Twitter campaign #jazzlives after one year

#Jazzlives — the Twitter
campaign aimed at demonstrating that there is
a big and enthusiastic audience for live
jazz — is one year old. What has it wrought?

First: What is #jazzlives
and how does it work? To participate in the campaign, audience members at live
jazz performances “tweet” – write a post on their Twitter account– about
who they heard and where they heard them, including “#jazzlives” in the total 140 characters. You can view all #jazzlives posts as a “stream”
on various websites and blogs, including this one. You
can also view #jazzlives “tweets” by going to and searching on #jazzlives. You don’t need a Twitter account to do this. But if you want your own #jazzlives stream, please leave a note in the “comments” box at the end of this post, and you’ll be sent details.

Check out the #jazzlives stream from time to time over a week, a month, a year! — you’ll see live jazz performance is indeed alive and well, and people are listening everywhere. A glance at the #jazzlives stream while I’m writing shows posts from Cape Breton, Ballantyne, New London Connecticut, Reston Virginia, Harlem and Brooklyn. The U.S. is usually overwhelmingly represented, but tweets have come from all continents and many, many countries. Bands of every stylistic persuasion have been mentioned, always with appreciation, thus benefitting from a most desirable form of promotion: Personal endorsement, virtual word of mouth.

A new media experiment, #jazzlives was devised by JA Kawell of Ozmotic Media and launched on my blog on August 26, 2009. It was inspired (more accurately, provoked) by Terry Teachout’s report on National Endowment of the Arts data that purported the jazz audience is aging and diminishing.

We didn’t and don’t believe it: the NEA figures surely reflect a segment of the jazz audience, likely that which frequents the better established jazz performance settings where most audience surveys are taken. But live jazz performance also happens in neighborhood parks and, yes, bars, at private parties and free festivals. We wanted to generate a metric reflecting fans and listeners in those places, too, so we asked audience members to “stand up and be counted” by tweeting whenever they heard live jazz. We encourage bands to tell their audiences, “If you like what you heard, tweet about us and say where we are and include #jazzlives!”

We soon learned there is no automatic way to count tweets with a particular hashtag, nor are they archived for long on Twitter. Initially I counted tweets by hand: In the first eight weeks of #jazzlives there were some 2500, though a significant percentage weren’t really personal reports from audience members and so didn’t help us get a reliable audience estimate. Then I stopped counting. New #jazzlives tweets, though, have continued to be posted almost every day, with the number usually peaking on weekends (when, of course, the most live performances happen before the largest audiences).

We knew from the start that this would be a skewed sample, made up only of people tech-minded enough to use Twitter. But our hope was that precisely because those posting might to be younger and (maybe) given to jazz performed by emerging artists in non-formal venues, #jazzlives might counterbalance findings of the NEA survey. Our guesses about younger listeners to new players in odd places have proved accurate, but there’s been no shortage of tweets about established musicians in concert halls, either.

Another challenge for the campaign has been that there’s no central control over a Twitter hashtag stream. Anybody can use #jazzlives to post whatever they want, and there’s no way to edit or remove inappropriate posts from the stream. Tweets are as frequent or occasional, relevant or pointless, enlightening or dumb as participants make them. And though we ask participants not to use #jazzlives for advance concert promotion and to post only about live performances that they saw themselves, certain publicists and die-hard self-promoters have used the hashtag to push upcoming gigs, records, radio show playlists or spread news of musicians’ deaths. Some well-meaning people just don’t get that #jazzlives is about LIVE jazz performance, not a generic assertion of the survival of the genre or the immortality of it’s greats. There’s nothing to do to reduce the number of such inappropriate posts, though we ourselves tweet from time to time, restating the mission and suggested “rules” of #jazzlives.

That said, in our view #jazzlives has worked — as a fast, free and very democratic means of demonstrating where live jazz is being played and who is listening; of helping the jazz audience see itself and realize that we’re not as few or as limited in taste as some would have us think. And the value of #jazzlives could be just beginning. In a year, #jazzlives has won a following – devotees of live jazz, who habitually tweet about favorite bands at favorite places. Now in the last stretch of August, with the climax of jazz fest season upon us and crowds of thousands of jazz fans gathering to hear the music in Chicago, Detroit, Tanglewood, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Aspen, among other cities, is a great time to reinforce the campaign. 

If you’re a jazz fan (any age, any persuasion) use #jazzlives when you h
ear live jazz, and tell your friends to do the same. If you are a musician, tell your listeners from the stage, after a set: “You like what you heard? Use Twitter to say you heard us here, and add the hashtag #jazzlives.” If you are an on-stage emcee, at a festival main stage or tiny after-hours room, tell the crowd, “Let the world know we’re here: Twitter #jazzlives with our location and the name of the act you just heard — let’s get more tweets than any other place!” Don’t worry about making a complicated explanation — like magic, some folks will type their 140 letters and spaces and send word out on their phones.

They might try to be witty or go for blunt, they might add other links, photos, or shoutouts, add something personal about the musicians they dig, or the places they go. More info can be crammed into 140 characters than you’d imagine, and each character can work to prove #jazzlives.

 Below is a tutorial, #jazzlives on Twitter for Beginners — 

Here’s what to do if you want to take part in the #jazzlives campaign but aren’t yet a Twitter user. 

  •  Go to and click the “sign up” button and follow instructions to create an account. It’s fast and easy. (Don’t worry about uploading a picture or otherwise personalizing your account unless you want to.)
  • If you want to be able to tweet to #jazzlives via text messages sent from your cell phone while you are at a performance do this: after  you have created your account, click “settings” and then “mobile”  and add your cell phone number. You will then be able to send a text message to the number shown on the page and it will appear in your account, and in the #jazzlives stream, just like any other tweet.
  • If you have a cell phone that uses “apps” you can install Twitter or another app like Seismic and tweet right from your phone. (Different Twitter-related apps work on different phones, so check your own app store for a complete list.) 
  • If you’ ou’d rather use your computer to tweet your performance report,  just log in to your Twitter account and type your “tweet” in the empty box on your Home page marked “What’s Happening.”  Say who you heard and where and include #jazzlives anywhere in the message. If you have room left, give a mini-review.  If you go over 140 characters, a red number will appear above the message, telling you how many characters you must cut. Think of it as writing a haiku. Click “Tweet” to post your message.
  • Whether you tweet by phone or on your computer, after a minute or so, you should see your “tweet” appear in the #jazzlives stream as described in the article. That’s it!

To explore more advanced Twitter use or get suggestions for using it to promote your work, turn to for information about online seminars sponsored by the Jazz Journalists Association, later this year.
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  1. says

    I would like to make the distinction that only SOUNDSCAPE as a performance space is defunkt!
    SOUNDSCAPE continued and continues.
    HM: Long may Soundscape resound.

  2. says

    Here in the UK I find it hard to locate smaller, more gritty live jazz. We have fallen into to the trap of charging huge sums to jazz audiences, who are then shoe-horned into uncomfortable seats and then sit quietly through the whole performance, pausing only for applause in all the right places.
    I’ve watched live jazz in Paris, Amsterdam, Switzerland and Spain … all live, very exciting and vibrant … IMHO the UK have a long way to come :-)

  3. 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.