We are now at the most problematic subject. You might remember that I mentioned we are sitting at a negotiation table in my first article. I would like to invite you back to that table today. Our new topic is this: How will the jazz musicians and workers will make sure to keep financially secure during the pandamic, whose duration we do not yet know?
The first relatively good news is from the corner of solidarity. A new platform called TÜMSEP has been recently founded. It stands for Türkiye Müzik ve Sahne Emekçileri Platformu (Turkish Music and Stage Workers Platform). The platform in question is collaborating with AHBAP foundation, lead by Haluk Levent, and aims to lend a helping hand to stage workers in Turkey, especially those without an income or social security with supplies and finances. However, the usual challenges that face any initiative to help others out in Turkey have become obstacles for them as well. We learn from Onur Yaman, the platform’s representative in Bursa, that they were able to gather enough supplies for a mere family of 4 to last for 2 months. Their goal includes being able to directly offer financial help packages. They received applications from 6500 musicians so far. You can click here to apply for help and utilize the video below to make sure your application is correct.
Please follow the instructions in the video to send your application to TUMSEP.
We also learnt that Mansur Yavaş is working on an initiative in Ankara to help musicians as well.
CURRENT SITUATION OF THE SPONSORS
It is likely that we will face second and third waves until a vaccination for COVID-19 is found.
So this is a long process. But it is necessary for jazz musicians to come together. They need to breathe the same air and make music together. This is why online platforms that broadcast concerts with tickets, such as artistlockdown.com, can be utilized temporarily. Even if we are reunited with our physical venues during the upcoming “normalization” period, these online concerts might continue to be important for especially younger generation jazz musicians. So will these broadcasts be able to provide steady incomes? How will these stages be financed even if us jazz players are provided with the online means? This is where sponsor companies sit on the negotiation table with the jazz musicians.
The economic recession that was caused by Turkey’s ongoing situation and the pandemic shook many leading companies in the country to the core, causing the budgets spared for niche genres such as jazz to be pulled back. Even the jazz festivals in Europe, which we can describe as the Florence Nightingale of the jazz world, are considering and talking about downsizing and minimizing their tours. It seems like us young jazz musicians will struggle both financially and mentally to survive through livestreams on sponsored online platforms. I think it is important to be careful about which steps to take for this reason. We should choose to use our solidarity initiatives primarily with our struggling jazz musician colleagues while producing new music instead of sponsor companies and not get lost in the magic of reaching a high number of followers. (I will explain why this is magic in the part where I share the number of the views and clicks on the works of famous jazz musicians around the world.) On the other hand, it is possible that sponsorship budgets might shift to influencers, those who shape social media, instead of artists. In short, change is coming and we have to do our research during these free times, contributing to the new infrastructures while protecting our rights. I recommend you to read the article Tuğçe Yapıcı, a producer on Açık Radyo, on birbabaindie.com about the details of the situation (1).
THE FUNDRAISING DILEMMA
Let’s discuss the help opportunities promised to the jazz musicians by these online platforms… Spotify utilizes “Artists Fundraising Pick” system which allows direct donations to be gathered for their own musicians, the company and other workers in the sector. This system works hand in hand with PayPal.Me, GoFundMe, CashApp and such similar online fundraising platforms. But it is not certain how much this service would benefit jazz musicians who don’t get a million clicks (2).
The situation on YouTube is even more abysmal. That is because YouTube doesn’t allow users who don’t exceed 100.000 followers, and those who don’t live in the USA, UK or Canada, to gather donations (3). Even American jazz musicians aren’t lucky. Here are the follower numbers of some artists I was curious about: Sting 876k, Herbie Hancock 276k, Tony Bennett 222k, Diana Krall 129k, Pat Metheny 84,6k, Joshua Redman 3,6k, Dianne Reeves 2,92k, Dee Dee Bridgewater 2,46k (4). I won’t even mention Turkish jazz players not to bring the morale down.
However, in order to make money out of our YouTube videos, our channels need to have 4 thousand hours of viewing time in the last 12 months and have at least 1000 followers, which seems like an easier goal to reach. This means you are okay if you have 240 videos, each 10 minutes long as YouTube prefers them to be, and they have 100 views each. But when we look at the questionnaire we have at hand with 200 participants, the answers to questions about YouTube channels paint a very passive picture.
Another platform which gives the oppotunity for donations is Instagram. According to their website, you have to convert your personal account to a business account (which causes you to often receive “Come on, give me money so I will advertise you” notifications) and then you link this account to uour Facebook artist page and the system starts working when the necessary settings are done (5). I will not go into much detail not to tire out older generations, but it doesn’t look like the system in question works for us even if you follow all these steps, especially for those whose Facebook artist pages have less than 1000 followers.
It doesn’t seem like donations will be the jazz musicians’ savior during this time. Because these donations aren’t continuous unless a big comapny steps in. Platforms like patreon.com might be more promising, which allow followers to subscribe to artists’ pages with a fee (see Tuğçe Yapıcı’s article). It is worthwhile to try them out.
WHEN WILL THE CONCERTS START?
According to the declaration of the Ministry of Tourism and Governorship, our jazz clubs are to open on the 1st of July 2020. How many of them will be able to survive after the bills, rent and taxes despite being closed? For example, a jazz club with a capacity of 120 guests can welcome 30 guests–how will they meet their daily expenses let alone pay the musicians their fees? We received the information that jazz clubs in Norway are open but do not serve alcohol or food at the moment.
Coming back to the Bandsintown questionnaire conducted among 7 thousand people; 74% of the global music audiences are ready to enjoy live music in physical venues when the conditions are right. 30% seem to want to stick with online concerts.
Two mini-questionnaires I conducted on Facebook and on Instagram show that Turkish people are waiting for autumn to visit concert venues again, which seems to correlate more with the seasonal nature of Turkish people’s socialization habits more so than the pandemic worries. But how about the second wave expectations? Questionnaires are indicators of emotions and opinions but can never measure future actions accurately.
Instagram poll results
Facebook Polls results
It is impossible not to hear the danger bells ring when we consider this loss, the new generation’s addiction to free content (6) and the irrefutable number of people who view jazz concerts as a lifestyle experience in Turkey.
On the other hand, we possess a trauma-colic nature as Turkish citizens, using forgetfulness as a life buoy. We started seeing people calling corona a “fake virus” on their social media accounts. Therefore it is likely that Turkish people will crowd the same venues as before with enthusiasm if a second wave does not come. This means the venues that managed to survive until then and those that recently opened… Our biggest hope is for the small number of jazz clubs that already exist to get through this period with the least damage.
Let’s see the results of the questionnaire conducted amongst 200 people and see the views of our jazz musicians:
According to our questionnaire, our jazz musicians seem to believe that jazz clubs will open in fall, but they are worried about face-to-face performances with their listeners and worry about festivals closing down.
DOES STREAMING HOLD A FUTURE FOR JAZZ MUSICIANS?
It is evident that CD and LP sales do not provide hope while jazz is known as a “global-niche” genre paradox. We shouldn’t mourn the licenses of our work which won’t be played in the venues that have closed down. We usually play and sing our own work as jazz musicians. It cannot be said that the slowing down of the CD sales caused a financial havoc. What is destroying us is the closing down of concerts, festivals, events, schools and studios. Supporters and sponsor companies do not easily lend a helping hand either. So what is left? Digital streaming platforms. Let’s see if we can earn a buck or two on the negotiation table with these streaming companies.
JAZZ, THE NAUGHTY CHILD OF PLAYLISTS
Important note: The things I mention below only apply to jazz musicians who write and oublish their own work.
Us jazz musicians don’t have much footing when we look at these digital streaming platforms in our times. Because these platforms do not feature albums, but playlists created by users. There is a fundamental difference between albums and playlists: You spare time to listen to an album. But playlists serve to provide background music to your daily activities. Jazz sits uncomfortably in these playlists due to its improvizatory nature. It is a naughty child that doesn’t accept becoming background music! It commands contant attention. It causes a typo while you are writing a business e-mail, makes you jump when you fall asleep and it is a risky choice, on contrary to popular belief, when you want to create a romantic atmosphere for your loved ones. Even the most popular jazz musicians do not have millions of clicks on digital platforms when the situation is like this. I will come back to those millions.
Let’s first take a look at spotify. The company, founded on the 23rd of April 2006 in Stockholm, initially struggled a lot financially but then became a giant in its field. It has 286 million users as of May 2020. The company gives 70% of the annual earnings from the Premium users to the licence owners. But musicians, especially us jazz musicians, come very low on the feeding chain of these licence holders, way below distributors and recording labels.
Spotify actually wanted to contribute to this ecosystem with good intentions and utilized a service called Upload Beta (7) in 2017, which allows musicians to receive their money directly from Spotify with no interference from recording labels or distributors (8). However, controlling the upload quality and licencing lawsuits became hard and Spotify got rid of this service in 2019, leaving it up to digital distributors to upload pieces. The fees received from Spotify every three months as a jazz musician is meerly enough to pay a few bills as of now. It is impossible to make a livelihood with this money unless you have millions of clicks. You can find countless such calculations on the internet. We very well know that noone in Turkey is able to even touch that number.
Yes, there is no livelihood in Spotify for us jazz musicians but we were able to gather information about the changes in the music listening habits of people during the pandemic thanks to this platforms. For example a blog called Beats & Bites, which makes data analyses in the music sector, states that people opted to watch news on the TV instead of listening to music according to the data from Spotify between March and April (9). After April, when people gathered enough information about the crisis at hand, people continued on with their music listening habits. There was a noticable increase in listening to classical music, ambiant music and children’s music compared to the seasonal norms of 2019. There also was a drop in more social music genres such as dance and rap.
Numerous reports state that video content, such as YouTube and Netflix, have received more attention. YouTube platform features videos by us jazz musicians but the waves of this increase in popularity do not touch us due to our lower follower numbers. You will agree if you remember the numbers I shared on Jazz Clinic II article. Another parameter is the crashing of Açık Radyo’s website due to the increase in the number of the listeners (4 times more). I feel like we can attribute this conflict in data to generational differences. But it is clear that everyone is cooped up at home and they need music as a means of existence instead of in the background. Whether it has video or not…
So our followers will not abandon us and will be even more enthusiastic to listen to our new music. The only general information I was able to gather in Turkey is this: According to a report of Deloitte research company (10), our online music consumption in April was about 20% of the normal but they view things going back to normal as likely.
You might say what kind of a clinic is this; it always gives us bad news. On the contrary, these are not bad news. This is a summary of the world of reality. And we have to be knowledgable about the reality we are in as jazz players in order to produce solution formulas. We will get over the bad conditions with awareness as we produce antibodies. I will talk about these possible formules in the fourth installment of this series and give a couple of examples that will benefit jazz musicians of all ages.
(4) These data are gathered direct from YouTube on the 25th of May.
(6) According to Nielson Music/MRC Data’s research in America only 17% of youngsters are willing to pay for online live performances: https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/9388792/music-streaming-shows-strong-comeback-in-new-nielsen-music-mrc-data-covid-19-report
(8) The three month payments are calculated according to the amount of your tunes available for stream, how many listeners you have and where you’re from.