Monday, September 20, 2010
"The Jazz Entrepreneur-Threat or Menace" by Steve Provizer
Blogmeister Chris R. bemoans the lack of entrepreneurial spirit among local jazzers. I more or less demur.
There are musicians out there exercising the old entrepreneurial spirit and bestirring themselves to various exotic gig locales and this is surely a better strategy than bemoaning one's fate while passively waiting to be discovered. But does it mean that all or even most jazz musicians should scurry from their caves and try to sell their wares to the unwilling masses?
Let's acknowledge that there will forever be a gap, nay an incipient conflict, between the dispositions of the Player of the music and the Seller of the music. God bless the child that's got both sides, but that's Halley's comet rare. I mean, look at the ultimate fruition of the entrepreneurial spirit: our friend Wynton M. His skills in both are high, but the psychological result and cultural impact are, well, mixed. Maybe success doesn't inevitably turns anyone into a-god help us-"spokesman," but once cast in that role, it takes someone with the singular spirit of Coltrane not to fall into the divisive ego trap laid by jazz flackery and the media.
I myself wandered for years in the Twilight Zone inhabited by so many jazz musicians. In a scenario that may be familiar to many of you, every half-assed musical money-making scheme ended in semi-disaster and narrowed the already small distance between me and the guys with the butterfly nets from the local loony bin. Now, I am predisposed to pontificate against the middle path. Either go ahead and hustle your ass off, or spend your time getting real good at what you do and trust that your audience-or maybe a Seller-will find you. No bemoaning of fates allowed.
In "Unions and the Fame Myth" I wrote about the need for musicians to take matters into their own hands. But that's energy put to a different end. Unionizing has a different upside. It doesn't mean you get to eliminate the middle man, but it may mean that you'll be able to weed out the pimps.