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Today we celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  King displayed a deep appreciation for jazz and understood its symbolic role in the struggle for civil rights.  In honor of his memory, allow me to share one of my favorite jazz-related quotes, courtesy of Dr. King:

Now, jazz is exported to the world. For in the particular struggle of the Negro in America there is something akin to the universal struggle of modern man. Everybody has the Blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy. Everybody longs for faith. In music, especially this broad category called Jazz, there is a stepping stone towards all of these.

King’s insights always remind me of what we in the jazz community are always aspiring to do: illuminate the “stepping stones” that the music offers us in understanding human suffering, faith, dignity and joy.  As the music continues to resonate all over the world, may it continue to convey these deep truths that Dr. King felt when he heard it.

2011 UPDATE: David Demsey and Bruce Jackson of William Paterson University have recently uncovered some new historical information about this famous excerpt. The quote is usually attributed to a speech that Dr. King gave at the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival. The only problem: King wasn’t at the festival. As it turns out, King had been asked to share his thoughts as a foreword for the festival’s printed program, which gave rise to this quotation. Demsey and Jackson’s research will appear in this month’s issue of Down Beat.

Just watched this fascinating presentation by Mike Masnick of Floor 64 about the future of the music business model (via Jason Parker.)  It’s worth taking a half hour of your time to watch if you care about what’s at stake for how to make money with music.  Masnick’s theory is an interesting one: that the “music” itself is not the commodity that will best make money.  He describes music as a “loss leader” or “low-margin leader” that can be used to sell other things.  He gives a number of examples where this is working very well for a lot of musicians.  His formula, the title of my post, means “Connect with Fans, give them a Reason to Buy, and you make a lot of money.”

Now, is this applicable for jazz musicians, whose music garners a smaller audience than pop acts?  OF COURSE!  This formula gives a much more targeted, nuanced way to reach fans and market the experience and relationships associated with the music.  Maria Schneider, one of the biggest names in jazz today, is using the model to great effect.

Also, one thing about jazz is that it’s had a long time to diffuse itself all over the world.  There are potential jazz fans across the globe, and the technology is now able to deliver.  I’d say that despite all the doom and gloom surrounding recent declines in the American jazz audience, there is a lot of room for optimism in the emerging music ecosystem.  Just watch the clip and you’ll see what I mean.

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