Serious jazz musicians are typically good at things like practicing, listening, transcribing, reading music, etc. Those are the things that normally get emphasized in music lessons, music camps, music school, etc. These things are incredibly important, and that’s why we spend so much time on them. Jazz is a virtuosic music, and it demands a lot of musical commitment from performers.
However, sometimes jazz musicians can be notoriously bad at certain things. These things can actually be just as important as musical elements if you want your music to be heard and if you want to develop an audience. The point of this article isn’t necessarily to show you how to do these things, but to raise some awareness that these things are worth your attention. When you start thinking about them seriously, you’ll get better at doing these things. It doesn’t make you a less serious musician when you think about these considerations; it makes you MORE professional, not less!
I had a hip-hop musician once tell me that music is HALF marketing. HALF? Wow. Many jazz musicians would never agree with this statement, but it got me thinking. This musician is pretty good at getting his music out there and heard. Learning to market your music-gigs, concerts, recordings, etc.- is an important skill. Getting an audience to be interested in what you are doing requires marketing. This is really an optional thing; marketing is essential for musicians. Make a point of learning more about marketing if you don’t already have marketing chops!
2. Talking to the Audience
This is a very basic thing that helps audience connect with you. Having a microphone set up-even if you don’t have a vocalist-and talking to your audience helps draw them into your music. It’s amazing to me what non-musician listeners connect with sometimes, and often it’s not the music itself. Just talking to the audience can be a huge part of listeners enjoying the music. Don’t underestimate the importance of dialoguing with your audience.
3. Connecting to the Audience
This goes along with #2, but talking to your audience is not the only way of connecting. Have fun on stage, enjoy yourself. You can interact with our audience, maybe ask them a few questions. Do something to break the ice! Find creative ways of drawing your audience in and/or involving them in your music. Your audience is important! Give them the connection they crave.
Dizzy Gillespie was a master of humor. Not every musician needs to include humor into their show, but if you can pull it off, it’s one of the fastest ways to connect with an audience.
5. Meeting Your Audience
Hanging out with your audience before or after the show is a great way to meet people, get more gigs, and just connect with the people who want to hear your music. Sometimes these connections can lead to more great opportunities, but really it’s just a great way to build a connection with the people who came to hear you play. Jazz musicians who don’t think this is important can miss out on making important connections or at least miss out an opportunity to connect with their fans. Learning to connect with your audience off the stage is a great skill to have. Not everyone will want to chat, but if someone really wants to talk with you after a show, being available is a great thing! It’s usually pretty obvious when someone wants to connect with you. Making yourself available before or after you perform is a good thing! It’s been said that the show starts when you enter the door and ends when you leave the venue. That’s a good way to think!
6. Dressing the Part
The way you present yourself onstage is important. Sometimes jazz musicians pretend that the only thing that matters is how you play, and that’s simply not the case. Dress in an appropriate manner for the gig, whatever the gig happens to be. An outdoor concert can be more casual than a formal event. Make sure you know what’s appropriate for the gig and for the venue.
In conclusion, performing music is not just about how you play. Generally, musicians who are professional in their presentation reap greater rewards and have better opportunities than those who fail to consider how to best present their music. Presentation matters!