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Jazz and the Net



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They've seen this digital downloads thing coming for a long time, yet very few people have thought about how to use the power of this medium to reach more people...
I am so tired of technological glitches. The more complicated this world becomes, the more frustrated I have become.

Yet it's hard for me to imagine life without the Net. In fact, I am so wired its disgusting. I'm so dependent on these machines, I feel like the six million dollar man, without the hair. In fact, I'm a online junkie. Unless I'm connected, unless everything's working, I flip out. Well, not totally, but...

I've got a cable modem, the router, and the wireless cards in the laptops, which usually work. Usually.

Today, in preparation for this entry, about Apple's music store and other services selling digital music files I downloaded the latest version of I-Tunes. After the installation, it wouldn't connect to the I-Tunes Music Store. What?

Of course there's no 800 number to call. I did ten rounds a couple of weeks ago with Apple and their so-called support system, for Quicktime. I was trying to encode some Quicktime video files. When it didn't work, I called the support line of the Apple store. "Oh we don't offer technical support here. We have developer forums on our site. Check that out." Okay, I did. I tried. I left messages. I waited. I prayed. NOTHING.

Yeah, I've got a PC and it's a Mac world at I-tunes, sort of. But still, this is a Windows version I'm trying to connect. It should work, but it doesn't. The worst part is, I can't figure out why, and nobody else really cares.

I need divine intervention.

What do I expect? I'm not paying, yet. I would think they'd want to help people connect to buy their stuff. They have sold over 100 million LEGAL downloads in the past year. That's impressive.

Four or months ago, while I was researching my book, I tried I-Tunes and it worked fine. Now, well...

So, I wiped it off my hard drive, and then reinstalled the software. Still doesn't work. Some error message.

Then, to make matters worse, my cable modem or maybe the router, stopped working.

I've heard this song before. Several weeks ago, I had a problem with my wireless setup. Wasn't sure if it was the Router, or the cards in our laptops. I ended up spending about five hours on the phone, back and forth, with tech support people from several companies, including Linksys, in India and the Philippines. I had the opportunity to experiece first hand, the offshoring of US jobs. Now that was weird, but it did get fixed, although after an eternity on the phone with these people, I felt like Mike Tyson after he got pounded the other night.

Poor Mike. What's a guy like that going to do next? The man has but one skill and now that's gone. And not only did he go through three hundred million and is now penniless, but he can't find normal work because he tattooed his face (he also can't be buried in a Jewish cemetery, but that's a whole other story). Only one solution.

Pornography. Within a year, Mike Tyson will be a big star in the adult film industry. Just remember, you read it here. (Unless of course he's a eunich. Hey, anything's possible.)

Cut to....

I'm back online.

Thank God, and Moses. And "Big Tiny" Little, Joe "Fingers" Carr and Roger Williams (and a score of other pianists unavailable on digital downloads).

But I still can't connect. Never mind. I'll just have to resort to my CDs (yes, I still use that antiquated technology).

As for I-Tunes, and Rhapsody, and Napster II, and the other services now selling digital downloads, you'll find some Jazz available. Rhapsody has the best selection of Jazz, with selections from the Fantasy Catalogue, and I-Tunes is getting stuff from CD-Baby, so their Jazz inventory is going up. Slowly.

The fact that I-Tunes has sold more than 100 million downloads over the past year is proof that there is a market for selling digital downloads. So the question becomes, how can Jazz musicians and people who care about this music, utilize these services to reach a new audience.

Most people on I-Tunes don't know very much about this music we like to call our own. Those of us who've been listening to Jazz for a while, those who have studied it, and learned to appreciate its unique qualities, we'll we're a tiny minority in what they call the Marketplace.

Jazz is practically invisible from the mass media, more so than ever. Aside from that lame BET on Jazz cable channel (man, did they blow it), you can't find Jazz on television, except for maybe Diana Krall on Conan O'Brian (thank you and good night). And the radio, God is that ugly. Aside from conservative blather, commericial radio is so formulated that every commercial radio station in every city in America sounds alike. It's nearly impossible for any real creativity to sneak through. Public radio, PBS, college radio, yeah! But since NPR basically abandoned Jazz, even on public radio Jazz is infrequently heard. (Yes, I know there's some NPR Jazz, but compare that to ten years ago).

Then the Net comes along. Boom. The world changes practically overnight. No more music industry monopolies on what you can buy, because on the web, you can buy anything. No shortage of places to hear the music either, with Jazz websites, webcasts, streaming radio, all kinds of possibilites.

In just a few years, this downloading thing has become a potent force. Yet sadly, like the rest of the "industry," these digital music stores operate pretty much like the status quo. The major artists get most of the real estate because they sell the most product. In the marketplace, it's hard to compete with nearly naked women and buff boys. Or, even worse, William Hung. After his Amercan Idol fifteen minutes of fame, the fellow has sold over 2 million CDs. WHY?????? Simple, people buy what they're programmed to purchase.

Ask the folks who run these services and they'll tell, it's about what sells. So if you want something outside of the top ten, you really have to know who you want to listen to, or search for. There's no marketing that happens here. They take orders, nothing more, nothing less.

I-Tunes will do a Dave Brubeck's Ten Favorite CDs or Herbie Hancock Recommends , but that's not going to help us.

What will? When the Jazz industry works together to create a Jazz only digital download store! The Jazz industry? That's scary. It's like giant factories, where musicians go to "produce" music.

Do I have a plan? Yes, I do, which I'll explain in great detail in a future edition.

I used to get up on a pedestal and write fiery diatribes about these heartless executives who only sought to line their pockets and their expense accounts. They were more concerned with feeding their egos than supporting musicians. Well, there's a few of those "users" left, like Tommy Mottola, but they've largely disappeared. Mr. Mottola managed to run Columbia Records into the ground, then received a golden parachute, and another label to toy with on his non-stop quest for fame, young women, and enough money to buy an island. (Yes, I know he produces pop music but still...)

I see the existing music industry today as one composed mostly of well intentioned people who'd like to get the music out there, and make some money, but for the most part, unless they're totally wired, and probably under 21, a group of people who are rather perplexed by what's happening.

They've seen this digital downloads thing coming for a long time, yet very few people have thought about how to use the power of this medium to reach more people, to actually turn listeners on to the music and get them to purchase it.

I'm not here to point fingers. Now, I offer solutions. In my book, I explain how independent musicians can utilize the Net to market and distribute their own music.

Next time: The First Jazz Only Digital Download Service

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