Fay Victor, Joe Morris And Darius Jones On The Jazz Session

October 12, 2009

This week, vocalist/composer Fay Victor, guitarist/composer Joe Morris and alto saxophonist Darius Jones will each be the focus of their own episodes of the popular interview podcast The Jazz Session hosted by Jason Crane.

They’ll each be talking about their newest recordings—Ms. Victor’s The FreeSong Suite (Greene Avenue Music), Mr. Morris’ Today On Earth (AUM Fidelity) and Mr. Jones’ Man’ish Boy (AUM Fidelity)—as well as other aspects of their music and careers.

We’re pleased to report this series of free downloads, which will be posted today, Wednesday and Friday respectively, has been informally dubbed “Improvised Communications Week” by the host.

Exclaim!: John Hébert’s Byzantine Monkey + Carl Maguire’s Sided Silver Solid

August 6, 2009

David Ryshpan reviews Firehouse 12 Records‘ latest releases in the new issue of Exclaim!

He calls bassist/composer John Hébert‘s Byzantine Monkey “a strong debut of a new band of old colleagues.” The group, which is also called Byzantine Monkey, features saxophonists Tony Malaby and Michaël Attias, flautist/clarinetist Adam Kolker, drummer Nasheet Waits and percussionist Satoshi Takeishi.

In his review of Sided Silver Solid, the second release from keyboardist/composer Carl Maguire’s longstanding group Floriculture, he writes, “the new, expanded version of the group provides him with a vast range of colours at his disposal, and Maguire dispatches the various combinations effectively.”

He adds, “The front line of violist Stephanie Griffin, with her background in contemporary classical music, and Oscar Noriega’s alto sax and clarinets blend in novel ways with Maguire’s piano, bolstered by the rock solid rhythm section of bassist John Hébert and drummer Dan Weiss. The tunes are marked by angular yet captivating melodies.”

iC Media Poll Results: Part 5

July 24, 2009

Receiving announcements and info

The fifth and final section of our survey was called Improvised Communications because it focuses on the intersection of our own efforts with the work of these jazz writers and editors, but we also asked some general questions about both what they want from publicists and what they get.

Before we talk about that, though, we first asked about the preferred method of receiving information regarding forthcoming recordings and live events. The vast majority (88.2%) chose e-mail.

Somewhat ironically, given the results of yesterday’s questions, the next most popular answer was our interactive PDF one sheets (a version of digital promo service) with 8.8%. One person chose snail mail and another submitted a write-in vote for the telephone.

Clearly these folks like the convenience and level of detachment offered by e-mail, but it’s also worth noting that not one person chose any of the remaining options, which were: our Web site, our blog and its RSS feed, Facebook and Twitter.

Except for two questions where we asked respondents to rate various aspects of our services (we’re extremely proud to report 87.1% rated our reputation as above average), the remainder of this section was fill in the blank.

The first of three questions relevant to this discussion was: “The most important thing I need from a publicist is…”

There was no limit on the answers, so some people picked just one thing and some mentioned a series of issues that are of particular concern to them. Overall, the responses fell into six primary categories.

The most common request was for timely information, followed by quality information and promo service. The other three were understanding (knowing something about them and what they do, giving them time to process information and write reviews, etc.), hi-res photo options and cooperation/response to inquiries.

To briefly recap, according to these results, the jazz press wants nothing more than to get the information they need in plenty of time to write about a project. Getting the music itself came in third, which strongly implies that delivering professional level content in the right time frame should be one’s top priority when courting their attention.

This seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how infrequently it happens, or how often we speak to musicians and labels who don’t start thinking about promotion until a record is already out.

The next two questions were related to each other.

The first one was: “The last thing I want from a publicist is…”

Answers were more diverse this time, though a few more people skipped this one. The most popular pet peeve expressed had to do with pushiness and pressure to cover music they had received, especially the unsolicited stuff.

Next on the list was a combination of too much information and too much irrelevant information (too many CDs at once, wordy press releases, bulky press kits with photos, solicitations about projects that don’t fit writers’ focus or taste, etc.).

Other don’ts included phone calls, excessive hyperbole in the promotional materials, bad music, infrequent contact, and, of course, digital promos.

In this question, we learned that showing respect for a writer/editor’s time and intellect is a key concern, and that much of the so-called conventional wisdom about adjective-filled writing and firm follow-up can be faulty when put into practice, especially when these folks are dealing with both on a massive scale.

Finally, we rephrased the question a bit to ask: “The biggest mistake publicists make with me is to…”

Even more people skipped this question, but again the answers fell into a half-dozen categories. Way out in front was issues concerning follow-up, be it getting the hard sell, perceived incompetence (the publicist did something specific that negatively impacted his/her reputation or the project itself) or an unnecessarily high volume of e-mails.

The next most popular mistake involved variations on hyerpbole and/or a lack of key information in pitches and press releases, which was followed by publicists sending music from either the wrong genre or just outside of the writer/publication’s established tastes, coverage areas or expertise.

Therefore, it’s always a good idea to “know” each person you’re contacting, but a few people also gave examples of publicists being too friendly by either not maintaining a professional demeanor or by engaging in clichéd pleasantries before getting down to their inevitable business.

The lesson, it seems, is to remember that underneath it all, media relations is a one-on-one business, and it’s important to remember that what works for some may not work for others. The best we can do is work the fundamentals of our craft, represent our clients with integrity and keep the lines of communication open.

And with that we’ve given you a complete recap of the results of our survey.

We’ve enjoyed reading all the e-mails and comments these posts have generated this week (please keep them coming!), and we hope everyone found at least some part of this survey interesting and useful in their own various musical endeavors.

iC Media Poll Results: Part 4

July 23, 2009

Number of promo CDs

Today we’re looking at the fourth of five parts of a recent survey of prominent jazz writers and editors from around the industry.

This section, called Professional Listening Habits, sought to address such issues as how much new music these writers and decision makers are really seeing, how much they’re asking for and how much is just showing up unannounced, how they’re listening to it once it arrives, and—the big question on every publicist’s mind—in what format are we going to be sending them promos in the future.

We started by asking each person to tell us how many promo CDs they receive each month.  As in the previous section, every respondent answered this and the other questions put to them in this part of the survey, giving us the most accurate sampling we could hope for.

The most popular answer was 25-50, one of the smaller categories, which earned 29.4% of the vote, but 100+ was a close second with 23.5%. 1-25 was third with 17.6% and 50-75 and 75-100 each received 14.7%.

These numbers almost seem low when you’re used to telling your clients about the monumental amount of competition out there as you urge them to create the strongest, most above reproach projects possible.

But then I thought about it another way.

The majority of those surveyed (52.9%) are telling us they receive at least 50 promos CDs in a given month. If they’re estimating correctly, that’s a minimum of 600 CDs in a year, with roughly 1/4 of those surveyed claiming more than 1200 per year.

Imagine how much time it would take to listen carefully to that much music, let alone write about it in a succinct and insightful way.

Plus, if you recall, we found out in the previous section that more than 1/3 of these writers and editors are purchasing at least 100 more CDs per year, just for their own personal use.

Unsolicited promos

Next we asked what percentage of these incoming promos are unsolicited. The majority (55.9%) said that 3/4 of the promos they receive are uninvited guests in their homes and offices, and 1/5 (20.6 %) reported asking for none of the music in their mail box.  Mind you were still only taking about CDs and not digital downloads (yet).

Everyone said that at least some of the CDs they receive arrive without an invitation, with 1/4 and 1/2 getting 11.8% of the vote each. I know this isn’t rocket science, but that means 88.3% of those surveyed get at least one potentially unwanted CD for every one they ask for. And, for more than 75% of those people, at least three of every four CDs is unsolicited.

That kinda thing may start out fun, but I bet it gets old quick once you run out of space, both the physical and mental kinds.

Listening for work

When it comes to listening to all this music for work purposes, the traditional stereo system is still the favorite, with 94.1% saying that’s a regular listening method, but we didn’t limit them to just one choice. 64.7% reported regularly accessing CDs and music files through their computer, while 44.1% said they both used a computer to access streaming music files on the Internet and used an MP3 player.

If that’s not enough to make you think writers and editors still favor a CD to pop in their favorite hi-fi, we next asked them directly about their attitude toward digital promos, giving them specifically worded choices.

Feelings toward digital promos

Here’s how the numbers came out:

I love it! The future is now!: 26.5%
Tried it, but prefer a CD: 41.2%
Open to the idea, but haven’t tried it: 5.9%
It’s not for me: 17.6%
Themz fightin’ words!: 2.9%

5.9% chose the N/A category, and we got 15 write-ins, in which people basically explained the answers they’d given above. Those were harder to summarize, but people brought up ideas like disposability, environmental friendliness, collectibility, lack of artwork, convenience, reduced cost for the musicians and preferences about the different ways digital music is sent.

For those keeping score at home that was 61.7% of the target jazz press audience telling us that despite more recent and instantaneous innovations in technology, they prefer a physical promo CD.

Digital promo service

We then asked how many of the respondents had ever received digital promo service from a label or publicist. 85.3% said yes.

Digital promo service in 2009

The number was exactly the same when we asked, more specifically, if they had been asked to listen to a digital promo by a label or publicist in 2009.

Looks like 85% were offered digital music this year and 62% did NOT care for the experience. That hardly sounds like a digital revolution is brewing in the professional ranks of our industry just yet.

Vinyl promos

Finally, we swung the pendulum in the opposite direction and asked if these jazz aficionados would like to receive vinyl promos if it once again became an option. Believe it or not, the numbers were pretty even, but the majority (55.9%) said they’d like to see a giant, flat square show up at their door. Long live the LP!

Too bad we didn’t ask how they suggest we fit it, and 600-1200 of its friends, in their mailboxes.

Tune in tomorrow—same blog time, same blog channel—when we talk about the fifth and final section of our survey.

Truth be told, it was mostly about us and what we could be doing better, but we also asked questions about these tastemakers’ interactions with publicists in general, and the answers were very enlightening.

iC Media Poll Results: Part 1

July 20, 2009

Age group chart

We recently asked 50 prominent writers and editors working in the jazz arena to complete a survey, with a special effort made to reach out to as diverse a sample as possible.

We asked them about their preferences for receiving information, how and where they listen to music and their interaction with publicists among many other things.

Not everyone had the time or inclination to respond, and not everyone who did chose to answer every question put to them, but the results were quite enlightening.

The questions were distributed into five categories and we’re going to examine and share the results one category at a time on the blog this week.

The first section deals with general demographic information, including age, location, job description, income and blogging habits (i.e. where their work is published).

As you can see from the graphic above, the respondents represented a well-balanced cross section of ages from 26-65. Only one person who answered this question fell into the 18-25 group and no one was older than 65. The 26-35 and 46-55 groups each generated the highest number of respondents with 26.5%.

Then we asked people to choose the term that best describes their work in the world of jazz/improvised music from a list of five (blogger, editor, freelance CD reviewer/feature writer, publisher/Web site owner and other).

Job description

In keeping with expectations, the most popular answer was CD reviewer/feature writer, which was chosen by 47.1% of respondents, more than doubling the next most popular answer, which was editor. Only 3% referred to themselves as primarily bloggers.

Over 17% chose Other, but basically used that write-in space to pick more than one job or use a term synonymous with one already offered.


In a somewhat surprising turn, 79.4% of those surveyed said they were paid to do the job they specified and only 35.3% have a full or part-time job in another industry that accounts for their primary income.

Finally, we asked about blogging habits.

Blogging habits

35.3% said they have a personal blog, and 38.2% of those people reported publishing their articles and reviews on those blogs.

Work blogs

Also, only 26.5% of those surveyed contribute to blogs hosted by the jazz publications/organizations they work for.

The data gets a little more interesting as we move forward. It paints a clearer picture about what an artist, label or publicist is up against when trying to get the limited attention of today’s music journalist, especially when it comes to how much music these individuals see and hear in a given month and how it is presented to them.

Tomorrow’s post will cover the second category: Web and print habits. It focuses on what writers and editors are reading, how they access that information and how it influences their own work.

Come Visit Us, Our Tweet

May 4, 2009

If you like our blog posts, but wish they were 140 characters or less, you’re in luck!

Improvised Communications now has its own Twitter account.

Click here to start enjoying all the micro-blogging goodness.

Celebrating Seven Years Of Improvised Communications

March 1, 2009

Seven years ago today I started a new company called Improvised Communications with very little money, a handful of prospects and a long list of big ideas.

120 records and 270 live events later, not to mention a whole lot of design work, consulting and other things along the way, I’m inexplicably privileged to still have the opportunity to bring those big ideas to bear on the promotion of independent creative improvised music.

Thank you again to all the clients who have worked with me over the years, the press and radio contacts who support the music and everyone else who has helped me make iC a sustainable venture.

Special thanks, as always, go out to my wife, Jennifer, who not only does a wealth of business-related tasks behind the scenes, but also makes pursuing my wide-eyed goals possible in more ways that I can explain.

And, don’t worry, we’re only just getting started, so stay tuned as we announce the many releases and events planned for 2009, and introduce at least a few more big ideas from that list.