Q&A: Jason Crane Takes The Jazz Session On the Road With The "Jazz Or Bust" Tour

Categories: Interviews, Jazz

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Jason Crane is the creator, producer, distributor and host of The Jazz Session, an excellent in-depth interview show. This summer, Crane's taking the show on the road with the "Jazz or Bust" tour, a jaunt that, he told SOTC, was inspired by his wandering spirit, his desire to see jazz musicians in their homes, and his facing homelessness in New York.

What is The Jazz Session?

The Jazz Session is a free, online jazz interview show, and it focuses on conversations with jazz musicians. As its heart, it's a show about the creative process as seen through the jazz world, because that's the world in which I worked. But it's really about how people create, and what inspires that.

Talk about the economics of making the show. I've noticed on Twitter that you're like your own one-man NPR pledge week.

[Laughs]. Indeed. I started working in radio in the 1990s, and I worked for a number of NPR affiliates, and for NPR itself, when I worked for Morning Edition in Japan. When I came back to the states, I ran a community jazz station in upstate New York, in Rochester.

Through several things, I stepped down. I had run for office, and we had had our first child. I had wanted to stop running the station, but I wanted to to do a podcast. I started reaching out to people in the jazz world, and I told them, "Listen, I have no budget, I have no audience. I can't promise you anything, but will you be a part of this? Will you send some artists my way? I can't promise you anything, but I'll do my best to make this work."

Our third show was with John Abercrombie, a well known jazz guitarist. That was five years ago. Enough people listened to that show that it started to take off. Five years later, 1.8 million shows have been downloaded. There are over 370 episodes online now—375 or 376, I think.

In the beginning, it wasn't funded. I did it all myself, and I had other jobs. I worked in PR and with labor unions, and I did The Jazz Session on the side. When I moved down to New York last year was around the time that I decided to see if I could fund the show, or earn enough pay to justify doing it. It took a lot of time. I tried to get to 100 sustaining members by the 300th show, and I did, and it's continued to grow since then. There are monthly and yearly memberships, but you can listen for free. Most of my life I've been fairly poor, and it's important to me that people without money can access and listen to The Jazz Session.

Are you using any tools like Kickstarter to do this?

I've done all of the memberships using PayPal, and the funding for the tour through a PayPal account. I have a pretty good email list, and the show, right from the beginning, used it. When I started, there was no one else doing this kind of show. If people wanted to listen to long form interviews with jazz musicians, I kind of had a monopoly. So I quickly built up a listener base. Now there are some other similar shows from people with a much larger megaphone than I have, doing a similar thing, but it's not the same. I built the membership up using Twitter and Facebook and my mailing list. And I literally did it face to face, too—I've have some live versions of The Jazz Session which have helped support the show.


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