Musings In Cb: When Jazz Musicians Promote Their Gigs


In my work marketing the American Jazz Museum, I confront the issues associated with promoting live music events at several of our venues. Primarily, the American Jazz Museum presents a five (5) concert performance series each year at the historic Gem Theater; a fall festival that features more than 22 bands performing concerts on four (4) different stages; and, the award-winning Blue Room jazz club presents live music (mostly jazz) four (4) nights each week.

The American Jazz Museum employs over 1,200 musicians each year, mostly at or above musicians union scale – even in an age where most musicians do not even belong to the union. That’s a lot of paid gigs for jazz musicians!


I hear and read a good deal of commentary stating that “people are not attending live music events” … and, yet somewhere concerts are at near capacity or sold out everyday. So, what is behind the negativism? Is it a conditioned response to appease egos? Rhetorical questions like these abound in our times, and it seems in times past as well.

Everything that I find about the subject of live music attendance, and jazz in particular, makes me more optimistic because the findings reflect positive statistics. As an example, a National Endowment for the Arts report published in 1995 showed positive indicators where jazz audiences are concerned.

And, recent studies show similar positive indicators, as demonstrated by the sample findings in the chart below …


This same particular National Endowment for the Arts study also found that:

Nebraska’s jazz attendance rate is among the highest in the country, and significantly higher than the national rate. The 2012 SPPA reports that 15.7 percent of adults in Nebraska attend jazz music performances. That rate is nearly double the national jazz attendance rate of 8.1 percent.

So, people are indeed attending live jazz events.



Being a person who promotes and markets several major jazz venues, with a budget and marketing plan for each initiative, I understand the strategical and tactical methodology involved at each level in this paradigm. I used to think that if a jazz club was not “packed”, that the particular club owner was not promoting.

Although it is vital that club owners promote their venue calendar, the key to significant audience turnout seems to be realized when the artists themselves also cultivate their own listening fans in context of attending live performances. Too many artists simply post a Facebook event a day or two before the gig and leave it at that. That is better than doing nothing, but it does not give potential attendees time to react to the potential personal calendar item and plan.

ASSOCIATED FACT: People are truly busy in our times, and have significantly more choices among activities for their leisure time – many of those choices don’t require leaving the comfort of their own homes.

As an artist myself, I have learned that giving people whom I know the opportunity to choose to come to one of my upcoming concerts takes certain effort on my part. I have to personally ask people to attend. I do this in several ways: face to face, telephone, email or by way of a social media invitation of some sort. It works.


A most recent example of the positive effect that occurs when artists ask their circle of acquaintances, associates and friends to come out to performances was on a Thursday in March at the Blue Room jazz club, when the band “Heat Index” was booked. Thursdays in the Blue Room are a “no cover” charge night and generally lightly attended. However, SIMPLY BY TELLING THEIR FRIENDS, the venue was packed the entire night. I sat there during the first set and watched a steady stream of people entering the Blue Room. Men and women of all age groups, ethnicities, social strata, and nationalities were there. It was cool to see.

“Heat Index” packed the club that night …



The band “Heat Index” made the above flyer and told their friends using enough lead time that their friends could make plans to attend.

The members of “Heat Index” made (what too many “jazz” artists today would consider just a routine hit,) an actual event; and it ultimately turned into a very cool hang on what would have been an otherwise uneventful Thursday evening.

We all have to do more of that type of networking with people who are our customers. We often stop short by only networking with our peers and colleagues.

Peace, Cb


Christopher L. Burnett | Selmer (Paris) Saxophone Artist; Marketing and Communications Manager at American Jazz Museum; Professional Jazz Recording Artist; Composer; Educator; Entrepreneur; and, Businessman

Photo and Image Credits:

  • Heat Index in the Blue Room by Chris Burnett
  • NEA Study Chart
  • Heat Index in the Blue Room by Chris Burnett
  • 18th Street Jazz by Chris Burnett