Marshall A. Taylor
AAJ is a rare bird: a widespread publication ‘saying like it is’ not only from a broad based musicians’ perspective, but also from sympathetic critics who are really trying to spread the word about the latest in jazz and improvised music. I’m really grateful that AAJ does not have the narrow minded ‘box mentality’ that seems to permeate so many other publications and the music industry in general. – Burton Greene
If you do what you love, then just do it because you love it. That is the prevailing motto of Michael Ricci and his team at All About Jazz, the leading figure in the jazz website rat pack. Founded by Ricci in 1995, All About Jazz has come to be more than just a blog for jazz enthusiasts and professionals to flex their ego muscles on: All About Jazz has become an integral element in the jazz web community, and has in many ways transcended its virtual manifestation to become a dominant force in the commercial viability of jazz.
For the players, whether you’re a budding jazz musician or an old school vet sitting down at your computer’s keyboard for the first time, All About Jazz supports the tools and industry “know-how” to get your career on the right side of the road. In regards to the site’s service appeal in the music industry, Ricci states: “AAJ has supported musicians since its inception and that’s where we spent the bulk of our industry development efforts, though we work with publicists, photographers and festivals as well. We’re also very active in publishing and syndicating jazz news.”
Recognizing the symbiotic relationship between the artists and the business world that surrounds them, the site has developed strong social networking functions. Musicians often acquire gigs through independent profiles that the artist can set up and maintain to promote their music and drive traffic to their own website (e.g., Dafnis Prieto’s profile here). The site’s staff will also read a festival’s calendar data feed and insert that into the All About Jazz calendar, allowing for a larger promotion flow that is already targeted at the jazz demographics. The site is also working on a new project that will alert an artist’s support team–namely the manager and booking agent–to submission deadlines of the aforementioned festivals (Ricci).
While a label’s A&R can use the site as a scouting tool, an artist can use it to test the waters of the music business as well. Under the “Guides” tab, for example, one can search through aggregated directories for publishers, radio stations, book stores, studios, graphic designers, print publications, etc., in one easy to follow layout. Individual companies can also submit their information directly into the directory page.
Perhaps one of the more noteworthy elements of All About Jazz is the free jazz MP3s, to which any artist may contribute. The site reviews the submitted tracks, and upon approval, schedules when the tracks will be featured as the “download of the day.” Worried that your track isn’t up to standard quality-wise? Never fear. Tracks can still be approved and associated with the artist’s correlating profile.
An artist or their publicist can have a heyday with the marketing and promotional potential of the download of the day as well. Ricci goes on to explain: “We solicit tracks in an effort to coordinate with editorial. For instance, the day we published an interview (with) Chucho Valdes, we also featured a track from his latest release. We constantly coordinate with editorial to make the biggest splash possible.” Some tracks, Ricci points out, top 4,000 downloads in the first four weeks!
If you’re a jazz neophyte looking for something to cut your teeth on, the site’s section on building a jazz library might be of interest (Pack 46). While it has not been revisited by a contributor in some time, this “intro library” houses more information than the tenderfoot can swallow. You can also check out a great article within “Building a Jazz Library” on assembling a jazz collection on a budget.
All About Jazz has become a networking resource for artists, musicians and jazz aficionados alike. That much we have concluded. But when we take a step out of the virtual box of our computer screen, we can see the larger animal that AAJ is trying to wrestle: the stabilization of the art and life in jazz music. When I asked what he felt the role of AAJ was in preserving the significance of jazz, Ricci stated that, because of the lack of software developers in the jazz market, there are no websites quite like AAJ–possibly the reason that the site has consistently won the Jazz Journalists Association award for “Website of the Year” (Jjajazzawards.org). With the importance of new media becoming a dominant force in the maintenance of any genre of music, Ricci and the AAJ team have answered the call with works from Jason Crane (The Jazz Session), Bret Primack (Jazz Video Guy), and others that exist “outside the blogosphere” (Ricci). In fact, the site is working on a video section where various jazz video contributors can showcase their works under the AAJ roof. The site also plans to release at least three iPhone apps over the next year (Ricci).
Ricci further shows his dedication to the growth and steadiness of the jazz industry as one of the co-founders of the Jazz Forward Coalition, an organization “dedicated to expanding the jazz marketplace, plugging jazz back into the music industry, and improving its brand perception” (Ricci).
Fifteen years into the game at this point, Ricci and his team have kept one thing consistent: their ability to play it smart. The site’s strengths and goals remain flexible due to their small size, and yet AAJ‘s fan database continues to amass. AAJ has managed to play ball with the big boys without losing the personal and social interactions that industry amateurs, pros and fans search for. All About Jazz has become a “connector” for the jazz marketplace; all one has to do is take advantage of the services that the site gladly offers.
Jjajazzawards.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Nov. 2010.
Pack, Thomas. “All That Jazz on the Web.” Information Today 24.10 (2007): 46-47. EBSCOhost. Web. 6 Nov. 2010.
Ricci, Michael. Personal interview. 31 Oct. 2010.