Eva Frost is a project manager at Jazz Denmark, the national organisation in Denmark responsible for supporting jazz musicians both within their country and with exporting Danish music around the world.
A lot of countries have these organisations, but in my experience these Danes are some of the most proactive I’ve ever met in the jazz world!
I was invited to be a judge for the several editions of the ‘Sounds of Denmark‘ festival which takes place in London and have run workshops with the final musicians. So I know first hand the excellent range of musicians coming out of Denmark and also how focused the team at JazzDanmark are at helping them build sustainable international careers.
Now before you move on because you’re not Danish or based in London, wait!
Eva, as part of the JazzDanmark team, has a pretty rare overview of building jazz careers abroad due to both the huge amount of shows they work on and also the educational and promotional work they build around this.
So wherever you are and whichever territories you are aiming to tour more in, there are some nice bits of info to takeaway from this Q&A, including…
- Seems like a no brainer, but worth saying it again: the bands who achieve long term careers internationally tend to be very proactive when it comes to promoting themselves.
- 3 of the JazzDanmark judging criteria are particularly important to think about at every step of your career:
- Artistic quality
- Your private, personal network is probably your best asset throughout your career.
Presumably the long-term goal of JazzDanmark is that musicians build sustainable careers. How have some bands been able to achieve this and why, compared to others who saw less immediate results?
As everyone knows, the initial entry to a specific market is the most important.
Promoters, managers and bookers all over the world often look at what artists have done in their particular country before they start working with someone, so making that start is the first step to a sustainable career. This is why we try to help out with exactly that; educating bands about the specific characteristics of the territory we’re focusing on.
That said, the bands who have been able to achieve this are obviously also those who work proactive with the tools we provide them.
Like most showcase projects, Sounds of Denmark involved a judging process. What is the criteria? How important is the profile and motivation of the group compared with the music?
For all our international projects we have a very deliberate application and judging processes.
We work closely with the market (the UK in this upcoming example) by choosing a panel of professionals from that specific country. These ‘judges’ select from a group of Danish bands who have all applied via an open call. We – JazzDanmark – try not to make ourselves the judges because we are not working on that local scene.
Our application criteria have a pretty specific framework for judging, for which there are 4 key themes: Artistic quality, diversity, PR-material and motivation.
The Sounds of Denmark festival aims to give Danish musicians an entry into the UK market. What can independent musicians around the world learn from this promotion?
I’m actually just trying to follow the advice we get from our UK-partners, like saving up to hire a freelance PR-agency for example!
My other best advice would be to always create some strong partnerships and then keep them updated with interesting news.
Your private, personal network is probably your best asset throughout your career.
How important is social media & DIY PR when playing in a new country?
For any musician in any market today, being your own brand and maximising this through the many available channels is key.
And most of those ‘channels’ are free!
You present the Danish showcase at Jazzahead in Bremen. How valuable are industry showcases and at what stage should musicians be applying for these?
The Jazzahead fair in Bremen is a quite special place in the jazz industry, because pretty much everyone worth knowing is there – although there is still a lot of demand to try and reach the most important producers and bookers.
The showcases are an amazing way to present your music to the VIP’s, but since there’s such a little chance to actually get one as part of the official Jazzahead program, we tried to make our own little cosy version during the club night evening.
I actually don’t think it’s a matter of what stage your band is at, it’s – again – more a matter of how much time you are willing to put into every opportunity.
Musicians careers can skyrocket very fast if they are able to create the right strategy for attention – whether that’s the right conceptual output or 100,000 hours in the studio, both can work in their own way!
For a lot of European/North American musicians, touring in Asia – especially Japan – is a big goal but also a big challenge. How did you manage to present 58 shows there?
In Japan we tried out a new concept as part of the Danish-Japanese 150th anniversary.
We put a lot of effort into one large event in Tokyo called “Opposite 2017” presenting not only music but also other Danish crafts such as design, visual arts and gastronomy – basically trying to do a version of Jazzhouse (Copenhagen) in Japan. This provided us with a solid tool of promotion as well as a financial framework.
We then chose a line-up of 14 bands to perform at the event, who were required to book their own three-date tour in the territory in order to get their place.
All of this was done more than a year ahead of the actual event, so I guess the success was owed to the combination of a prestigious gig in the capital, a basic financial foundation, a realistic time frame and then the mandatory demands which helped this big success: 58 stunning Danish concerts on Japanese soil within 16 days in 23 cities!!
Your Jazzcamp for Girls project is aimed at addressing the gender balance of jazz, which currently runs at around 80/20 in Denmark. Do you think promoters around the world have a responsibility to help this (via quotas, etc) or is it something which needs addressing earlier, in jazz education?
This particular theme is very important to me.
It’s an extremely sad situation that girls are so poorly represented in music; everyone should feel they have their place and space to express themselves artistically.
This is both about giving our daughters the same incitement as our sons, but also about having the art world reflect the diversity of society, and not only representing ‘one side’.
Everyone in the promoter/presenter world is calling out to the education system to enforce this agenda, who on the other hand talk about the lack of idols and role models – so I don’t think it’s either/or. A massive focus on this from all areas of the jazz world would help us make a massive progress within a couple of years or so – but everyone needs to move on it at the same time and stop passing the ball around.
For non-Danish readers looking to perform and build a profile in Denmark, can you give us a few super quick gig & press tips…?
3 great Danish jazz festivals that are know for breaking in new talent?
3 great venues in important Danish cities?
A Danish jazz magazine?
JazzSpecial (Denmarks largest dedicated jazz magazine)
A Danish jazz blog/website
Thanks Eva for answering these questions and to the whole team at JazzDanmark for their constant effort and motivation on getting their musicians onto the international scene!
If you are in London the week of the 13th Sept 2017 (or are reading about this later but still want to check out the bands that made it) you can find more here: www.pizzaexpresslive.com/sounds-of-denmark and/or listen to the musicians here: https://soundcloud.com/jazzdanmark.
With support from the Danish Arts Council, JazzDanmark organises activities that raises awareness of Danish jazz across the world while also aiming to increase inter-cultural dialogue and understanding. In Denmark, JazzDanmark works with talent-development, paving the way for the future listeners and players of jazz music, increased diversity within the music industry, and with facilitating new collaborations and meetings in- and outside the jazzscene.
Overall, JazzDanmark’s aim is to create possibilities for jazz and improvised music to reach a growing audience, with increasingly better experiences.