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Marketing Jazz and the Public Perception

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[ed. note: Chuck Anderson has had an amazingly diverse career in music. He has worked successfully as a professional guitarist, composer, author, clinician and lecturer. He has owned and directed music schools, recorded a dozen CDs, written twenty books on music, run a production company, written for national magazines and currently maintains a busy music consulting business.

Drawing on all these facets of the music business, Chuck will be writing a monthly column for us called "The Art and Science of Jazz." Some of the many topics to be discussed are the education, marketing, aesthetics, craft and business of jazz.
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Being in this business for a long time as a musician, educator, author and lecturer, I have some thoughts on the marketing of jazz musicians and audiences. Though it's easy to blame the media (and they deserve some of the blame), I think the biggest problem lies squarely on the shoulders of jazz musicians and the jazz community.

This community has never promoted or marketed its art and craft at the level or with the same intensity as other musical idioms. This is not to comment one way or another on the musical significance of jazz versus rock vs country vs pop etc. My focus here is on the marketing efforts of the jazz community.

As an example, country music has an enormously popular and important tradition called "Fan Fair." This is basically a big convention for the fans to meet, up close and personal, their country music idols. Autographs are given, merchandise is sold, pictures are taken. I have never seen a country artist, no matter how successful he or she might be, resist this tradition or complain about it. They recognize that without the fans, they would have no career.

Country music plays to the fans and seems to show a genuine interest in them. I understand the musical differences between country and jazz but jazz still must be marketed with consistency and enthusiasm. It needs to recognize the role of fans in the success of any artist. The musicians have to do their part in promoting and marketing their art and craft. I am talking primarily about traditional forms of jazz not "smooth jazz."

Jazz shares many of the same issues with classical music. There is too often a distance and certain type of elitism that prevents audiences from getting "close." This distance does not help spread the "good word" about jazz.

I hold out great hope for the future because of the "new" music business. "Cyber marketing" and many tools are now available to jazz musicians across the world. We have never had a better opportunity to reach fans worldwide.

The jazz musician and the jazz industry will, like any other business, have to invest in the services that are necessary to build a fan base and achieve worldwide exposure for their music, products and services.

Next time: Marketing Solutions and Reaching a Larger Audience


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