Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Jazz World News: Why Don't They Ever Tell Us About the Good News?

I don't do a whole lot of blogging that isn't directly related to AccuJazz programming development, but this morning I feel so buoyed by a couple of good news stories that I wanted to let you all know about it.

The first bit of good news hit very close to home for me and my colleagues in the AccuRadio office: my boss, AccuRadio CEO Kurt Hanson, helped broker a deal yesterday between webcasters and royalty distributor SoundExchange that has ended the death knells for Internet radio. Read Kurt's own analysis here, where he writes, "Finally, for the first time ever, Internet radio stations have a royalty deal that is reasonably viable and extends for a reasonably-long period of time." Also read the New York Times report here (which uses a picture of Pandora CEO Tim Westergren instead of Kurt, who was more integral to the deal -- I guess Westergren has more star power).

For the last couple of years, webcasters like AccuRadio (which, if you haven't inferred by now, is the daddy of AccuJazz) have been worried that the current royalty rates would simply drive them out of business, effectively putting an end to Internet radio as a medium. Read this 2007 interview with Westergren where he decries the old rates and expresses fears of Pandora's demise.

With the new royalty rates, every one agrees that Internet radio as a business will be much more viable. This is good news for me, you, and the musicians playing on Internet radio.

The second bit of good news that brightened my spirits today is another about-face of a prominent bad news story: George Wein's Newport Jazz Fest got a sponsor, and he'll even be able to stage a New York Jazz Festival next summer. In case you didn't know, electronics manufacturer JVC sponsored the Newport and New York jazz festivals for decades and pulled its sponsorship this year, resulting in a fest-less New York this summer. So, there still will be no major jazz fest in NY this summer, but Newport 2009 will be financially viable and the NY fest will rise like a Phoenix next summer, all thanks to a new medical products company called CareFusion, who announced that they will be sponsoring a number of jazz festivals in coming years. Read the AP Report here, NYT here, and check out a video newscast on the announcement by NY1 here.

What strikes me about this deal is how quickly and unexpectedly it occurred -- just a few days ago Wein was in retirement, content to lose dough at Newport and stay out of the major festival game for a while, and now he has some brand new company that doesn't even market to the general public, pouring millions into an "International Jazz Festival Series." I'm kind of baffled by this -- what does CareFusion stand to gain? Their clients are doctors and purchasers at well-funded hospitals. They also list this year's Chicago Jazz Festival as a CareFusion-sponsored event, but I can't find any more info on this. Last I knew, U.S. Cellular was still the charter sponsor. At any rate, if you're a doctor and in a position to purchase CareFusion products, I encourage you to do so.

While this strikes me as good news, there are some who will likely be disappointed that Wein is being handed back the reins. For my part, I'm happy to see jazz musicians getting work and large amounts of people enjoying it. While there is still plenty of bad news for jazz lovers (see here, here, here), hopefully these two stories will lift your spirits a bit, like they did mine.

P.S. For all things Good News, you could always check out the Good News Blog. I don't think they have anything up about the jazz fests or the royalty deal though.

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