I took over the jazz series at the The Outer Space club back in 2011 in a rather lucky moment of being at the right place at the right time. I’ve known the owner Steve Rodgers for a number years dating back to when my old ska band used to play at his club. He told me he wanted a weekly series and thought I would be the man to run in for him.
I started right away trying to promote and book acts in CT to play our fairly new stage and give jazz, especially original material oriented bands a place to play. I had my connections with students from WCSU and the Hartt school, the New zhaven avant garde scene and various other connections with musicians in the area.
I knew I needed to start with a bang so I asked one of my trumpet heroes, Jeremy Pelt if he would play in a special guest setting to kick off the first set of dates. That show was on 2/17/12 and it was a huge success. I had hired my rhythm section to back up Pelt while he tore it up on some standards. I was able to secure a guarentee for Jeremy and made the money back at the door. We must have had about 60 people in the audience. I spent the rest of that night happy knowing I had something awesome going here.
Then the weekly frustration began…
Starting with the second week, the show would be the most upsetting task I would volunterrily put myself in. I promoted the shit out of these shows. First online and through facebook. Unfortunately the numbers weren’t happening. The audience wasn’t coming. Every week these great bands would play to virturally no one. Maybe some regulars at the bar if they were lucky. I wasn’t allowed to charge a cover so I tried to tip jar approach. If bands had a good night they could split about $25 in singles.
Most nights are like that. Barely any one in attendance. I’ve heard a slew of excuses but their all so jive. I just don’t understand why people don’t come to check the shows out. I’ve tried everything on my end including flyers, radio promo, online promotion and still no one comes. Funny enough, I am constantly hearing how they’re not enough places to gig.
I’ve had a few more guest artists come in and put together to festival nights. Those are always successful. I then changed the format from all year shows to just two sessions spanning 3 months and the jury is still out on if that is going to work.
The jazz scene struggles and I think it’s because people are selfish. I think they expect people to be at their shows and never pay it forward. I think that regular folk don’t go out to hear music enough due to the evolved-natured idea that paying for music is something you just don’t do. I think people stay in too much and I also think having jazz on a Sunday night is a mistake but not one that should effect people seeing music as much as it does.
Every week I keep plugging along, but I sure as hell need a sign that this wasn’t for nothing.