Bringing Jazz To The Masses: Q & A with Tina Edwards of Jazz Standard

London-based broadcaster, promoter & music journalist Tina Edwards is surely one of the busiest people on the UK music scene right now.

Alongside hosting and producing Balcony TV London, she features interviews and live sessions with musicians on her Jazz Standard radio-website AND is about to launch a NYC-inspired late night session at Zedel in London. Oh yes, and she DJs too. And writes for various music publications.

Tina has interviewed some seriously big jazz names on her radio show – including Christian Scott, Hiatus Kaiyote and Melody Gardot – so I thought it would be interesting to turn the tables and ask her some questions about promoting jazz to the masses.

You can find the full interview below but some personal highlights that I think are worth taking away from this:

– When pitching to journalists, they will ask themselves 2 questions: “why this person and why now?” Make sure they get the answer that leads to some press for your project.

– Social media is important to show people – possible fans and supporters – a personality. It’s this that creates a loyal fanbase and helps get journalists interested in your story.

– Whether you are emailing a journalist, promoter or agency, the advice is the same: keep it concise and make sure your music is right for the person you are contacting!

How and where do you discover new artists?

I mostly seek out new artists online; Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Hype Machine, and on radio shows from around the world.

Through Jazz Standard, I’ve befriended a few tastemakers and broadcasters around the world in places like Paris, New York and Chicago, who send me music that’s creating a buzz in their part of the world.

In your experience, how much does an artist’s social media reach help in promoting a live show or podcast?

Social media is undervalued by some artists, and it’s a missed opportunity.

The way we consume and record music changes from decade to decade, and the way we discover it has also changed, although some seem less enthusiastic about catching up with the latter.

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are all shop windows into your music and, thankfully, your personality. Social media shows potential fans your human side. Sure, you want them to interact with your music, but you want them to interact with you as well. That’s how you create a loyal fanbase.

Sure, there is a lot of great music about there, made by talented artists who have little or no social media presence. Would it put me off playing their music? Absolutely not. Would it make me think twice about inviting them to be an interview guest on Jazz Standard? Yes.

As a radio host, what’s the best piece of advice you’d give a musician when pitching to you by email?

Keep is concise!

I’m in a lucky position to receive A LOT of emails with new music submissions (for both Jazz Standard and Balcony TV). Make it easy to read with clear links. If I see more than three paragraphs with no clear links, I’m not likely to read the whole thing. Get straight to the point, and do your research.

Do you think your music is definitely right for the person you’re pitching to? If not, it’s a waste of everyone’s time…

You produce videos both for Balcony TV & Jazz Standard. How important is visual media (as opposed to audio-only) to the 21st century jazz musician?

If we’re talking about music videos, it’s surprisingly becoming less important. When was the last time you saw Christian Scott release an official music video?

Sessions, however, are becoming more heavily consumed; NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, Sofar Sounds, Balcony TV… they all remove the glossy sheen that shrouds artists, in preference of a performance that is stripped back and allows the artist’s personality come through.

And for social media, I can’t stress how important it is. If it intimidates you, draw inspiration from artists who are doing it brilliantly; people like Shabaka Hutchings and Moses Boyd.

If you’re independent, being an artist means being a brand. Some don’t like that idea, but for a lot of people, buying into a sound means also buying into much more.

Part of your mission is to introduce a younger audience to jazz.
What can jazz artists do to reach a wider audience, without watering down the content?

Try to avoid using overly academic language, especially if you’re trying to reach out to an audience who don’t normally listen to jazz.

There’s nothing more off-putting then being made to feel excluded by language that’s complicated and difficult to understand. Take inspiration from The Fast Show’s Jazz Club scene, and make a ‘harmonic departure’ from intimidating vocabulary.

How important is it for jazz artists today to get their personality across to music fans?

It’s hugely beneficial in building a fan base.

Of course there are artists who are elusive or secretive, and that’s okay. In fact, it can be part of their charm. But don’t be completely vacant or lacking. People connect with people, not robots.

With your promoter hat on, how important is it for a jazz artist to have representation?

As a promoter, I’ve booked for various venues from Pizza Express Jazz Club (100 cap) through to Rich Mix (350 cap). Whether an artist has representation or not has never affected my decision about booking them.

However, if anything, I actually prefer working with artists directly as opposed to bookers. I have a good relationship with the bookers and managers I work with, but working directly with the artist means that it’s much easier and quicker to discuss promotional ideas.

I’m promoting an album launch at Rich Mix for Bitch ‘n’ Monk in September. Since July, I’ve spoken to the band about something correlating to the show almost daily. I can’t imagine how slowed down our progress may have been if communications went through someone else first.

What’s the secret of a great live gig?

Lose your shit!

Feel it, don’t deliver what you think the audience want, just do what you feel. Don’t be dictated by your surroundings.

It’s bands like Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, who do things their own way, that always perform the most incredible shows. Who else remembers them jumping off of the Steinway piano at Ronnie Scott’s? It’s not for everyone, sure, but they bring their personalities and anarchic behaviour with them to every show.

Although, let me say, if you decide to jump off of an instrument, don’t blame me if the venue doesn’t take it well!

Do you receive pitches from PRs? If so, how do they differ to artist pitches? Are you more likely to respond?

It’s a pretty even spread.

I listen to everything I receive. Whether or not I receive music from a trusted PR or an independent artist doesn’t affect how likely I am to listen or respond.

Do you tend to keep your interview guests on hold until they have some big news (e.g. album release or tour) or do you programme the slots regardless?

I like to wait until they have a release or news to share.

In any kind of journalism, I think topicality is important. Why this person, and why now?

Similarly I think artists also like to save interview opportunities for these moments, too, for maximum impact.

More about Tina Edwards

Tina Edwards is a presenter, broadcaster and music journalist.

She’s founder of Jazz Standard, a platform centered around its #1 Mixcloud radio show, which features interviews and live sessions on its site. Whilst Jazz Standard also showcases some of the best new music from across electronica, hip hop and instrumental, guests on the radio show have included some of the biggest names in jazz such as Christian Scott, Hiatus Kaiyote and Melody Gardot.

This September Jazz Standard launches The Early Late Show, an NYC-inspired late night gig series in Live at Zedel (formally Crazy Coqs), which will showcase rising and established acts followed by a jam or DJ set.

Tina is also the host and producer of Balcony TV London, and has written for Boiler Room, Spindle and several jazz publications.

Connect with Tina:

Youtube: @tinaedwardspresents
Facebook: @TinaEdwardsPresents
Twitter: @pickupmyhiccup
Instagram: @pickupmyhiccup

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