your group around your singing, especially original tunes that can't be compared to the expected stuff. I saw Ben Sidran in Paris a few years ago. People love it, the place was packed. He played a vocal version Freedom Jazz Dance and they ate it up, and Bob Rockwell and Billy Peterson killed.

2. Look like you're doing something onstage. The days of Miles' antics are over (back turned). Look like you're creating and move with it. Watch the bassist:


That's all I got.
 

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But will it become like classical music and ballet, dependent on corporate and foundation grants for its survival? I suspect it is nearly there.
San Francisco has a lively jazz center. Not sure where its funding originated but I assume it’s the above mentioned grants.
I live in Milwaukee, and I first started playing jazz in clubs in 1969. I played at a jazz club in the inner city where riots and buildings being burned down only happened a year earlier. I was the only white guy in the club, but I felt completely safe there. It was a social thing for mostly people in the area. They dressed up, and it was a culture unto itself. The club made its money on booze, no cover charge, but it was alive 6 nights a week, and packed on weekends. Nothing like that now. After that finished, there were after hours places around town that kept one step ahead of the police.
The only corporate or government support for jazz was perhaps a union trust fund gig here and there, and those are gone now. Hal Leonard Publishing sponsored a jazz series at a nice theater downtown, but that ended a few decades ago. The symphony orchestra used to bring in a name jazz singer, but that ended years ago.

No more touring big bands, no more touring jazz groups. Gone. I talk to a friend in Rochester N.Y., and they still have a jazz radio station, and jazz groups. Milwaukee used to have 3 radio stations with jazz, but that all ended a few decades ago. Milwaukee has become a jazz desert. Some cities have something going on, but if you go back, jazz was in the clubs, it was a culture unto itself, and it fit there. The Milwaukee Symphony depends on corporate and government money, and the players feel that they are owed that support because ticket sales would never keep that music alive.

I was in a 28 piece orchestra at the local PBS station in Milwaukee in 1979. That lasted a year, and relied entirely on grant money from the federal government, and was run by the TV station and the union. It was steady work 5 days a week, but my god, I have never been in a a messed up situation as that was. Everyone thought we had it made on day one, we worked between 1-5, but by the end of week one, everyone was miserable and hated it. Government and unions are not a great situation to be in for music or musicians. It ended after a year. Everyone was unhappy.

I am not sure of what the future holds, but my experience with government funded music jobs was a disaster. Someone filed a lawsuit the first week because the union did not hired any black musicians for the orchestra. We had the FBI investigate each one of us. That is how crazy it was in 1979, and race, inclusion, equality, equity, and diversity are now buzzwords that define employment, especially with government funds. The end result is not good. If it dies, let it die in the clubs from whence it sprung. Artificial government support changes things, and not for the better.
 

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I have recorded over 25 CDs in my strange career; I've been reviewed, and have had the privilege of working with some of the greatest musicians ever (Ros Rudd, Julius Hemphill, Nels Cline, Doc Cheatham, David Murray, Marc Ribot, Ken Peplowski, Don Byron, Lewis Porter, Jimmy Knepper, Randy Sandke, Frank Lacey) - and we played for people, actual people. So at age 67, half dead, I get a little impatient with these questions. I have a small but steady audience which buys my releases (and my books) and allows me to keep doing my life's work. The way to do it is to do it. Straight and simple. I love the music and the musicians who play it.
This. At 53 my list of collaborations is very different, with many names in jazz, classical and traditional music, but otherwise I could have written that post myself. The way to do it is to do it, indeed.
 

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Wow what a subject to discuss, jazz and dead should not be in the same sentence. My friends and I have had multiple conversations over the years about music, arts...anything that requires a thought process that lasts longer then 3 minutes. Our music we all love and spend plenty of time and money is not very profitable for the vast majority. I fortunately am a passionate hobbyist devoted to supporting my musician friends by purchasing music, attending shows, buying them a meal, taking a lesson, buying their specific products, sharing information with those who may not know them, hiring them for events when possible, donating. Musicians have to be extremely versatile and industrious to "get the word out" and unfortunately have to be willing to do other work to help pay the bills. I have never lived outside of NYC except Miami for 5 years and music has always been around me from school to home to my home. Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton to Coltrane, Dexter, Bird and the latest talent playing on the internet today. There is a lot to view and I hope when we go live it will continue. The economy sucks right this second but in NYC just a short time ago clubs were open and filled. However they to have to be creative as you can't get by on Friday and Saturday crowds. Business is part of the musicians life and should be recognized and is being addressed scholastically. You can't just play an instrument to get by...not enough seats in Wynton's orchestra.
I could ramble on but you get the idea. I just keep playing everyday, practice with my band and wait for the the time when our group will play for free at an outdoor fair. I am very lucky to not be so talented as my son or other musician friends I have come to know who's skill set is equivalent to a brain surgeon. Enough said today.
 

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One of my combos did wallpaper jazz before the pandemic killed the large scale corporate/civic events market. They're some of my favorite gigs. You play music, you keep it cool and you can get vast enjoyment from it along with a paycheck. The trick is these days is to make jazz palatable. You're not generally going to be playing for an audience comprised of musicians with an ear for complex patterns and a flurry of notes. No. They'll want melody. They'll want something snappy. And if you keep that in mind, you can add a jazz number or two to your pop and rock combos and you might just be surprised to find that your audience will appreciate the diversion.

Jazz is just music. Any you can ruin it like any other genre if you don't know your audience.
 

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Back in the 90's I applied for a graduate program in literature at UC Berkeley and received a letter which essentially said: 'Are you sure you want to do this? There are no jobs out there and we feel somewhat bad graduating students into a saturated job market so we accept your application but want you to be forewarned that you are about to enter into a fairly useless degree.'

I was surprised at their candor and I wish I'd kept the letter. In retrospect, they were right. Universities weren't hiring much for a variety of reasons (boomers hanging on to their jobs, redressing a lifetime of racially biased, patriarchal hiring practices, funding cuts, etc.). Job prospects for a PhD student were dismal. I knew that I could finish the degree and possibly find work somewhere but the terms of that work might involve compromises on my part.

What does any of this have to do with the topic at hand?

A smokingly talented Jazz performance graduate is not necessarily going to find 'meaningful' work in today's market. Whether that is a good or bad thing is another discussion, but that is the reality. At that point it is up to you to decide what to do with the certainty that a very small percentage of your colleagues will be working exclusively in their desired sphere.

Do you want to play what you call 'wallpaper' gigs? Do you want to branch out and include other musical skills in your repertoire? Do you want to keep playing for fun, cherry picking the gigs you like and making money some other way? You're the only one who can answer those questions.
 
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