‘What’s your music like?’
From 7 May, DK offer an 8-week online programme, JAZZ. It’s designed for jazz artists who want to be able to succinctly, genuinely, and meaningfully answer this question for new audiences.
First impressions count.
You only get 11 second to make that first impression, according to a friend in software sales.
And: ‘Oh. You like jazz? Jazz?… Jazz has a serious (design and) marketing problem.’
The problem with jazz today: ‘It’s hard to relate’
JAZZ MUSICIANS and jazz artists might have a great time making music, but when it comes to getting other people—fans—to see the value of it, that’s quite another skill set that takes more energy and work than many are prepared to do on their own. Hiring agents is one way, sure, but even then, you have to deal with them, and handle them, and that adds a layer of relationship management that is probably not ideal. Still, in a conversation salon with a gentleman who was in his 70s and worked in commercial photography all his life, we learned that if you don’t get an agent to market your work, for you, then you might as well give it up if you have aspirations to become ‘known.’
You do the work, make the art. Perhaps you’re aware of the commencement speech about this topic, ‘Make good art‘. But… is that enough? Artists and designers and musicians and architects and we smalltime business owners each struggle with this question. How much is enough? Where do I draw the line? Am I being true to the vision I set out to do?
But back to marketing. What if you could do it yourself, but do it in a way that really works?
That’s what we are investigating in the notes below. DK are searching the web and conversing with artists to get to know what works, what doesn’t work, and how to do this marketing stuff with real class in jazz, specifically. How do you keep it real?
What came back inspired this new 8-week only programme, JAZZ.
ART x DESIGN. Wherever we go and when we connect with our creative friends, we keep digging into this question, and others, like, ‘What do you do when you’re not sure what to do?’ Artists. Designers. Illustrators. Manga-ka. People who are doing and making, and sharing, and competing with the world of clickbait, short-form, and the elusive arena of quality, which is becoming very hard to define, very quickly, in light of the plethora of ‘lookatthisnow’ and ‘lookatme’ selfie-ism and related attention-seeking bits.
IN SEATTLE in the 2000s, DK were in the business of designing brand identity. Sharpening focus, and getting people to see what it was they truly wanted to communicate. That involved deep introspection, of course. Reflective questioning. In the end, most of our clients were those in the creative fields (architects, designers, and software developers). It got interesting. It started to be about the question, ‘Why do we even make stuff?’ and sometimes more obscure and existentialist than that, ‘What am I doing with my life?’
Now, I believe, personally, from those experiences, that a big part of the reason why it’s hard to get people to see you as an artist of a particular kind (successful? Is that the word?) is because it’s hard to clarify the ‘what I’m great at’ question to yourself. I mean, communicating that in a way that people can relate to and they can see how this is going to make their life better, in some way. If you’re an artist, have you honestly asked yourself this: ‘What am I great at?’ Have you clearly narrowed it down to just one thing? When we walked through our old brand identity design process for a friend who makes electronic jazz music, he told us that the process ‘really helps me break this down.’ That was a good indicator that sometimes just talking it out and getting feedback and clarity through the process (the design process, let’s say), can get you out of the old frameworks where everything is a possibility and niching doesn’t seem possible… yet. Talking. Clarifying. Niching. These are the words of marketers, aren’t they?
In his article, ‘Marketing Jazz and the Public Perception,’ at AllAboutJazz.com, Chuck Anderson writes, ‘I have some thoughts on the marketing of jazz musicians and audiences. Though it’s easy to blame the media (and they deserve some of the blame), I think the biggest problem lies squarely on the shoulders of jazz musicians and the jazz community… This community has never promoted or marketed its art and craft at the level or with the same intensity as other musical idioms… jazz… must be marketed with consistency and enthusiasm. It needs to recognize the role of fans in the success of any artist. The musicians have to do their part in promoting and marketing their art and craft… There is too often a distance and certain type of elitism that prevents audiences from getting “close.” This distance does not help spread the “good word” about jazz… The jazz musician and the jazz industry will, like any other business, have to invest in the services that are necessary to build a fan base and achieve worldwide exposure for their music, products and services. Read the article here.
Is jazz’ problem that people can’t connect?
Or something else?
What about ‘engaging with fans?’
This thread, started by jazz guitarist Henry Robinett, parses that query. Shows the difficulty in adjusting to the ways in which jazz musicians promote themselves and find new audiences. Is social media a great thing? Or is it a pain in the neck? What about the people who are ‘making it?’ What are they doing that’s so great, and are they really making it fiscally, or just in the eyes of their social media stats-watchers? I’m totally guilty of this myself; I met a pianist I thought was great and his big-deal promoter but when I went to twitter I saw he had not-that-many-as-I-thought fans. At the time I was on twitter a ton and was ‘growing my audience,’ but now, I’ve deleted it because… who cares? I’m interested in directly engaging, one conversation at a time… Maybe that’s slower… but I’m old school that way. I care about quality connection, that’s why I’m at DK. I care about art. Relationships are art. Music that’s great is great conversation, and that, too, is art. But I’m getting off topic, aren’t I? Check out that thread… it’s on a community forum about where the music is going and how to market it.
- ‘Too esoteric.’
- ‘Hard to relate to.’
I’m sure you’ve heard some of these things, too, before? If yes, let’s keep talking, because I think we’re hitting on something.
What jazz has that’s interesting to business: Creativity, flexibility and innovation
Maybe we’re not the first ones, though. Check out this abstract from a researcher:
This paper applies the metaphor of jazz improvisation to strategic marketing planning, making specific reference to Piercy and Morgan’s (1994) marketing planning model. Jazz metaphors have become increasingly prevalent in management studies, but as yet there is no specific reference to their use in marketing planning literature. The aim is to fill this gap by showing how the techniques of improvisation around a structural core can be applied to marketing planning models. Current models are too structurally rigid, and we outline steps to a more flexible approach. We invoke two models – ‘jazzers’ and ‘readers’ – and aim to show that ‘jazzers’ will yield greater success through greater levels of creativity, flexibility and innovation; elements that are essential to the success of strategic marketing planning. After characterising the models of jazzers and readers, we will apply them directly to Piercy and Morgan’s model of strategic marketing planning. —‘Jazz and marketing planning.’ That’s the title. Kind of ironic, isn’t it? Anyway, it’s by Noel Dennis & Michael Macaulay Read the abstract
Gain clarity and fine-tune the message with DK’s online workshop, JAZZ.
Jazz inspires business. Cool.
But what can jazz learn from business?
How to set goals, be clear about identity, make a commitment to a strategy, outline a program for communicating that vision. And yeah. Making sales.
If you are struggling with communicating your music and your style visually, DK can help. We’ve done a couple of really fun projects in the jazz scene: a drawing for a CD that came straight out of the notebook of a live-drawing session at a show in Copenhagen, for example, and a collaboration, ‘Math + Jazz,’ just ahead of a show of one of the mathematician-cum-pianists, who co-hosted with DK a small salon in the Elephant Bar at Raffles Royale in Phnom Penh. That was cool. Some pics:
Art that we make looks like this feed at instagram.
Curious what people have said about working with DK?
Check out what our (mostly brand identity design) clients have said, here.
SCHEDULE. This online workshop is 8 weeks.
WHAT HAPPENS. Here’s how it works. Each week you’ll get an email with a thought-provoking conversation-starter. You’ll dialogue with DK and work through some of the ‘why do I do this?’ and ‘who wants to know?’ questions that anyone in marketing will ask you to think about. But with an additional component: a visual sketch of a single, unifying concept. The foundation for your brand. What does it look like? How does it ‘sing?’ These are questions designers like to ask their clients in early conversations during what’s called ‘the creative brief questionnaire.’ We’re going to go about it in online format, over 8 weeks. What you’ll get is a 5-word focus on the things your music does for people, and what makes it yours, uniquely, too.
WHAT YOU GET. Walk away with a clear picture of the ‘who I am’ and ‘why this matters’ questions. You’ll go through DK’s ‘focus’ programme, and we’ll work with you through an interactive conversation over 8 weeks to write your ‘brand statement’. That’s the deliverable.
FEES. This online programme is a flat, onetime fee of USD $325. Note: this does not include design, only dialogues and exchanges that lead to the ‘brand statement.’ This is a special sample-size programme that we offer so you can succinctly and memorably answer the question, ‘What’s your music like?’
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