Booking professional musicians: Part 4 – the jazz industry

In the final two parts of this blogging mini-series, I thought would give you a bit more of an insight into the professional classical and jazz industries. Hopefully this will give you more of an understanding of the lives and careers of the musicians you can book through Tailor Made Music Agency.

Last week, in Part 3, I wrote about the classical industry and many of the types of work that are available to classical musicians. Today in the final part it's the turn of the jazz industry! It is very interesting to compare the two and to see how the differences impact on our classical and jazz musicians' approaches to wedding and event bookings.

 
saxophonist
 

What types of work do jazz musicians do?

In my post about the classical industry I focused on the three main categories of solo, chamber and orchestral playing. Work in the jazz industry is much less defined, with different types of work overlapping considerably. Like classical musicians, outside of the industry they might do theatre work, perform with rock, pop or crossover artists on tours and on television, and do instrumental teaching or other educational work. But the main part of their work in the jazz industry involves making recordings and performing at live gigs and events.

Writing, recording and producing music

Writing, arranging, recording and producing music plays a big part in most jazz musicians’ lives. Whilst classical musicians tend to play music written by other people, jazz musicians are often composers as well as performers. They spend a lot of time writing their own music, creating their own arrangements and improvisations on existing pieces, and collaborating with other artists. The aim of most projects is to record and release albums, then do live gigs and tours to promote them.

As with the classical industry, there are the superstars of the industry at the very top of their game, who have agents and big record companies producing their albums, fixing their gigs and promoting them around the world. Others, particularly those who are earlier on in their careers, work with smaller, independent record companies. In some cases, the record companies will help to fund their albums, in other cases the artist will provide the funding themselves.

 
jazz band, guitar and drums
 

Professional jazz musicians often play a big part in producing their own records. From booking the other musicians to working with sound engineers to get the perfect sound, they will be involved in every element of production. The age of digital music has widened possibilities in the area of recorded music, with the ability to easily upload music to digital streaming services such as Spotify and YouTube. The downside to this is that it has also damaged the financial viability of producing records, which used to be the biggest source of income for musicians. This has affected the entire recorded music industry. Live gigs are now more important than ever for jazz musicians to have a sustainable career.

Live jazz gigs

Professional jazz musicians play in all different types of gigs, from weddings and parties, to jazz festivals to popular jazz clubs and venues around the world. At festivals or one-off gigs, a band might try out new material and experiment with new ideas for their next album. If they have just released an album, they are likely to be touring it to as many different festivals and venues as possible, to promote the music on their record. Despite the repetitive nature of touring and promoting, no two performances will ever be the same. This is because improvisation is at the very core of the jazz genre. It’s this that makes it so exciting to audiences!

 
Jazz band, saxophone, trombone, singer
 

Professional jazz musicians take this idea into their performances at weddings and events too. Whilst they might play more popular, recognisable jazz standards for event bookings rather than their own material, they will still bring impressive improvisations and interpretations to make every performance thrilling and unique!

Collaboration

Collaboration with other musicians is so important in the jazz industry, as almost all work is ensemble based. Jazz musicians will usually be working on multiple projects simultaneously, with different groups of people. Some projects they will lead on, inviting other musicians they want to work with to be involved. They will usually take creative control of these projects, deciding on what the band plays, who they work with and where they promote themselves. At the same time, they might also be invited to play in projects led by other people.

Although most projects have a someone who takes the lead, jazz musicians are collaborative by their very nature and training, working together to find musical solutions. As someone with a classical background who always plays from written sheet music with lots of rehearsal, I am always fascinated to watch jazz musicians at work. When we filmed our jazz show reel earlier this year, the different ensembles all followed roughly the same process – a brief discussion about the chord sequence, structure (how many verses and choruses, and who was going to take the lead on each), a quick run through of the intro and ending, and they were ready to go! No rehearsal needed – just incredible skill and exhilarating spontaneity!

 
jazz double bass
 

This comes in very handy with event bookings. Whilst we pride ourselves at Tailor Made Music Agency in offering fixed classical ensembles who know one another inside-out, we take a slightly different approach with our jazz ensembles. For each booking a band leader puts together an ensemble of players that they know well and work with regularly, according to the requirements of that specific booking. The other musicians in the band may not have played together regularly in that combination, although they will all know one another. This flexibility means availability is rarely an issue, as all jazz musicians working in the industry have a wide network of contacts they can call upon for any occasion, and any gaps can easily be filled. This is particularly handy for instrumentalists such as double bassists, who are in high demand but short supply!

The musicians all know the chord sequences for all the most popular songs from the ‘Great American Songbook’ as standard (hence the term ‘jazz standards’!) This means a group can come together at short notice, with little to no rehearsal, and all be sure that they know the music. Mixing and matching different people and different line-ups to create unique and exciting performances is what jazz is all about. It also means, as an agency, we can adapt to almost any requirement!

That's it for now for our mini-series. Have you found this insight into the world of professional musicians interesting? Do leave your thoughts or questions in the comments box below, or on our Facebook page!