[Dixielandjazz] THE REASON

Edgerton, Paul A paul.edgerton at eds.com
Wed Aug 6 17:15:58 PDT 2003

What's happening to live music?

Bud Taylor thinks it's because "music as an entertainment outlet is TOO
COSTLY to be feasible." He went on to cite the familiar problem of a small
club owner who finds it is cheaper and more effective for him to turn on the
TV. Somebody else (Tom Wiggins I think) pointed out that the purpose of
running a bar is sell booze -- not entertainment.

These guys are right. For the typical bar, anything that costs more than
what it generates in bar sales isn't going to be worth giving up the floor
space. The smaller the club, the less likely they are to be able to justify
expensive entertainment when their clientele are satisfied with a TV or a

On the other hand, look at what people pay to see a movie or attend a
basketball game or a rock concert. How many people would it take at $35 each
(or $50 or $100) to pay for a jazz band and decent venue?

How much Dixieland can a patron buy for $35? Often that's enough for a
one-day pass at a typical festival. That's fine, but other than
died-in-the-wool lifetime Dixieland fans, who even hears about these events?
And how many young people want to make the trek to the Elks Lodge and hang
with the old crowd?

Maybe -- if you have the promotional vigor of Steve Barbone -- you could
consistently fill a club. Then again, he's playing to a young crowd who
would probably be going out *somewhere* anyway. They just happen to like his
band because they're fun to listen to. He's built name recognition in his
market. The places he plays are big enough -- and busy enough -- that they
probably don't depend on his band generating bar sales.

We must conclude that the average small club is NOT our market. What about
Festivals? Dixieland festivals are playing a numbers game. When the sales
are good enough they can make a little money, otherwise they have to be
supported by a non-profit organization.

What we CAN do is make our presentation more suitable for the places where
people already go. Athletic events, street fairs, shopping malls. People
running these events don't stay in their jobs for very long, so one must
promote aggressively to get this kind of work. The upside is that they give
any group much more exposure than club dates, and generates lots of leads
for weddings and the like.

We can also make our current festivals more attractive to a younger crowd.
For instance, young folks like to see themselves as being hip, groovy or
whatever they call it these days. The BPOE may provide a handy facility, but
nobody is going to think anything happening there is hip. I mean, the
Holiday Inn conference room is hipper than some auditorium with taxidermy
mounted above the stage.

When people are in public places and stumble across a combo playing
Dixieland, they almost always get a smile on their faces. Many start dancing
or clapping or tapping their feet. Some of them insist on hearing "The
Saints." A lot of them also get bored quickly and wander away, which brings
me to my final point...

We need to improve our product. There are some amazing musicians in the
Dixieland world, and there are some very marginal ones. In quite a few cases
neither type really knows how good -- or bad -- they sound. We musicians
should take more responsibility for finding out how we sound, and for
correcting the deficiencies in our sound. Ditto for our visual presentation.

Ringmaster Bob just posted about lousy or overwhelming PAs. C'mon folks,
Dixieland came into being long *before* there were any PA systems. It's true
that they are sometimes needed -- but not universally. Sound equipment often
creates as many problems as it solves. Learn the proper use of this stuff or
get along without it. Having a PA isn't really a band's ticket to instant
credibility. Being too loud or too distorted or out of balance (having the
piano louder than the trumpet for example) is usually worse than being too

People like to be able to talk. If it's too loud, they'll just talk louder.
If they wanted noise, they'd have gone to a rock concert. Jazz *is* supposed
to be exciting, but it's also supposed to be intimate; it's supposed to draw
you in.

Oh look, I'm rambling again.

Paul Edgerton
who is (usually) not too loud, and (probably) not too groovy either

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