Smalls Jazz Club Raises Money to Archive Performances
Posted 8/5/2013

In a move that would allow jazz fans to also become investors, Smalls Jazz Club in New York’s Greenwich Village is in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign to raise $60,000 for a new website geared to benefit fans, musicians and the club.

Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular way for artists to raise money for projects. Fans log on to a crowdfunding website, select their project and make a donation.

Using the site Indiegogo, Smalls is asking jazz fans to contribute money to help the club build a website for a growing audio-and-video archive. Currently, Smalls has more than 700 recordings of some 500 artists who have performed at the club.

At press time, the campaign had raised more than $23,000, with 27 days remaining to meet the $60,000 goal.

The key to the new Smalls website would be a revenue-sharing opportunity for musicians, according to Spike Wilner, jazz pianist, partner and manager of Smalls.

“Smalls will offer the archive to jazz fans around the world for a subscription fee and let that money get shared [with artists] based on the length of time people listen,” Wilner said in a promotional video introducing the plan. “We feel this revenue-sharing system can be the basis for a new paradigm, for [a] new way in the recording industry. A way for a club and an artist to be a partner, 50-50, in a way that can provide an endless amount of music to the world, bringing recognition to the musician and to the club.”

Smalls’ management team plans to use the money to build the new site, buy new video and audio equipment, and upgrade its computer system. The club also plans to purchase a new Steinway grand piano for the room. Smalls’ current piano is an old Steinway B from the early 1900s that has been rebuilt twice in recent years.

“Quite frankly, it’s time to get a new Steinway for this club,” Wilner said, noting the piano is played 10–12 hours a day.

Wilner said that the current archiving of performances is done with a LogiTech 910 web cam that connects to a Mac tower through USB cables and a single stereo microphone.

“Works pretty good, actually,” he said. “But we think we can upgrade the cameras quite a bit to deal with the low light and get a better image going. Our current audio system is simply a stereo mic that we think we can step up in terms of the quality, and production overall.”

“What Spike is doing is an opportunity for a lot of the musicians in New York because it allows us to supplement the income we already get from performing and recording with income from functionally licensing our performances,” bassist Spencer Murphy noted in the video.

“To know that you’re being compensated for work, that’s always good,” said saxophonist Stacy Dillard.

Smalls was established in 1994 by Mitchell Borden as a bohemian jazz oasis where young talented artists like Kurt Rosenwinkel, Avishai Cohen, Mark Turner, Jason Lindner and others created a scene of their own. The club was forced to close in 2003 due to pressures in the city’s post-9/11 economy, but it reopened in 2006 and has continued to operate as a haven of jazz, even in an increasingly expensive Manhattan location.

The club also operates the SmallsLIVE record label, which has garnered critical recognition for documenting a wealth of New York artists, such as pianists Wilner, Harold Mabern and Bruce Barth, guitarists Peter Bernstein and Lage Lund, saxophonists Jesse Davis, Tim Ries, Seamus Blake and Joel Frahm, bassists Ben Wolff and Omer Avital, drummers Ari Hoenig and Neal Smith and many others.

To learn more about the project, or to donate, click here.

DB


Johnny O’Neal performs at Smalls.

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