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Why Being a Jazz Blogger Matters

Anthony Dean-Harris
anthony.deanharris[at]nextbop[dot]com / @retronius

Recently I had a fight with a friend of mine who is a musician. He’s a musician in a genre I don’t quite understand but, being the kind of person who makes strides to be open minded, I tried to support him in his endeavors. I listened to his stuff when I had the opportunity. I critiqued his work with a seemingly good balance of my limited knowledge in musical structure but with a fair amount of encouragement. I prodded him on to perform live more often. I tried to be a good friend, yet these attempts were not often reciprocated. It seemed he did not feel that my background and work as a writer did not merit the criticism I typically dole out in the areas of film, advertising, and music. Too often, I had to defend what it is that I do as a writer, yet the arguments I made, while measured, fell on deaf ears. Yet despite all this (and the likely deterioration of this friendship), I can’t say enough how I feel that what I do matters.

While I believe most of the people who follow this site actually care about the words that I say (at least to some degree, and tell your friends), I can’t help but think that there are those out there who take what I say with a grain of salt. This makes good sense. I’m not a musician, though I often wish I were one. I have always been a lover of music with a decent memory. I don’t know the business end of the industry, but I continually learn. What makes all of this so necessary, though, is the fact that considering the state of jazz music and the music industry in general, we’re all learning how to move forward together. There are many out there who are forging new ground and sustaining themselves through their art in different ways and rising above the fray in ways never before conceived because this is a brave new world of the music business.

The issue of the day is micro-patronage and we’ll probably move on to something after that. With a steadily growing populace who wants more and more music for less and less money, this industry is in a perpetual state of flux. The music business, especially our little microcosm, must always find a way to move forward. The speed at which we must do so is becoming steadily more noticeable. To a certain extent, this is why what I do is necessary. It has taken some time for me to notice that it really is hard to do everything. I have learned about everyone’s specific gifts and talents. The naïveté of my youth is steadily slipping away and I no longer have the boundless energy to convince me that we all have the potential and ability to handle every aspect of something as large as releasing creative work to the public on our own.

For Nextbop, we began with a web designer to craft the template that we see here, we have our hypeman, we have our businessman, we have our primary writer and editor, we have a spectacular group of contributors (some of whom I miss and wish they’d grace our pages once more), and we have all the musicians who have been gracious enough to agree to put their music here as a place to share it with the public so they can discover it for themselves. This is certainly more than a one-man operation. Each part is important and lends a certain credibility to the site overall. This may be yet another jazz website in a steadily growing sea of jazz websites (though not nearly as many as there probably should be, which is good for us, I suppose), but we serve a specific need and have a talented group of folks who I’m exceedingly proud to consider colleagues.

I know that I’m a writer and an editor. I’m proud to be one and I don’t believe that the commentary I make on whatever comes to mind isn’t without purpose. For the purpose of this site, I shine a light on the jazz industry, its successes and its flaws. I note what we do well and on what we together can improve. I give attention to worthy projects and strive to do so more often in the future as everyone here continues to get the hang of what we’re doing. Yes, I’m just a music blogger, but I’m one in a niche genre that doesn’t seem to have enough music bloggers. I’m a reviewer that doesn’t review. I’m an editor who coaxes writers’ works to completion rather than assign them projects over which to toil. What I do matters. At least that’s what any twenty-something hopes for.

Anthony Dean-Harris is a contributing writer for African-American Reflections and hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on 91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio. More of his writing can be found at his blog, In Retrospect and you can also follow him on Twitter.