I’ve been a freelance writer for almost 40 years and it hasn’t gotten easier, but I’m glad to have this blog. Why? is the question to be addressed at the JJA’s webinar “Blogging: Tales from Veterans” by Pamela Espeland (Bebopified), Willard Jenkins (The Independent Ear) and Marc Myers (JazzWax), which I’ll moderate, on Tuesday Oct. 16, 8 pm edt (we’ll end in time so we can watch the President in a Town Hall “debate” with that other guy). The webinar is free but pre-registration is required.
Having been frequently published by DownBeat, JazzTimes, Jazziz, the Chicago Daily News, Chicago Reader, Washington Post, Village Voice, Ear and Guitar World magazines among others, with columns in CityArts-New York, New York Press, The Wire (UK), Jazz Life and Swing Journal (both Japan) and Rhytmi (Finland), with two books out, articles in and editorship of others, I still have the ideas, word skills and connections to contribute professionally to publications in print and online. But without ArtsJournal.com/JazzBeyondJazz (and also NoDepression.com) much of what I have to say would be left unwritten.
Today there’s nothing like a blog to guarantee freedom of speech, disseminating important messages, joining the international conversation and reaching a discriminating audience. Oh, one can (and I do) post to Facebook, tweet, join LinkedIn groups, etc. But all that verbiage is viewable only briefly. Each of the platforms has strict limitations. Here, I can write as long as I care to, embed photos, video and audio clips, add links, attract subscribers and be discovered by search engines. Since August 2008 I’ve put up more than 450 articles — most of which have been complete within themselves, which I promote on some of those other platforms. I have no idea how many visits I’ve gotten in four years, how many eyeballs have stopped here for how long, but I must admit I’ve enjoyed it.
Although I anticipated the blog format as de facto editor in the 1990s of the Jazz Journalists Association’s former web home www.Jazzhouse.org by publishing “postcards” from JJA members, most of which were overnight reviews, I wasn’t an early adopter of blogging. I was invited by ArtsJournal’s Doug McLennan, who I knew only by his reputation for having set this up, and urged into it by my close friend and JJA webmaster JA Kawell prior to the publication of my book Miles Ornette Cecil – Jazz Beyond Jazz. My idea at the time was to use the blog for book promotion, to recommend upcoming performances and occasionally comment on recordings. Check, check, check.
But JazzBeyondJazz has become central to my communications operation. I’ve live-tweeted events such as the UNESCO International Jazz Day concert, had lively fb “conversations” with far-flung correspondents and made friends through LinkedIn, but I’ve established a brand and, perhaps, more identity on this space right here. It’s gained me fans and perhaps has led to some assignments. It’s kept my writing gears oiled and is ready whenever I am.
True, I do not get paid by ArtsJournal or anyone else for this blog, there is almost no other monetization of it (Full disclosure: I’m an Amazon Associate, so if you visit Amazon by clicking on one of my links that takes you there and buy something — anything — I get a micro-payment which over many months can add up to a sum in the low two-figures). And a writer ought to be paid for writing. But in the context of a digital revolution in which “information wants to be free” has been a premise and motto, the importance of having a public place to put one’s words and ideas has become crucial, especially as paying platforms have become scarce, dried up, disappeared. There are many kinds of writing I won’t do here but will gladly do as contracted. But there are many kinds of writing I can only do here, until some brilliant publisher realizes what a boon I am to all their ventures and provides me with the sinecure I so richly deserve.
While waiting, I never have to look for a blank piece of paper or an empty screen. I open my JBJ dashboard and it warmly receives my every, any thought. Of course I filter them so they appeal to someone — uh, you. I want you coming back, because I want to be read. If I have a blog, the remaining publications can close, I can be blackballed by or walk away from an editor, but I can’t really be shut up. That’s what I like about blogging: I can rant and rave or write like an immortal and here I am. If you want the freedom and potential visibility — please check out the JJA webinar. It’s the first of six on the subject, which will include online workshops about how to get started, how to proceed and fine points of the format, including (yes) possible ways of reaching that far frontier, blogging for profit.