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REPORT: Jazz Promotion 2018 Look Out Conference at Turner Sims, Southampton

Opening keynote speaker at Look Out Rebecca Root
Photo courtesy of Kim Macari

The “Look Out” Jazz Promotion Network Conference was held at Turner Sims at the University of Southampton on 13 and 14 June 2018. As founder of the London East Jazz Network, Mark Kass attended the conference, and reports. These are his personal views: 

Superbly organised by the JPN Board in partnership with Jazz South, the new Turner Sims/Arts Council-led regional jazz development network, the conference was a networking and learning opportunity for experienced and newbies alike (and I fall into the latter category!). I joined workshops for some truly insightful discussions on diverse programming, career building, cross-border working and, probably the most significant, what can the jazz world learn from other industries. Thoroughly enjoyable, with really valuable networking, “Look Out” was definitely worth schlepping down to the South Coast. I attend far too many conferences but it was a real pleasure to attend an industry “thing” that had a genuinely positive feel about its future! For me, the main take-aways were:

  • We need to recognise diversity across the industry, changing the perception of jazz that demonstrates the vast range of genres jazz encompasses, not just the huge single genre everything gets lumped under, and reflects the world we live in.
  • We need to recognise that technology has a big impact on listening, composing and buying of music/video… we should stop just referring to “my new CD is out now” and revert to my new album is a available to download, buy on vinyl, watch on You Tube as well as buy on CD.

  • Big emphasis on inclusion, equalities and sexual harrassment issues. Need to change the perception of female jazzers and showcase more female musicians, promoters, event managers, label owners, not just as singers!

  • Recognition of needs of audiences beyond music… eg venue access for the disabled.
  • There is a huge and perhaps unbalanced reliance on Arts Council Funding… are we a business or are we an arts organisation? Answer: A sensible mix of both but we need to be more entrepreneurial and commercial as ACE funding gets tougher to draw down.
  • There should be a greater emphasis on employability skills and post-graduation support for new entrants to musical career.
  • There should be a non-creative support network that helps musicians and businesses with the boring stuff, e.g. bookkeeping, admin, etc, including perhaps the development of a co-working hub for musicians outside of a university/conservatoire environment.
  • Support mechanisms should extend to venues, promoters, labels, event managers, etc.
  • Can we create a formal local/regional business support programme that practitioners can sign up to? How would we fund that? Is that linked to a festival/major jazz event?
  • We need to promote the fab work of Help Musicians UK’s Mental Health support programme aimed at ALL stakeholders… not just musicians.
  • The industry needs to learn more from other industries. Should there be a formally recognised trade body for jazz funded by the industry itself and one that represents the collective voice of the sector when lobbying, negotiating, educating, etc? What would that look like?

L-R: Jason Rebello, Yuri Goloubev, Tim Garland
Photo by Mark Kass
  • Three totally fab music sets on the Wednesday night from Camilla George Quartet, Nikki Yeoh piano solo, and the amazing Tim Garland Weather Walker Trio ft Jason Rebello on keys.
  • Networking from an amazingly open, friendly, transparent (and sober!) bunch of like-minded industry professionals.
  • Note: I missed the AGM as I had to get back to London

Mark Kass is a part-time jazz promoter, a jazz broadcaster on East London Radio, and a volunteer trustee for the National Jazz Archive. In his “day job” he works as a management consultant for new and fledgling entrepreneurs, and designs and operates co-working/serviced office accommodation for start-ups.  

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