Dave Douglas is one of the most venerated figures in jazz—and he's figured out how to profit from it
Dave Douglas, the jazz trumpeter, composer, bandleader, record label owner, and podcaster, lives off a narrow road in the woods in a village called Croton-on-Hudson, about an hour north of New York City. It’s a good place for a noisy person. Douglas sometimes practices his horn while keeping time with his feet on his drum set. “I’m not a good drummer,” he confesses. “But it’s a great rhythmic exercise.”
Douglas often multitasks. He's one of the most venerated trumpeters in jazz, has won a Guggenheim fellowship for composition, and has fronted numerous bands, including the acoustic Dave Douglas Quintet; Keystone, a group with a DJ that provided music for silent films; and Nomad, a folk-influenced group that made its debut in the Italian Alps at a concert 10,000 feet above sea level. Douglas is currently working on a record, scheduled for release in June, featuring High Risk, his newest band, and Shigeto, an electronic musician from the Detroit area who weaves video game sounds into his work.
But what's equally remarkable about Douglas is what's least discussed: He's a shrewd entrepreneur who has figured out how to market his music to a global audience at a time when the record industry is struggling to survive. Few musical genres were hit harder by the industry's troubles than jazz. In 2003, Americans bought 23 million jazz albums, according to Nielsen SoundScan. In 2013, they purchased only 5 million. Most major labels have significantly reduced their new jazz releases. Universal Music Group’s Verve, the onetime home of Ella Fitzgerald, is pushing smooth R&B singers such as Ruben Studdard of American Idol fame. Even Blue Note—perhaps the most storied jazz label of all—has morphed into more of a sophisticated adult pop imprint, putting out records by Roseanne Cash and Annie Lennox along with those by hard-core jazz instrumentalists such as Wayne Shorter.
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