Improving the low profile of jazz is not easy. And yes the premiss that such a parlous condition exists, given tiny record sales and small audience numbers, little mass media coverage and an image problem, leads to a conclusion that a counter offensive is necessary. Will Jazz UK, about to enter a new phase who it is not unrealistic to suggest need to lead the charge as it continues to rebuild, be capable of championing the cause, asks Stephen Graham
Lack of funding holds back ambition; lack of profile fails the communication test; little real support from the wider music industry sets jazz uneasily apart; compartmentalising within education and pouring funds into this area as if it is a panacea means jazz is more for studying only. Lack of funding beyond (ie failing to invest in the tiny amounts of practical support needed that really helps musicians often forced to be entrepreneurial) leads to reduced ambition; lack of profile means jazz is simply not visible; if the industry does not rate jazz then it is not seen as part of the music economy and is seen more as a cottage industry; compartmentalising means that the music is seen destined for exhibit as a museum piece and anatomised from a distance.
How does a fight-back improve matters?
An aim for improved funding and a review of all existing funding will clarify matters. Reducing the overheads of funding organisations is a start. How much waste is there? We need to know. Why should state-backed promoters be allowed to act like private organisations: Is this unfair competition? A rebalancing is needed if this is the case. Clubs have as much of a case for increased grant support as Arts Council-backed concert hall promoters.
Improved profile means improving BBC jazz coverage as the public broadcaster has a huge role to play. A shake-up of a number of long running networked radio programmes considered past their sell-by date is long overdue. The gap left by the binning of the BBC Jazz Awards has never been properly filled. Look at how Folk still benefits for instance in terms of reach and publicity. Refurbishing poor local jazz radio provision that appeals to narrow demographics is also urgently needed.
Lobbying the music industry to improve jazz representation is desperately needed via the mediation of the PRS Foundation. The latest blow is that PPL have pulled out of their sponsorship of the Parliamentary Jazz Awards. A task force of indie jazz labels who can pool resources and fight their corner could prove to be a start.
Compartmentalising can be tackled by putting less of an emphasis on funding jazz at tertiary level and more at a professional working level by giving more artist and touring grants rather than footing the bill for the more arcane kind of hair-splitting post-doctoral research.