Marty Khan Interview: About His Book "Straight Ahead"
MK: No, it hasn't. Grants and funding are just one aspect of the c3 picture. The vehicle by its very nature is ideal for the creative artist, educator, composer, whatever. There are so many advantages and so few disadvantages. Everybody thinks that there is so much complexity and time consumption involved in operating a non-profit. And the world of jazz advocacy perpetuates that thinking. The reality is that the amount of time and work that needs to be put in can be entirely devoted to issues of career development, professional activity, investment and return, and all of the other elements that are supposed to be involved in achieving the artist's goals. The non-profit simply provides the best environment for that growth and development. It's the ideal structure to utilize team management. It enhances the potential for outside participation, the non-profit term for investment. It streamlines the artist's personal accountability regarding his or her financial activity. It offers a wider angle for visibility, in addition to the attention that the artist receives directly. It also allows the jazz artist to be taken more seriously, especially by the fine arts world. And it opens doors for funding potential that is not accessible in any other way.
Ultimately, it is the single most valuable resource toward self-empowerment. And that's why it's so discouraged. It is antithetical to the plantation mentality and paternalism that has always been the true backbone of the jazz industry.
SR: The book goes into extreme detail about the 501(c)(3) from set-up through reporting requirements. Are you really qualified to provide the information in such explicit detail?
MK: Conceptually, yes. From a purely legal standpoint, not entirely. That's why this chapter was written with the assistance of Lenny Easter, one of the foremost attorneys in the non-profit field and a professor at New School University. Lenny has been my non-profit guru for 25 years. He's set up hundreds of non-profits, including more than 50 through our organization Outward Visionswhich he incorporated back in 1980 when he was Director of Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. He fine-toothed every line of that section, making all of the appropriate changes, clarifications, warnings and whatnot, like the great lawyer he is.
That's also why that part of the book reads a little drier, I'm afraid.
SR: Why didn't you just refer the reader to other books in the field, as you did for music publishing and self-booking?
MK: Because those are written for lawyers and law students. This was written with the jazz musician and jazz professional in mind, and is focused on their particular needs and the related application. And it's all in question/answer format.
SR: You use the Q & A format a lot in the book. Are these questions that you get asked a lot?
MK: The only questions I've been asked a lot are: Can you get me some gigs? Can you get me a record deal? (laughter) I'm only half joking there. In reality, the 190 or so questions in the book are the ones I should be asked. Unfortunately too many musiciansand a surprisingly large number of professionalsdon't have sufficient knowledge of the business to even ask some of the most basic questions. It's stunning sometimes.
SR: Like what, for instance?
MK: Like what's the difference between an agent and a manager? It's amazing how many musicians don't really know the difference. That makes it hard to even ask the more important questions, such as how do you balance a relationship between an agent and manager; how do you judge reliability and competence issues; the balance of responsibilities in dealing with promoters, record companies, other musicians and so forth. There are just so many issues involved in career development and the day-to-day activities of the professional life that slide by as the artist waits for the phone to ring, or chases down that elusive "yes" answer that delivers the necessary sustenance of income production. So I ask and answer the questions that musicians and professionals need to understandwhether they realize it or not.
SR: You've mentioned the book's value for professionals who aren't musicians a few times. So Straight Ahead isn't just aimed at musicians?
MK: Since I feel that this book will be used extensively on the educational levelin fact, we recently published a Teacher's Guide with Suggested Assignments from which I hope to develop a college level course in conjunction with Larry Ridley and the African-American Jazz Caucus of the IAJE. It's aimed at two types of student musicians: the ones who will become professional musicians, and the ones who, failing to do that, will become managers, agents, promoters, record execs and all of the other possible roles that will keep them involved in the music.
SR: I've heard you say many times how jazz professionals are all failed musicians. It's one of the very first points that you make in the book. Isn't it the same in all of the arts?