On the Download; Presto, the Audience Disappears!; Showboaters Get the Clap

On the Download; Presto, the Audience Disappears!; Showboaters Get the Clap
Mr. P.C. By

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On the Download

Dear Mr. P.C.:

Now that everybody just downloads or streams music and you can't sell many CDs anymore, a lot of my fellow musicians are just giving them away. It's gotten to the point where I'm hesitant to ask if someone wants my disc even for free, because they'd probably rather listen to their favorite "name" artists on Spotify.

In the old days, giving someone a CD (instead of selling it to them) was doing them a favor. Now they're doing me a favor to accept it, and at least hypothetically listen to it. Thoughts?

—Cursing Downloads

Dear CD:

Jazz musicians have always complained about their audiences even though the flow of money was a one-way street—listener to artist. The new jazz economy turns it around: Now that even free CDs are an imposition, it's time for artists to offer listeners some sort of compensation for their time and effort.

It doesn't have to be much to start with; maybe a few bucks with each CD. But eventually listeners will organize to collectively boost their listening fee. With that on the horizon, you'd be smart to get rid of as many CDs as possible while the cost is still low.

Savvy listeners might even offer a bulk rate, accepting boxes of CDs at a discounted price. From there, they can turn a quick profit by discarding them under cover of darkness at thrift shop drop-offs or local dumps. It's not entirely ethical, but it keeps the jazz economy rolling.

Presto, the Audience Disappears!

Dear Mr. P.C.:

Why is speed so important? Why do we have to be able to solo at burning tempos? If I didn't have to spend all my practice time keeping up my speed chops, I could work on much more musical things.

—Slothful Laggard Only Walks

Dear SLOW:

No one really likes fast tunes. That's why jazz artists play them as quickly as possible, so they're done sooner.

It's also a proven way to get the audience to leave, which means the gig itself is finished sooner too. On a night where you have to play a bunch of fast tunes, what more could you ask for?

Showboaters Get the Clap

Dear Mr. P.C.:

What do you think of guys who showboat to get more applause?

—Dave, Rockford

Dear Dave:

What do you think of dogs who play dead to get a treat? Did their owners train them by rewarding their dead play? Or did they play dead over and over until the owners figured out that giving a treat would get them to stop?

You can see where I'm going: Have musicians trained their audiences to applaud their showboating? Or have audiences figured out that only their applause can get showboating musicians to stop?

Underestimate the audience at your own peril, Dave! Most jazz listeners couldn't care less about fast lines and other feats of athleticism; they're looking for subtleties like unusual note choices, complex rhythms, and slow thematic development. If they have to applaud to put an end to showboating they'll do it, but only until the players give them the inaccessible music they love, at which point a respectful silence will fill the room.

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