Sam Newsome

Sam Newsome
"The potential for the saxophone is unlimited." - Steve Lacy

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Who Are We Making Music For?

"If you are making music for everyone, then you are making it for no one. " 

This is how I live my life: by keeping my focus simple and narrow. We are no longer living in an era where it’s all about trying to please the masses. It’s about connecting with those who share our worldview, no matter how few. And these people are our conduits to others who also share our worldview.

When I came to New York to pursue a career in jazz during the 1990s, this was the height of the record industry. The industry was so lucrative and powerful that people had more respect for label heads and other industry types than they did for the artists.  Unfortunately, so did many of the artists. These types had one agenda: Sell as many records as possible, by any means necessary. They did not care if they needed to fire your band, have you change your music, have you play other people’s music, or entirely redefine who you were and what you did--as long as it moved units. 

I’m happy to say that these people and their way of thinking are of little relevance in today’s culture. Thanks to Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker, the record company-industrial complex came tumbling down.

How does this affect you? Better yet, how does this affect us?

That model was all about trying to lure people who don’t care about what you do and quite frankly, did not care about jazz--at least progressive jazz. It was all about trying to get a more significant piece of the marketplace; instead of satisfying the market that was already loyal to our cause.

We no longer have to make music for everyone. Or try to bring those along who have no interest in what we do. We can make music for five people if we want. No label suits are telling us that this a bad idea. The label suits may not care, but I guarantee those five people we are making music for do. In fact, they will care so much that they will tell others, and then those people will tell others, and so on and so on. It's the people on the fringes who are actually looking for new music. The WBGO and Jazz at Lincoln Center types don't have an aesthetical scarcity problem that they need you to solve. They will live their lives fine never knowing that you exist. So don't even waste your time going after these folks.

So in the grand scheme of things, if you think you are making music for everyone, I’m sorry to inform you that you are probably not making it for anyone, including yourself.

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