Case Study: Jazz Bandleader-Composer
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Reflections on Building a Career in Jazz
While every artist’s financial picture is unique and personal, there are a few themes that emerge from this case study about jazz musicians in general.
Similar to our indie rock composer-sideman, this Jazz Bandleader benefits financially from playing multiple roles; he consistently earns money from live performances, while also seeing the long-term benefits of his compositions, which generate mechanical royalties, PRO royalties and sheet music sales year after year.
Live performance is essential, and worth the investment. As with a number of our case studies, live performance fees are the primary – even the dominant source – of income in many years. Because it is the linchpin of his career, this Jazz Bandleader has made significant investments in maximizing it. He has a manager, a booking agent and a publicist. This allows him to both tour frequently and collaborate with others. Having a team in place has also allowed him to leverage his skill and connections to do much more; composing and recording his own work, contributing to various ensembles, working on commissioned pieces and serving as a sideman.
With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to look at these numbers and think that the Jazz Bandleader’s careful choices over the years led automatically to this career outcome. But this is an incredibly competitive field, and one where luck and timing can play as big a role as skill and planning. While the jazz field has some unique traits, this case study underscores the importance of building and maintaining relationships, and investing wisely in one’s career.
A First Look at Jazz Musicians
Other Case Studies:
Contemporary Chamber Group