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Interviews

A Fireside Chat With Greg Osby

By Published: November 29, 2003

The institution of double bills, that is all but defunct now. You get more for your money. Musicians would collaborate with one another and you'd have like minded bands or like sounding bands on the bill and that would be a lot more enticing to patrons and you could fill clubs a lot more readily. Who wants to see the same group that you just saw a couple months ago playing the same material, and it is obvious that they haven't developed anything? They haven't been doing anything, so labels as well as clubs and concerts, they're going to have to think about presentation and think about how they're going to package the music and make it appealing to that slippery demographic, that host of money bearing individuals who elude these venues.

I've been able to get a younger crowd due to some of my collaboratives with alternative musics. That's been good, but it can still use a lot more work. I think college activity is the key. The problem is that that is so selective. I talked to the people at Blue Note and I am just this close with convincing them about my idea of caravans. We get four or five vans and emblaze them with the Blue Note logo and just travel across the country and hit every venue from little bars to school gymnasiums to retirement communities or whatever, wherever people will have it and just do a showcasing of the artists on that label presenting their new work. It was proven a few years ago when we went out with the New Directions group that playing in alternative venues and hitting these different markets like clockwork, it can be effective. We sold a lot of product and got a lot of new, instant fans.

I don't know. I don't know what people are thinking in marketing and promotion, I really don't. I don't know how they are earning their money and how they're figuring that their job is secure when no creative ideas are flowing.

FJ: A model is the Empty Bottle in Chicago. A dive with ten dollar covers and beers are a buck. Shows start at 10 and go into the wee hours of the morning. Artists play to a packed house and indie labels that sell their records consistently sell out pressing, twenty-five hundred, four thousand CDs with zero marketing and no record store presence. I can't recall the last record on Verve to sell four thousand copies of anything. The artists, clubs, and labels sell T-shirts and the kids eat it up. I haven't seen an Osby shirt.

GO: Right, thing is Fred, a lot of these companies, they work off of precedent. They may have done something like that before and it was ineffective for whatever reason and so as far as they're concerned, that won't work for anyone. I've run up against this with my label and other labels. We tried that with so and so, whose music was infinitely a lot more different or less provocative than my music and so they say that they can't do that because they did it before. If that didn't work, how do you justify putting these ads in these jazz rags.

FJ: I have never heard of anyone ever buying a record because they saw an ad in Jazz Times.

GO: Right, people don't buy records just because they see a record in Jazz Times, Jazziz or Downbeat. Take that money ' which is a great deal of money ' and put it somewhere else. Try something else and see if that will stimulate some sales or activity. They are steadfast to certain things because it is standard. The record comes out and they place it here, here, and here, but things that are potentially innovative and could make a lot of noise, they won't do.

It's difficult to convince people. Also, people are challenged because they figure you are trying to tell them how to do their job. They just want you to be the lowly musician and play the music and they do this. I've run up against that from everyone from people in the record company to promotions people to club owners to agents to even recording engineers.

FJ: Last time we talked, you were still on the fence about Jason and whether he was staying on. Is Jason still in the band?

GO: He is, but only a few gigs left because he has become excessively popular with his own trio, which is outstanding and I've encouraged it. It's time. It's been a six year run and I need to stimulate myself and look around and see if there is somebody else. Even though we have a marvelous relationship, a marvelous connection, I can't allow myself to be crippled by that. Just like I found him, I have to find someone to cultivate as well. It is time. It's time.



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