My good friend and colleague Sara Donnelly (who many in the jazz community may remember as the former Sara Warner), has matriculated through the National Endowment for the Arts, worked at the late National Jazz Service Organization, and later the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, currently runs the JazzNext funding initiative for the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation in Baltimore. Sara has always been one of the keenest observers of the jazz scene and the jazz condition that I know, and one whose first concern is always the plight of the artists. Sara recently forwarded me an excellent blog post titled The Jazz Challenge (www.fistfulayen.com/blog) that I highly recommend you check out.
In that blog the author takes jazz artists to task for being so far behind the tech curve of their peers in other performing arts, particularly pop music. The suggestions in that blog are quite pragmatic and wouldn’t necessarily require huge cash outlays or arduous hard work on the part of artists with web sites. I have to concur with The Jazz Challenge’s contentions as I surf the growing universe of jazz artist web sites. I cannot tell you how many jazz artist web sites are hopelessly deficient and outdated (I went to one just today that boasted a blog… the most recent blog post was from 2005!!!), and as presently constituted a complete waste of the artists’ money. Many are thoroughly deficient in user friendly information, lacking certain essential information, and completely sans interactive capabilities which might entice and invite future fans.
In a curious head-scratching twist I have yet to figure out, it seems many jazz musicians work hard to keep their direct contact information private, as though they were some high-level politician or celebrity with security concerns! This is your public face dude/dudette, let folks know how to reach you for God’s sake! Yeah, your manager, agent or even your publicist’s information might be useful when I’m wearing my concert/festival presenter’s hat, but exactly how many such people do you think surf your site? Most folks who go to your site would find some simple contact information DIRECTLY TO YOU to be quite useful. What have you got to lose by posting a simple email contact address on your web site? It doesn’t even have to be your primary and largely private email address; get a gmail or hotmail account for free! Are you afraid some groupee might put a hit out on you? Come on folks, get real with the contact information, get interactive with your fans and potential audience, and be more forthcoming with your information and more up-to-date with what’s going on with your career! I recently wanted to send a simple complimentary, encouraging note to a certain singer whose spouse is a high profile bassist and the email address listed on her web site bounced back! So, you’ve got a brand new record out and nowhere for folks to contact you directly!
One of the blogger’s citations at www.fistfulayen.com/blog dealt with certain artists’ crying lack of a web presence. One such artist was Wayne Shorter, who doesn’t appear to have a web presence for crying out loud! I’ve recently been in the midst of endeavoring to communicate with a certain hall-of-fame level jazz artist about a concert opportunity and since his web site is so thoroughly lacking in contact information, I’ve been referred to his My Space page of all juvenalia! I asked Sara Donnelly for her follow-up thoughts on this issue and here’s what she wrote:
No Wayne Shorter website?
"An artist of Wayne Shorter’s stature can choose whatever he’d like in the way of promoting himself, but the best way to go is to be on top of best business practices that popular culture relies on. Artists should have high-end websites, period, because that will often be where any interested party goes first. Someone mentioned Wayne not having a site is like Springsteen not having a site. But take the comparision to the arts world, and say the same for [choreographers] Merce Cunningham or Paul Taylor [who are pretty much to their dance world what Wayne Shorter is to the jazz world] not having sites… their sites exist and are of high quality. Jazz should represent the same way, and artists need to look at the bigger picture when they fear how much an initial set-up costs. Those costs will be more than paid for in the future."
— Sara Donnelly, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation