NEA Survey Finds Jazz Musicians Are Largely Male And Well Educated
But Many Are Underpaid And Lack Benefits
Comments From Survey Participants
Interviewers spoke with approximately 2,700 jazz musicians during the course of this study. Some of
these interviews lasted 20 minutes on the phone; others turned into two-hour, face-to-face
conversations. During the interviews, musicians were asked to offer suggestions for ensuring the
survival of jazz and for improving the ability of musicians to work in the jazz field. Similar ideas
kept emerging and many of the same points were brought out in all of the cities.
Jazz Musician Respondents Suggestions:
- Affordable rehearsal space.
- Access to affordable health and medical care.
- Grassroots performance opportunities.
- Revitalization of the union, especially those policies that would allow jazz musicians to get pensions.
- More emergency relief agencies like the Musicians Emergency Fund for musicians who have fallen prey to illness and age.
Education and Audience Development
- Education of schoolchildren and communities, mentoring and apprenticeships to help pass on the legacy of jazz.
- Programs to help jazz musicians learn manage their own careers.
- AFM sponsorship of school gigs to bring jazz to younger audiences.
- Coordinated audience development programs from the recording industry, jazz educational institutions, jazz venues and other facets of the jazz community.
- Creation of local arts newspapers where musicians could place free ads, run by artists, and could develop audiences and awareness.
- Restoration of grant awards to individual jazz artists from the NEA.
- Grants go toward grassroots efforts: models like the CETA Program in the 1970s and Chamber Music America's jazz ensemble grants were invoked as ways to get money to the grassroots.
- Money for "concept development" not just final product.
- Grants to make records, and to cover promotional costs.
- More foundations like Music Cares dedicated to promoting the future of the music.
- Beyond grants: helping individual artists beyond the grant or cash gift or award. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation has the Musicians' Housing Initiative that assists musicians in their efforts to become homeowners.
- A nonprofit independent music distribution company for artists' recordings.
- Standardized club fees, with cost-of living adjustments.
- Tax breaks for performing in public for free or in nursing homes, prisons or hospitals.
- Creation of local arts newspapers where musicians could place free ads, and develop audiences.
- Subsidies for presenters to encourage diverse programming.
- More Internet-based resources for jazz musicians.
- National network of venues, including a circuit of smaller places across the country for community exchange.
As the listing above indicates, some of the suggestions related to the musicians' general well being,
such as having access to affordable health insurance and medical care, pensions, and emergency
relief funds for musicians who are ill or aging. The interviewees also saw education as an important
component in the preservation of jazz, from education of school children through classes and
performances to education of musicians in business practices to help them manage their own careers.
Changes in the business aspects of jazz were offered as well, from more grant money from foundations
and the National Endowment for the Arts for recordings, performances, and concept development to
standardized club fees, tax breaks for free public performances, and more Internet-based resources
for jazz musicians.
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