Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Shocker: The End of Jazz Times Magazine?

It's hard times for print publications everywhere, and not just newspapers.

Jazz mags are no exception.

Jazziz, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, has announced that it's becoming a quarterly. And this after shifting from a monthly to a 10-times-a-year publication a while ago.

I was one of the original writers for Jazziz, a participant in those very early meetings in Mike Fagien's condo in Gainesville, and I've been a part of the mag off and on since those days. I've reviewed hundreds of CDs for the mag, along with several live performances and festivals. Among my features (including cover stories) for Jazziz are pieces on Terence Blanchard, Branford Marsalis, Larry Coryell, Pat Metheny, Bela Fleck, and New Orleans music.

Here's hoping that Jazziz continues long into the future as a quarterly, or, better yet, begins publishing monthly again.

And now this: Jazz Times is temporarily -- we hope -- going out of print while it's being sold to new owners. That's according to a message posted on the mag's web site (scroll down to read).

The mag's staff members are being "furloughed," and word on the street is that pay for freelancers is "in limbo." Bad news.

I'm hoping for a resurrection of the mag, which has its origins in a newsletter, Radio Free Jazz, that Ira Sabin began publishing in 1970. But I can't say that I'm too optimistic.

Meanwhile, Down Beat, still considered the "jazz bible" by many listeners and musicians, is celebrating its 75th year of publication. Here's to another 75!

(Full disclosure: I've contributed extensively to both Jazziz and Down Beat, and I've occasionally written for Jazz Times.)

Howard Mandel, longtime jazz journalist and president of the Jazz Journalists Association, recently noted the closing of Coda, the Canadian jazz mag dating back 50 years, and traditional jazz publication Mississippi Rag.

See Mandel's blog posts on the jazz magazine crisis, and the impact of the JVC Jazz Fest failure on the woes of Jazz Times.

As an old-school reader (you know, born in the '60s or earlier), I'd much rather read about jazz and almost everything else by way of the printed page rather than via a computer screen. Same goes for books. Thanks, but no thanks, Kindle and other digital readers. That said, I spend many hours absorbing information from online sources, obviously.

Still, it's probably becoming a reality that print publication -- not to mention the costs of packaging and mailing -- is just too expensive to sustain for many magazines, and the only viable option is to take everything online, as the altcountry mag No Depression has done.

The major obstacle: So far, publications haven't figured out a way to make online ads generate more than a small fraction of the ad dollars they once reaped via full-page print ads. And without that big income, you can't afford to pay for salaries and operating expenses.

Read the message from Jazz Times, below:

An Important Message From JazzTimes Management

By JazzTimes

To our readers and members of the jazz community:

JazzTimes has temporarily suspended publication of the magazine and has furloughed the bulk of its staff while it finalizes a sale of its assets. The brand and operation will undergo reorganization and restructuring in order to remain competitive in the current media climate. Print publishing is expected to resume as soon as a sale is closed. New information and statements will be posted at as they become available.

Thank you for your patience during this challenging period.

JazzTimes Management


As a post script, I guess I'll have to say that all of this confirms the soundness of my decision to leave full-time freelancing several years ago. I still contribute, fairly extensively, to publications including Down Beat, Jazziz, Bass Player, Las Vegas City Life, the St. Petersburg Times and Folio Weekly. But I no longer depend on newspaper and magazine assignments as the sole source of my income.

So ... support your local arts-journalism freelancers!

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