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Passing The Baton

Investing in Jazz in the UK

by Howard Lawes




Passing The Baton


Jazz Services logo



The announcement in 2014 that Jazz Services, an organisation that for nearly 30 years had administered Arts Council funding for the Jazz Community in England was to lose its funding and cease to be a National Portfolio Organisation, was greeted with much dismay by many although a few saw it as something of an opportunity. Dominic McGonigal, Chair of Jazz Services, wrote an open letter to Alan Davey, Chief Executive of Arts Council England (ACE) putting the case for Jazz Services, but to no avail.  Emily Saunders started a petition that received over 4000 thousand signatures but this also failed to change the mind of ACE. 

JazzUK magazine, which had been the house journal of Jazz Services, ceased publication but then a new organisation called ‘JazzUK’ endeavoured to take over at least some of the role of Jazz Services. Unfortunately, it had to be wound up in 2017. The assets of JazzUK are now passing to an organisation called ‘MusicTank’, which is a Westminster owned think tank.  




In the London area another much loved jazz institution, Mary Greig's Jazz In London, ceased publication in early 2016 after 43 years, but luckily Sarah Chaplin and Mick Sexton, a couple of determined jazz enthusiasts, were able to create an electronic replacement via a crowd-funding initiative and ‘Jazz London Live’ -- became a reality just in time for the 2016 London Jazz Festival with phone apps added later. 

Another on-line system which covers not just London but eleven cities in the UK is ‘Jazz Near You’ -  and very recently ‘Jazz Connects’ -  was created by UK artist Emily Saunders, (the same Emily Saunders who organised the petition to rescue Jazz Services)  for the direct benefit of the jazz community.  This site is growing to cover every aspect of jazz, its functionality is designed to enable country-wide and region specific searching (e.g.: for tour planning, connection and collaboration).  


Jazz Funding After Jazz Services

So how has the loss of funding for Jazz Services affected Jazz in England? Well the total value of funding available to organisations promoting jazz actually increased from £1.25 million to £1.78 million.  Recipients of funding from Arts Council England for 2015 to 2018 are as follows (2018 - 2022 in brackets):

ACE logo


Funding For Touring

However while funding for jazz has increased, the loss of one particular Jazz Services activity which caused great disappointment was the funding it awarded to bands touring the UK and as such introducing new music to places that would not otherwise have had the opportunity to hear it. 

Remaining options for tour funding include both ACE and Performing Rights Society (PRS) Music Foundation with funds available for touring both within the UK and overseas.  Recent successful recipients of funds from the ACE Strategic Touring Fund include Jazz North (£71,646 for Alt Shift J), Inner City Music (£199,800 for National Jazz Development Touring Programme), Tomorrows Warriors (£125,271 for the Jazz Ticket), National Youth Jazz Orchestra (£18,498 for Strategic Touring 2014/15) and Roots Music (£286,897 for Music Net National - Phase 2). 

The PRS Music Foundation has several funds, one of which is the Momentum Music Fund that provides support for recording, touring and marketing and has awarded £1.88 million during the period April 2013 to March 2017 to 215 artists on 150 tours, but only 3% of recipients were jazz musicians. 


PRS logo


During 2017 PRS supported many jazz musicians and organisations which are listed here (n.b. PRS For Music funding is for the whole of the UK in association with national arts councils):


In 2018 the Strategic Touring Fund has been replaced by the Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants scheme with the following changes:



Help Musicians UK

... is another valuable source of funding.  it's creative Programme funds music of all genres, at a variety of levels.  Click here for more information.


The Transfer Of JazzUK Assets to MusicTank


Music Tank logo


In a recent press release, Dominic McGonigal, chairman of the trustees of JazzUK, said about Jazz Services / JazzUK  "Trustees are immensely proud of what Jazz Services, and latterly of what JazzUK has achieved, having excelled on every financial and artistic metric. However, securing funding that supports on-going operational costs for industry-wide activities that, for example, pay for salaries of suitably qualified and experienced people, has become increasingly difficult.  The cost of securing grants is now so high that Trustees of the charity were concerned whether ‘chasing grants’ was an appropriate use of charitable funds'.

‘Central to its work was the provision of information online.  The Jazz Services website was a unique and comprehensive resource covering everything from gig listings to advice for venues and promoters helping to increase jazz audiences. Its Online Music Business Resource helped musicians manage their careers with information and advice on finance, law, marketing, digital marketing, copyright tour organisation, and included information on visas, work permits, tax and advice on all the challenges that musicians face’.

‘In a sense, our job has been done. As the jazz infrastructure has developed and the next generation of jazz musicians is coming through, it’s time now to ‘pass the baton on’. The JazzUK trustees are pleased to announce that the JazzUK reserves and assets, including the Online Music Business Resource, will be passed to MusicTank, a not-for-profit music industry information hub set up by the University of Westminster. We believe that with the resources available to MusicTank, a greater number of musicians, more educators and more promoters and venues will be able to benefit from JazzUK resources”.’

Jonathan Robinson, programme Director, MusicTank said: “Having worked with Jazz Services to further raise the genre’s profile in public sector broadcasting, we are not only well aware of the issues affecting the genre, but also conscious of the great progress made by JazzUK and its forerunner, Jazz Services.  We are therefore delighted to be entrusted with JazzUK’s legacy, which aligns well with MusicTank’s overarching ethos of sharing information and know-how as openly as possible.  Watch this space.“




MusicTank describes itself as "a University of Westminster-owned independent think tank, working to provide comprehensive cross-industry intelligence, facilitating insight and open debate to positively stimulate innovation and change across a radically evolving industry.  MusicTank produce insight events, publish papers and provide media commentary, bespoke training, research and consultancy. More information is available on their website here. £45 per year will buy membership of MusicTank which will provide

This may well be very useful but is a different style of information service to that which used to be provided by Jazz Services.  Jazz Services also used to be associated with a Rural Touring Support Scheme and a National Touring Support Scheme which provided financial help for bands to travel away from home and allowed audiences throughout the country to hear live music that would otherwise be denied them. In fact the National Rural Touring Forum, which has around 30 local members, has remained a National Portfolio Organisation of Arts Council England helping all types of performing art, including jazz, to visit rural communities and some of the local arts organisations are themselves National Portfolio Organisations.

Online Music Business Resource

At Jazz Services the then director, Chris Hodgkins, set up the Online Music Business Resource (OMBR) with Debbie Dickinson of City University to develop a definitive guide to managing your career. With help from Noel Dennis of Teeside University Business School and Mykaell Riley of Westminster University and financial support from the Arts Council England’s lottery funding, the Online Music Business Resource (OMBR) was able to draw on a wide breadth of professional insight and experience, in order to generate a wealth of information and material relevant to the current climate. The OMBR contains detailed information and advice on Finance, Law, Marketing & PR, Recording and Copyright and much more and is part of the assets that have been transferred to Music Tank.



The Jazz Promotion Network

Jazz promotion Network logo


The Jazz Promotion Network (JPN) grew out of informal discussions between jazz promoters, who felt the need to increase the profile and health of the music, and developed into a proposal to set up a formal network.

The JPN has now achieved charitable status. The initial Working Group has been reconstituted as a Board, and all the members are acting on a voluntary basis. The mission is to encourage, promote and support the development of opportunities for organisers, audiences, and artists in the realm of jazz and related music.  As a membership organisation, proposals are discussed regularly with the broader membership. The initial meeting was held in Bristol in 2013 and an inaugural two-day conference was held in Manchester in 2014. There have been subsequent members’ meetings each year since then and the first formally constituted AGM was held in 2016.

By 2016, JPN membership was close to 80 organisations and included individual members from across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.  Initial funding has been obtained by asking members to contribute a small subscription and additional sources of funding, for example Arts Council England, Trusts and Foundations, or possibly commercial activities are being investigated.  There is more information on their website here.

The Jazz Promotion Network aims to:


Jazz Connects

After months of research, planning, and burning the midnight oil Emily Saunders is "beyond excited" to announce the launch of JazzConnects in 2018, a free data hub, which offers the Jazz community a new networking platform, click here for further information.  JazzConnects is media rich, contemporary, and social media compatible for musicians, venues, promoters, audiences - everyone with a passion for Jazz, enabling members to have their work seen locally, nationally, and internationally.  JazzConnects made its public debut at JazzAhead in Bremen this year,  membership is free and this enables members to create their own industry profile to showcase their work.


The National Jazz Archive and Jazz Centre UK


National Jazz Archive logo


Jazz music has existed in some form in the UK since around 1875. The National Jazz Archive (NJA), founded in 1988 by one time librarian and jazz trumpeter, Digby Fairweather, holds the UK’s finest collection of written, printed and visual material on jazz, blues and related music from the 1920s to the present day. The Archive’s vision is to ensure that the rich tangible cultural heritage of jazz is safeguarded for future generations of enthusiasts, professionals and researchers.  In 2016 the NJA was awarded £83,300 by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the Inter-generational Jazz Reminiscence Project which will give people the opportunity to learn about and contribute to the NJA through a programme of performance, oral history and reminiscence.  Click here for further information.

Jazz Centre UK logo



In 2015 Digby Fairweather was also instrumental in a successful proposal to Arts Council England to establish Jazz Centre UK (JCUK) to act as the music's flagship in Britain and this was followed in 2017 with an award of £62,800 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to explore the heritage of jazz music. The JCUK is working with inter-generational groups, including volunteers from the University of the Third Age, local musicians and schools. They will create workshops to let people have a go at improvising for themselves, learn new skills in exhibition creation and hold jazz concerts demonstrating the link between live performance and heritage. Further information is available here.





Jazz South

Turner Sims

A new organisation, Jazz South, based at Turner Sims Southampton, part of the University of Southampton, will receive over £315,000 for an ambitious scheme to significantly raise the aspirations of emerging and professional jazz artists, standards of performance, composition and promotion across the UK’s Southern regions.  Turner Sims will now launch the 3-year talent development programme ‘Jazz South’, the only music project in the country selected within the final round of the ACE’s Ambition for Excellence programme fund.  Through Jazz South, established and emerging artists, and gifted and talented children and young people, will work with promoters and leading UK and international figures. New work will be commissioned, and talent and excellence developed through masterclasses and residencies.   



Information About Jazz Gigs

Jazz Services used to publish magazines entitled Gigs Jazz UK the front page of which is still available on the internet showing a lot of jazz musicians looking rather younger than they do today. To find out about gigs these days there are several alternatives of which these are a few examples:


The Campaign For A Fair Distribution Of Arts Council England Funds

Jazz Services and others have frequently argued that jazz music has never received a fair share of available Arts Council Funding while other art forms such as opera received too much when measures such as audience numbers and participation were compared.  While it has to be said that this campaign didn't appear to have any impact on Arts Council decisions, it is interesting to note that another organisation, ‘UK Music’, continues to campaign along the same lines, albeit for the whole range of music rather than just jazz.  The UK Music website has a list of submissions (click here) one of which is the response from CEO, Michael Dugher, dated 9th April 2018, to Darren Henley, ACE CEO following a request to provide views that will inform the ACE 10 Year Strategy.  This was followed up by an article by Michael Dugher in the Guardian of 13th April 2018 with the concluding paragraph as follows:

"When it comes to funding from Arts Council England, the status quo is simply not good enough. Its boss, Darren Henley, knows this. He said back in January: “There remains much to be done, especially in widening access to the arts to all socioeconomic groups and diverse audiences, and ensuring that the workforce and leadership of the arts and culture world is representative of England in the 21st century.”  I couldn’t agree with him more. But his vision will demand changes and some facing up to difficult realities, not least the current unfairness of music funding."



The Live Music Exchange


UK Live Music Census


The genesis of the Live Music Exchange was a comprehensive three-year study of the live music sector in the UK, undertaken by the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, further details are here.

The UK’s first ever national live music census took place in spring 2017: for 24 hours from noon on Thursday 9th March 2017, an army of volunteers went out and about to live music events in Glasgow, Newcastle-Gateshead, Oxford, Leeds, Southampton and Brighton (and 1st June in Liverpool), from pub gigs to massed choirs to arena concerts. A nationwide online survey for musicians, venues, promoters and audiences was online from March until June. 

The intention was to help measure live music’s cultural and economic value, discover what challenges the sector is facing and inform policy to help it flourish. The census covers all genres and takes a broad definition of live music to include events featuring DJs. The UK Live Music Census was organised by researchers from the Live Music Exchange research group, a collaboration across the universities of Edinburgh, Newcastle and the University of Turku (Finland). In 2015, the same researchers organised a pilot live music census in Edinburgh, inspired by work in Melbourne by Dobe Newton in 2012.

The full report and executive summary was published on 16th February 2018.  Key findings are as follow:

An interesting postscript to this survey has been published by a Portland, USA based singer/ songwriter called Dave Kovics. Originally published as a blog on his website, David explains the economics of touring as a politically committed artist who still needs to pay the bills and is available here.  In the article David describes the cost of and the income needed to survive as a gigging musician in both the USA and Europe - it makes for some sobering reading.


The Cost Of A Notional Tour


The Musicians' Union -- has recommended rates for musicians per gig, overnight accommodation, meals, travel time and transport costs (click here).  Considering a jazz quartet on a notional 2 week tour with 12 gigs travelling about 600 miles in a single vehicle.

The total expenses for the tour come to £14,840 so the average gig must realise £1,237 just to pay for the band. 

A popular and successful jazz club such as the Watermill at Dorking in Surrey attracts an audience of around 80, ticket prices are typically £14 - £20 for members and £5 more for guests. As a rough estimate ticket sales will generate around £1,300 per gig which will provide just enough income to pay a band on tour.  Typically, as at the Watermill Club, organisers are volunteers, they receive no financial assistance and there may be fees to pay to the venue. 

Many jazz clubs will struggle to approach the Watermill's audience numbers and will probably charge lower admission fees to retain the audience they do have, consequently it will be impossible for these clubs to pay a realistic fee to a band on tour.





Passing The Baton



As a National Portfolio Organisation, Jazz Services provided many jazz musicians with some extremely useful support, it campaigned on their behalf; it provided a source of information and it provided financial help.  Now that it has gone the space left has to some extent been filled by several other organisations with MusicTank and Jazz Connects seemingly most aligned to the original ambitions of Jazz Services.  However what is lacking and what many musicians who perhaps detest the necessary form filling most regret, is the absence of simple assistance for touring, allowing them to play at the smaller venues that are unable to generate enough income to pay touring bands enough to finance the tour.  Without gigs and tours musicians will find it less easy to make a living, because, as calculated by Live Music Exchange most of the income for gigging musicians comes from performance rather than recordings and streaming. Without gigs and tours jazz lovers in one region of the UK are unlikely to hear a live performance from a musician who lives in another region of the UK. 

As Dominic McGonigal, Chair of Trustees for JazzUK described in his press release, securing funding comes with a high cost in terms of time, requiring knowledge and experience. The same applies to individual musicians and band leaders in that chasing grants can easily become at best disagreeable grunt work and at worst an insurmountable barrier. The cost of touring without financial help from funding agencies is such that relatively small jazz clubs are going to have to pay a great deal more than they do now to see properly paid touring bands at their local venue. The loss of Jazz Services, even though total funding for jazz has increased, means that jazz fans outside major cities will be poorer either musically or financially and probably both.

Howard Lawes - April 2018


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