BloombergBusiness: How a Star Trumpeter Makes Money Even When Jazz Can't

By Devin Leonard

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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Have Horn, Will Travel - The Wall Street Journal

By Larry Blumenfeld

Sitting in the music room of his home in a wooded enclave of this Westchester village on a summer afternoon, Dave Douglas looked rested. The condition was temporary, the trumpeter made clear. He doesn’t stay put long. In April, he released his 39th album as a bandleader, “Time Travel,” on his independent label, Greenleaf Music. It arrived just two weeks after he turned 50, and to mark the occasion he wanted to perform in all 50 states.

“It’s not that easy from a business point of view,” he said. “There’s not really an infrastructure for touring everywhere in the U.S. But only the logistics are challenging. There are people who want to hear the music wherever I go.” Mr. Douglas has chalked up 30 states for this calendar year. Some of the most enthusiastic audiences, he said, have been in less-traveled locales such as Laramie, Wyo., and Des Moines, Iowa.

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A Jazzman Looks at Loss and Finds Inspiration - The New York Times

By Nate Chinen

Dave Douglas dealt sparingly with the emotional back story at 92YTriBeCa on Wednesday night, in the auspicious first outing by his new quintet. During a concert built around the Protestant hymns on his gorgeous and contemplative new album, “Be Still” — due out on Tuesday on Greenleaf, his independent label — Mr. Douglas spoke of his motivation only in passing. The album, he said simply, “came about because all these hymns and songs were songs that my mother recommended that I play.”

His mother, Emily Douglas, died in August 2011 after a three-year struggle with ovarian cancer. During her final months, as talk turned to her memorial service, she handed him a list of eight traditional hymns — a poignant commission and in some ways a spiritual bequest.

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