Seen live jazz lately? got a twitter account? Put the two together: Tweet about your most recent jazz concert experiences, and include the who, the where, and the hashtag #jazzlives.
Two and a half weeks ago, Wall Street Journal critic Terry Teachout set the jazz world a-buzzin’ with an op-ed entitled “Can Jazz Be Saved?” The article referred to a recently published NEA survey of Public Participation in the Arts, which says that the number of Americans who have seen a live jazz performance is in freefall, while at the same time the median age of those live jazz attendees is skyrocketing. Jazz, Teachout concluded, is in dire straits unless it can get more listeners, and younger ones, fast.
In the time since, jazz musicians, journalists, and otherwise devotees have questioned the accuracy of the NEA’s numbers based on context (e.g., aren’t the recession and the Internet revolution being taken into account here?), semantics (how exactly are we defining “jazz” anyway?), geography (doesn’t it count for something that people’s access to jazz is severely limited outside a few big cities?), and anecdotal evidence (how come I see jazz clubs filled with young people?).
Teachout’s response, stubborn but not unreasonable, has essentially been “Anecdotes are well and good, but they don’t square off against numbers. If you have think the statistics are problematic, come up with better ones.”
Howard Mandel, jazz critic extraordinaire and president of the Jazz Journalists Association, has thus proposed exactly that. His campaign is as described above: If you’ve seen live jazz recently, or will do so soon, say so on Twitter. In your 140-character allotment, say who you’ve seen, where and when you saw them, and include the hashtag “#jazzlives.” The goal is to see how many people we can find that actually are seeing live jazz.
Game on, folks. Rack ’em up and hash ’em out.