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Kickstarter campaigns featuring Mingus, Sheila Jordan, Allan Harris

Crowd-funding jazz projects has ups and downs

Feb 29th, 2012 | By

JJA Vice President Yvonne Ervin has five more days for her Kickstarter campaign to raise $16,500 for a Charles Mingus Festival and Memorial Park in Nogales, Arizona. Ellen Johnson has ten days left to raise $65,000 via Kickstarter for a digital media app and book about NEA Jazz Master and JJA supporter Sheila Jordan titled Jazz Child: The Sheila Jordan Story.  If these projects appeal to you, you can pledge any amount of money to help launch them, perhaps receiving premiums in return.

So what is Kickstarter?

Since the site officially launched in 2009,the website Kickstarter.com has allowed musicians, inventors, designers, filmmakers, techies, writers, and everyone else with a dream and limited means to submit projects that anyone with internet access could support monetarily. While supporting a project monetarily does not guarantee any profitable return or even that the money will be used to fund the project at all (and money pledged to a Kickstarter campaign that does not reach its goal is returned, so the campaign initiator does not get a penny), “crowd-funding” is proving to be the service of the future. Sites like Kickstarter – and ArtistShare is one comparable plan that preceded it — have provided creative types with a community-backed alternative to “traditional” project fundraising options.

With seemingly more creators/artists than there are record labels and arts organizations to support them, Kickstarter can be seen as both a blessing and a curse for the music industry.  For one thing, Kickstarter.com is not a music website.  In fact, to date approximately $100 million has been raised in support of Kickstarter’s programs, with the largest sum of money going to film, design and technology projects.

So what’s to stop a guy with a kazoo strapped to his saxophone from funding a jazz project? Projects must receive approval from the Kickstarter team before any fundraising can begin, but with seemingly no regulation of the merit or legitimacy of the work, one could argue that this sort of freedom is not good for the preservation of the music. Conversely, there are many hard-working, highly skilled, and under-acknowledged musicians creating jazz all over the world, and Kickstarter levels the playing field for these artists by affording them the opportunity to seek funding for their tours, recording and distribution expenses, book ideas, master classes and music festivals.

Projects by JJA members and supporters have been successfully funded.  Kim Clarke’s Lady Got Chops Women’s Month Music Festival Finale was funded at 156% as of February 28, 2012; Giovanni Russonello’s CapitolBop Jazz Loft Series was successfully funded in May 2011, and Adam Shatz’s Search and Restore project was successfully funded for more than $75,000 in 2010.

Currently on Kickstarter: Allan Harris and Takana Miyamoto have ten days to raise $7,000 for Convergence, an “homage to the iconic 1975 duet recording by Tony Bennett and Bill Evans.” The Joe Traina Septet less than three days to raise $17, 500 to record its fifth cd. The Leslie Sharp Trio has three days to raise $22, 000 for the release of its newest recording. Saxophonist Edgar Wallace, Jr. has nine days to raise $18, 000 for his solo saxophone project.

But some projects are clearly not suitable for Kickstarter. At last January’s NEA Jazz Master’s Ceremony, newly minted Jazz Master Jimmy Owens spoke of his disappointment over jazz clubs not contributing to a pension fund for jazz artists. Kickstarter can’t work for ongoing funds accrual. But there’s more than one way to show support for those who live to create jazz.

For more information on – or to contribute to — the campaigns of Yvonne Ervin, Ellen Johnson, Allan Harris and countless others, go to Kickstarter.com and search using their names.



About Bridget Arnwine

Bridget Arnwine is a 2005 JJA Clarence Atkins Fellow. She has contributed reviews to various jazz, hip-hop and heavy metal publications.

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