Sunday, May 19, 2019

Ghosts in the Machine

Kansas City’s jazz scene isn’t merely haunted by its illustrious history.  The formidable legacy of past masters often seems to suffocate the musicians of today.  That’s one of the takeaways from an exercise I conducted at my nondenominational music blog There Stands the Glass.

The examination of Spotify’s monthly listeners metric for artists associated with Kansas City offers intriguing insights into the consumption of jazz recordings.  Half of the artists in the top ten and 24 of the top 100 are jazz musicians.  Pat Metheny, Karrin Allyson, the jazz-adjacent Oleta Adams and the smooth jazz stars Norman Brown and Julian Vaughn are the only living jazz artists in the top 50.  And the gulf between the iconic Charlie Parker (#10, 495,000 monthly listeners) and his present-day successor Logan Richardson (#99, 1,000 monthly listeners) is astounding. 

The absence of many of the artists regularly documented at Plastic Sax is glaring.   I note at the original post that “many ostensible hometown heroes are streamed by only a few hundred users each month.”  Streaming isn’t a zero-sum game- just because someone streams Charlie Parker doesn’t mean they’re not also streaming Logan Richardson- but the extreme imbalance between old and new is frightening.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

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