Social networking does its #jazzlives stuff

Start a Twitter campaign, and see what happens! Do as many people hear live jazz in a week as attended Woodstock, say? Using the hashtag #jazzlives, a rough count is underway, supported by independent jazz activists, musicians, festivals, journalists but most of all the listeners themselves. It’s a lesson in how people participate in culture now, with encouraging findings.

Since the launch of this experiment two days ago to find out how many people hear live jazz and love it enough to raise their hands by Tweeting about WHO they heard and WHERE, some 200 Tweets have been made, which are showing up in widgets posted at websites including,,,  The Checkout, the Angel City Jazz Fest (Los Angeles), the Chicago Jazz Festival

The campaign has been endorsed by Patrick Jaranwattenanon’s A Blog Supreme (NPR), Nate Chinen’s The Gig, Peter Hum’s Jazzblog, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Willard Jenkin’s Independent Ear, Larry Blumenfeld’s Listen Good, David Adler’s Lerterland, Pamela Espeland’s Bebopified, Bill Brownlee’s PlasticSax, and is gaining more attention by the moment. I’ve heard musicians who love the idea including John Patitucci, Jay Hoggard, Geoff Lapp, Alex Rodriguez, Elli Fordyce, Jon Burr, Gerald Clayton, Tim DuRoche, Tessa Souter, David Ryshpan, Jamie Aebersold, Steve Lehman, Anthony Wilson, Hank Shteamer (and one who scoffed: Vijay Iyer). There’s been an article in the LA TImes.The organizer of the Celebrating Bird event this Sunday at Charlie Parker‘s grave site (Kansas City has announced this is Charlie “Bird” Parker Weekend) will announce the campaign and encourage our musicians and fans to join in. Bird Lives! yes — but live jazz that draws an audience really proves jazz lives!
So the best thing is people are picking up on this idea and trying to expand upon it. Can the #jazzlives campaign extend to Facebook? Sure, if there’s a way to get Facebook friends to post using a tag or some way of identifying their WHO I heard WHEN I heard them messages  for searchability. A discussion on how to do it has sprouted is comments on my FB page. 
The worst thing is if people try to expand on it the wrong way. Using this hashtag to promote your event, your artist in advance, without letting the audience itself respond, undercuts what we’re trying to do. Of the 200 Tweets so far, about 1/3 of them are genuine “I heard this, then” responses, true to the rules of the experiment. About 2/3s are promotional in nature, including many that promote the campaign itself, and that promote jazz in general. That’s natural to begin with, but we hope the ratio turns the other way, so there are very few (discountable) Tweets promoting gigs before they happen, recorded music, specific clubs whoever’s playing the, various radio shows, etc. That can happen elsewhere on Twitter — #jazz, #jazztalk, but that’s NOT what #jazzlives is about.
It’s important NOT  to muddy or dilute the campaign — that we get a count on who is listening to what, where, instead of who is pushing that we listen to their clients/artists/shows. Not to be hard-assed about this — sure, you can say you just heard yourself (or your client, artist) play, and you (they) were great! — after it’s over. But NO ADVANCE PROMOTION! NO RECORDED MUSIC! NO RADIO unless it’s broadcasts of live music (on terrestrial or satellite radio or online). Whatever assessment of the jazz audience results from this campaign won’t be statistically certifiable, but we’re keeping a running count by hand, best as possible, and won’t fudge the numbers. It will be much easier on us and will promote the campaign among Tweeters better if we keep it simple and pure: WHO did you hear LIVE, WHERE did you hear them, #jazzlives.
Musicians — know what you might do? After your set, announce to your audience, “If you liked the show, tweet #jazzlives about it RIGHT NOW!” That will send more buzz through Twitter about how good your set was, and will build the numbers of people who participate in this campaign, raising their hands (well, Tweeting) to announce they listen to live jazz. Publicists can advise the musicians they represent or the concert producers or club owners they work for that this strategy is indeed a good way to get their activities known and simultaneously support this initiative.
On-site observation to some, “anecdotal evidence” to others — there is obviously an audience that’s not just aging at jazz events. If jazz is defined broadly, the way most listeners think of it, and if a count of listeners is extended beyond the confines of formal concerts and presentations to include casual attendance to musicians playing jazz in the streets, subway platforms, neighborhood bars, parks, obscure clubs, informal jams, wherever, we will get a better idea of who’s listening, what they’re hearing, where they’re hearing it. It’s amazing to me that social networking can be employed to come up with so much of this information, and to put the so-called community, self-selected by virtue of everyone in it making the tiniest effort to identify themselves with it, is reinforced by recognizing that no single member is really alone. This is the promise of social networks, I gather, and here it is playing out. 
Are there as many listeners to live jazz in a week as there were attendees in the mud and traffic jams at Woodstock? Don’t know, but one way to put a bet on the side of music now is to go out and hear some, then tweet WHO and WHERE and #jazzlives.
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  1. Michael J. West says

    Another endorsement for you:
    Washington City Paper’s (i.e., mine).
    HM: Thanks Mike — but let’s turn on our readers (for broadcasters and musicians, our listeners) and get them to do it — tweet @jazzlives.