You’ve heard live jazz ? Tweet using #jazzlives

Let’s prove jazz lives. Tweet about live performances using hashmark #jazzlives, detailing who and when in 140 characters.
Jazz fests rage across America in the next couple of weeks starting Aug. 29-30 with NYC’s Charlie Parker fest, picking up Sept 4 through 6  — TanglewoodChicago, Detroit, the Angel City Jazz Fest, LA’s Sweet & Hot Music Festival,  the Vail Jazz Party, Philadelphia’s Tony Williams Scholarship Jazz Festival plus some fests with jazz-influenced acts, rhythms and improv such as Jazz Aspen Snowmass, Seattle’s Bumbershoot, the Getdown fest and campout near Chapel Hill NC. Overall, tens of thousands of fans will be in attendance. I suggest we all raise our electronic hands on Twitter (accounts are free) to signal that we are listening, that there is indeed a significant audience including people young enough both age and spirit to send a noticeable wave through social networking, National Endowment of the Arts data from ’08 notwithstanding.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Terry Teachout cited NEA findings which detail downturns in attendance of all arts events but a particularly “rapidly aging” jazz audience. This provoked a storm of opinion and analysis in the press and on the web. My posted response suggested he’d fallen into the trap of predicting jazz’s death, due to this passage: 

Nobody’s listening.

No, it’s not quite that bad–but it’s no longer possible for head-in-the-sand types to pretend that the great American art form is economically healthy or that its future looks anything other than bleak.

It’s true that venues, record companies and fests (not only those featuring jazz) are closing —  we’re in a recession, during which many businesses have closed, and jazz presentation has always been a volatile, marginally profitable enterprise. Jazz cd sales haven’t been comparable to any but classical music sales for almost 40 years (since the release of Bitches Brew) and we’re currently experiencing of a major media transition, so fewer young people are buying CDs, some are downloading (yes, maybe jazz) for free, and there’s no reason a young cohort should identify strongly or exclusively with old school jazz as a genre, though they may like a recording or artist here or there, or identify with players their own age (who may spurn the “jazz” id-tag, for a variety of reasons, yet still play music that’s jazz in its essence). Terrestial jazz radio is mostly on NPR. Of course the audience is aging by percentage — as baby boomers, still the largest demographic group, are aging. 
Still, everywhere where I’ve been in the past year (New York, Chicago, Boston, Hanover NH,  Portland OR and Ponta Delgada in the Azores)  I’ve seen numerous young people in jazz audiences. Enrollment in high school and college jazz programs (there are about 180 of them in the US currently, and more in Canada and the UK) is high, and a Google search of “jazz website” comes up with 58 million citations. In the New York Times Nate Chinen mentioned similar “anecdotal evidence” — also known as on-site observation. Teachout, rightly hard-headed, dismisses the discrepancy between the NEA’s data and pro-jazz stories in favor of the suggestion of Jazz.com’s Ted Gioia:

The Times cites “anecdotal evidence” of young people attending jazz events. . . . I guess they need a new infusion of anecdotes.

Fair enough, but rather than more stories, let’s establish some new numbers. How many tweets including the hashmark #jazzlives can we accumulate over the next couple of weeks? What if we take this campaign to Facebook and other social networking sites, too? The numbers won’t be statistically valid, but will provide a new metric for references’ sake. Could we reach the 500,000 typically applied to attendees at Woodstock?
I hereby urge jazz bloggers and websites and jazz fests and venues to promote the idea that jazz listeners tweet including: #jazzlives, who was playing and where. Open a Twitter account if you don’t already have one — it’s free and this is NOT a Twitter promotion, it just happens to work for these kinds of campaigns. Including #jazzlives will allow the tweets to be searchable at Twitter and to be scrolled on a widget that can be embedded into websites and blogs (email tweetjazzlives@gmail.com for the widget code — you can see how it looks at www.HowardMandel.com). No further commitment, nothing to buy.
Something’s going on with our culture, and we probably don’t know what it is. I acknowledge a major shift in arts and entertainments, but I don’t think jazz is more endangered than it has been since the birth of the Beatles. I believe jazz — which I define loosely as music typically but not always employing rhythmic momentum, derived at least in part from the African-American and urban vernacular, involving ensemble interactivity and valuing musical ability, but you are urged to define however you want to — is surviving. Do you believe so, too? Tweet if you think #jazzlives

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Comments

  1. says

    I think that WSJ article is very misleading, along with the findings of the NEA. I go to plenty of concerts and I have plenty of friends that do as well. None of us had our heads counted going to a concert. We weren’t interviewed for the NEA’s study. These findings sound a lot like the election polls that were released every other day up to the election. It’s too bad that this culture in this country is becoming so alarmist that it sparks these push back campaigns.
    Jason Palmer

  2. says

    Howard,
    Just wanted to thank you for this idea, I’ll try to remember the hashtag myself.
    Also, in case you’re ever looking for more examples of jazz thundering on, I’ve been publishing a media rich (with original photos, audio recordings, and video) from deep inside the hyper-local San Francisco jazz scene for three years running at this point — and these aren’t the national acts rolling through town, these are the cats playing day-in and day-out in the City. I’ve made hundreds of recordings and shot thousands of photos, you might want to check it out sometime.
    Thanks again for all your writing, love it!

  3. TomtheJazzman says

    Great Idea. I believe this may be over the heads of many TWEETERS. Can you give them a LINK to TWITTER and this item to make it easier rather than your account or the JJA account? Thanks
    Tom
    HM: Twitter.com, search #jazzlives — you don’t need to have a Twitter account to see the tweets.
    Also — a lot of people are now posting photos of the audiences they’ve been part of — you can see those photos if you click on their links.

  4. says

    It seems clear that the young generation is moving forward through the jazz transition. I thank you for bringing forward this music. I did not know anything about jazz music and its concept and now that I attend a few jazz audiences and my friends also shows me how valuable this music can be. Truly really I like it.

  5. Frank Robinson says

    I fell in love with jazz in 1956. I listen to KKJZ 88.1 Fm Long Beach everyday. We need to support this station and all remaining jazz stations. I attend as many live Jazz performances as I can get too. I am a senior citizen 72 yrs old,its the only music I listen too. I love all the Organ musicians the most,Jimmy Smith,Jack McDuff,and all the rest.