Dec 16 2014
Drifting, presently: The weekly recommendation column
So, I’ve got some bad news about my weekly Wondering Sound Jazz Picks column.
But first, did I ever write about how I got that gig?
I’ve put fragments of the story out there before. Some of this you’ll have heard previously, but never, perhaps, with all the dots connected.
The “New Releases Only” discussion thread on the AllAboutJazz forum is one of the best things ever. One day, a user who goes by the nick of Robmid decided to start a thread that focused on the jazz of today. As many of you know, jazz listeners tend to get caught in the music of the past. This is often purposeful. And why not? I mean, shit, there’s some amazing jazz created in the last century… some of the best ever. It’s the kind of stuff that got me hooked on the genre… Monk and Coltrane and Miles and McCoy and Dexter and Mingus… all familiar names with hundreds of albums to their names to dig through. And that’s just a tiny fraction of all the great music from back in the day.
But Bill Frisell was another musician who got me into jazz. He was a modern voice making modern music. I was only beginning to dig into the jazz of today when Robmid began that thread. It was a simple thing: Talk about the new releases that are floats your boat. Not music from the past getting reissued or archival footage of old concerts from old musicians… hell, not even modern jazz that was released a couple years ago. TODAY. What’s happening today?!
Well, the more I discovered, the more it incited me to discover even more. It seemed like there was no trail that didn’t lead to excellent new releases. I spent a lot of time on the internet tracking leads down and just wandering the halls to see what I might stumble upon.
I started keeping lists. It was a way to stay organized and a way to remind myself those names to further check out later. I shared the names on those lists, both on the AAJ forum and also the eMusic (dot com) and eMusers (dot org) forums. AAJ asked me to put those lists to work and become their Download of the Day editor. I did that for a year. I also kept sharing news of the music I was discovering on the various forums.
One day, on the eMusic forum, the user AMCLARK2 suggested in a discussion thread that eMusic should hire me to write a weekly recommendations column. I was supremely flattered to see that others were cosigning his proposal. Much to surprise, I received an email from Joe Edward Keyes, eMusic’s (and later, Wondering Sound’s) editor-in-chief. He wanted to hire me to write a weekly jazz recommendations column. This became the Jazz Picks column.
It’s been a great experience. I’ve been able to share news of so much great new jazz, much of it quite obscure. Joe was great. He left me to my own devices. Never once in the 3+ years that I wrote that weekly column did Joe ever demand that I write (or not write) about a particular album. There was no editorial or commercial pressure whatsoever. This was a good thing, especially taken in the light that many of the musicians I wrote about weren’t well known outside of their immediate family and tight fan base.
Back near the start of 2014, the eMusic editorial function was spun off to create Wondering Sound. It’s where my Jazz Picks column currently resides.
Unfortunately, that is over.
As you may have heard, Wondering Sound is scaling back… way back. A result of that action is my weekly jazz recommendations column will no longer be appearing on their site.
I can’t emphasize often enough how appreciative I am that J. Edward Keyes gave me a regular gig these last three years. Both the platform, first on eMusic and then on Wondering Sound, was a great opportunity to spread the news far and wide of all this excellent music that deserved time in a big spotlight. The fact that it was a regularly paying gig is no less important, because my budget never could’ve afforded the massive amount of time and effort it takes to compile that weekly column (to my own satisfaction) without that income. I can’t believe it lasted for three years. It seems like longer. And now, looking back on it, it feels like just yesterday. Joe, my sincere thanks and appreciation. It was a huge statement for you to dedicate budget to a weekly column about modern jazz. There are a lot of musicians who benefited from the spotlight you provided me to shine on their excellent music. Thank you.
So, about that column…
The good news is that, for the time being, I’ll be hosting the Jazz Picks column, here, on Bird is the Worm. I’ll be posting one tomorrow, in fact. Not sure I’ll be calling Jazz Picks anymore, but whatever, y’know. If you have ideas (polite ones) for what I should call the recommendations, please feel free to leave a comment. I’ll be running the weekly column on BitW through the end of January. During that time, I’ll be looking for a new home for the column. If you’re a reputable publication and would be interested in hiring me to write a weekly recommendations column, please contact me at my site email (see bottom of About Me page). I can be hired at reasonable rates, and I’ll be bringing a proven, established following. I’ve got traffic stats and social media numbers to back it up.
During that same span of time, I’ll be investigating the possibility of running a crowd-funding project by way of creating a subscription service for the recommendations… a weekly newsletter, ‘zine, something. It would be an expanded version of the current column and the preference would be to make it dirt cheap (no more than a dollar a month, preferably less) so that more people sign up at a cheaper price and, individually nobody is spending any serious cash for my column that could, instead, be used to purchase music. Considering the value my recommendations column currently brings, plus the added features I’m envisioning, one dollar a month doesn’t seem like an offensive sum to request, y’know?
And we’ll pretty much have to see how all that goes before I start making other plans. Much of this is new to me. I know I’ve been at this for three years, but most of that time has been spent on what I do best- listening to everything that comes through the new releases listings and trusting my ear to pick out the music that has something to say. Pitching articles, creating ‘zines, crowdfunding, networking… I’ll be taking my first steps on that. It should be fun. Painful at times, I’m sure, but fun.
Regardless of what I ultimately decided about my weekly recommendations column, Bird is the Worm will continue on as normal. I’m not going anywhere. It’s just a question of how I’m able to allocate my time.
Okay. That’s it. Next post will be tomorrow’s Jazz Picks column (or whatever I decide to call it). Things will be a bit different and it’ll have a new home, but I’ll still be finding music that might just be your new favorite album. Let’s begin…
December 16, 2014 @ 5:50 pm
To any publication out there reading this, I want to say here that the jazz column at Wondering Sound was what got me regularly buying new jazz over the past year (as someone who only began listening to jazz at all a couple of years go). It was a great resource – if there is someone who can pick it up, please do so.
December 16, 2014 @ 10:35 pm
Hey, thanks, David, I appreciate that.
It makes me happy to hear how much music you’re finding. I never get tired of learning that my work is helping hook people up with new favorite music.
Albert E. Trapezoid
December 17, 2014 @ 8:30 am
I’ll echo David Smith’s note above. Great writing and a very useful and unique resource.
I know it’s an “old school” reference, but since you asked for recommendations for the new column, I’ll throw out “Brilliant Corners.”
Cheers, and I’ll look forward to whatever comes next for you.
All the best,
December 17, 2014 @ 9:37 am
Thanks, Albert. I appreciate that.
I’ll have to check, but I think somebody maybe already claimed the Brilliant Corners tag. But keep ’em comin’. I’ve got something (perhaps) temporary to go with today’s column, but things’ll be in flux for a bit yet, so plenty of time to come up with something that has a classy ring to it.
February 5, 2015 @ 9:22 am
Where do I sign up? There are many websites I’d hate to miss on a regular basis, and Bird is the Worm is right up there towards the top of that list. Definitely worth a subscription fee.
February 5, 2015 @ 5:01 pm
Thanks, Buddha. I appreciate your enthusiasm for the music, my site and your willingness to help out if needed. If it comes to a subscription service for the weekly column, I’ll make an announcement of some kind. If I do go that route, it’ll be like a dollar per month.
I hope the new year has treated you well thus far.
February 5, 2015 @ 10:10 am
Praise is due to you (and your backers) for covering so much music for purely musical reasons. Lots of musos owe you gratitude, myself included.
February 5, 2015 @ 5:04 pm
I sincerely appreciate the kind words. It’s a lot of hard work putting everything together, but it’s always a lot of fun doing it… the best kind of hard work. Because every week I discover new music, like your Busnoys ensemble projects, and I get to share news of it with others. I feel like I’m giving people gifts every day, simply by being the person who helps connect great ears with great music.