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Interviews

A Fireside Chat With Greg Osby

By Published: November 29, 2003

Now, this doesn't compete at all with my legitimate record sales. I do have a problem with people downloading legitimate property but live concerts and outtakes and bootlegs, that's great because that stimulates. It creates a buzz. It keeps your music and what's going on with your band in circulation, even when you're not actively touring. The Grateful Dead and these jam bands, they allow people to tape. You look out to the audience and you see people with their boom mics and mics on tripods and after the concert, they get the set lists and they put the stuff into global circulation. How come the jazz community couldn't embrace that?

Now I've been on gigs with my peers and elders when they just stop tunes in mid-flight and tell people to turn off the video camcorders and to turn off the mini-disc players and to turn off the cassettes. They huffed and puffed off stage thinking that people recording a couple of tunes or recording a set is going to adversely effect their sales, not realizing that that tape might wind up in the hands of somebody in the farthest reaches of the earth or the continent or whatever, who did not have access to it. They could download it or it may get mailed to somebody and they may talk to a promoter or somebody that may want to book your band, and they may in turn become interested in what you do and they may encourage a young player to start playing the instrument that you play. You may even get a few new fans. There may be some legitimate sale activity and so I believe in it. I think it is a great thing and cheap promotional vehicle.

Back in the '80s, I used to do a lot of sampling sessions for hip-hop music, for hip-hop producers. I had a group called Sample Bandits and we would go into the studio and replicate samples of recordings that they couldn't get sample clearance for. So we would do that and dirty it up a bit and change it so it wouldn't be a direct plagiarization.

And the thing is, they would give me passes to their shows and when they would do their shows, they would throw out cassettes to the audience, like whole boxes of cassettes of an artist that they were producing who had a release that was about to happen in six months. So six months later, when that artist's CD was released, it would ship platinum and everybody on the scene would already be aware of it because they got these free singles six months prior.

How come jazz labels can't do that? How come they can't go in the Village Vanguard and put a CD single of the table because CD-Rs are dirt cheap now, so that when those artist's recordings are released, everybody will be familiar with it and they probably will go out and get it. They'll say, "Oh, I know that guy. I got this at the Vanguard." It just becomes a sharing thing and once again, my experience with Phil Lesh has shown me that people will support you legitimately when they know that they can get something from you for free, when they can get free music or they get a pass out of it or they get a download. When you do a record, they will buy it. There are a lot of grassroots techniques that people in improvised music could stand to embrace that would do wonders.

FJ: Jazz artists are capped off at the knees because of the perception of jazz today is not cool, but rather a gauge of age. It isn't helped that club covers run north of twenty bucks and then bangs the kid for a two drink minimum. This has created an avalanche that has jazz being Humpty Dumpty, where all the king's horses and all the king's men will be useless.

GO: That's right. Well, the bar is raised when a host of artists and their greedy managers demanded a whole lot more. So everybody followed suit and now, musicians have out-priced themselves in the marketplace. That is a lot to play for one set of music. At least if you go to a rock concert or a pop concert, at least you get fireworks, scantly clad girls, and you get a show. It is more like a revue. It's not just one set of music and then they kick you out after the set.

That's too much. Artists, they will just have to embrace the reality of the situation. I'm not, I've never been a money guy. I've been an activity guy. I'd rather work a lot more and receive less. It will all balance itself out. I don't want to do twenty concerts a year for high money. I'd rather do a hundred concerts that make the same amount of money because you reach more people and you're able to develop more as a group and as an individual.



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