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“The business of jazz” with the Dutch

Saturday 26 January, 2008

This event took place the evening of 15 January, 2008 @ the Fine Arts Building. It was sponsored by the Netherlands Consulate General, The Netherland-America Foundation-Chicago Chapter, Dutch Chicago Business Exchange & Piano Forte Foundation  As a lover of jazz I was interested to learn about the business side of a struggling musical segment.

The format was a panel discussion, moderated by Neill Tesser, local music journalist and broadcaster. The panel consisted of

Michiel Borstlap, pianist and composer (Netherlands)

-Lauren Deutsch, Executive Director of the Jazz Institute of Chicago

-Michael Frank, CEO Earwig Music (record label)

T.S. Galloway, trombonist, composer and musical director

Mike Reed, drummer and presenter

Here’s the promotional blurb: “What do Jazz & Business have in common? If you really think about it… EVERYTHING. The challenges confronting the Jazz musician and the Business community are surprisingly similar. In a panel discussion we would like to highlight the challenges the Jazz business as a whole faces and how they are being addressed. What better to hear it directly from Artists, Club owners, and Record companies? Representatives from Chicago and the Netherlands will freely discuss the challenges and opportunities!”

Borstlap started by suggesting that listeners should pay to hear jazz & that subsidies were not necessarily a good thing. That didn’t seem to be the way it’s working in Chicago. He has been successful in getting sponsors for CD’s, tours, etc. Deutsch trumpeted the Jazz Institute of Chicago’s role in bringing jazz to new listeners, including youth, which is needed if jazz is going to survive. Frank brought up the issue of the lack of coverage of jazz & blues in the media as opposed to more popular genres such as rock & hip-hop. I think the most valuable contributions were made by Galloway, who well-described the tensions between the artistic/creative drive to make new music vs. the need to make money doing it. I also found Galloway’s opinion valuable as 1 who has lived for years in both the US & abroad (in the Netherlands), so he’s 1 of the few able to make well-informed opinions on the differences between American & others’ support for jazz. As 1 of the organizers of the successful Pitchfork & Umbrella music festivals, Reed was lauded as an example to follow for the future of jazz, by using his combination of old & new technologies to bring out new music cost effectively.

I enjoyed this event immensely, but grew frustrated with Tesser’s lead in the conversation. No mention was made of who’s profitable in the supply/value chain, how the money flows, & who takes how much of their slice of the pie. The business model for distributing music is changing rapidly & little discussion was made of how those changes are affecting the distribution of jazz music. Jazz musicians have to be even more clever in their business dealings, but in different ways than in the past. Even though I love jazz, I would have preferred a little more business analysis & a little less “where is jazz today?” It appeared as if this event was being filmed for television, but I haven’t seen/heard when or where.

The panel discussion was followed by a performance of one of Europe’s most successful Jazz musicians, pianist Michiel Borstlap with his trio, which was great. I can hear why Michiel gets the accolades he does. He plays well both up- & down-tempo & has a couple of great cohorts who know how & when to exert themselves. Check out his link above to get a taste of his music, (& see his sponsors for this CD).

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