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Jazz from Scotland

jazzahead! 2017 – A report by JfS chair Kim Macari

JazzAhead! Is an annual trade show held each April in Bremen, Germany. It is one of the largest international gatherings for the jazz sector and features 4 exhibiting days, an education symposium and a number of showcases.

Some facts and figures: 2017 was the 12th JazzAhead and the numbers have grown significantly from 2016; 1, 356 exhibiting companies & organisations, 3,169 professional delegates. The showcase performances are open to the public and in total, 17,600 people attend throughout the weekend.

The term ‘professional delegates’ covers a wide range of people involved in the jazz sector: bookers, venue promoters, jazz develop & support organisations (that’s us), journalists, record labels, funding bodies, musicians, educators and more.

This year was the first time Jazz from Scotland has attended JazzAhead in Bremen, Germany. 3 board members from JfS ran the stand; Heather Macintosh, Caroline Bond and Kim Macari. They were joined (and supported) by Creative Scotland’s Clare Hewitt, two Scottish musicians Brodie Jarvie and Joe Williamson and Glasgow Jazz Festival’s Jill Rodger.

Jazz from Scotland’s attendance at an event like this is twofold; export and fact-finding. The way I understand it, the type of people that attend such an event are:

  • Support organisations like us, aiming to provide information about their scene and work as well as to speak to similar organisations and learn about what they do in order for us to implement the successful ideas and learn from the not-so-successful ones.
  • Musicians who are ready to work internationally and who come to spread the word about their music and meet potential promoters, labels and agents.
  • Festival that directors, aiming to meet with other festivals and share ideas and information as well as to research the music happening in other scenes as potential artists for them to book
  • Broadcasters hoping to come across music from other scenes that they can play on their shows as well as to promote their radio show/channel to the wider sector.

So what did we do there? Well, for the entirety of the event, we ran a stand. There are over 100 stands in the exhibition hall and this is what we used ours for –

  • We had download cards to hand out to broadcasters, festival directors etc who wanted to hear a selection of the music from the Scottish Jazz scene. This was populated by tracks that were uploaded via our website following an open call.
  • We held meetings there
  • We welcomed visitors throughout the event, answering questions about all areas of Scottish Jazz: people who wanted to know where the festivals took place, people who had heard of a Scottish artist or band and wanted to find out more, people who had questions about the way the arts funding works in Scotland.
  • We held a daily reception, inviting people to visit the stand and to give us a chance to promote the scene and get to know people at the event.

JfS chair Kim Macari also spent some time away from the stand, often involved in meetings. She says –

For me, what was very interesting to find out about were the initiatives that other countries received funding for and how they managed to support jazz activity in their area. What came up a number of times were the amount of countries that have an export fund – a pot of money available to help their country’s musicians work internationally by providing travel and accommodation funds for international gigs. Speaking as a musician, this is a brilliant idea. Speaking as the chair of a jazz support organisation, this is a brilliant idea. It’s not always simple to adopt funding schemes like this because of the differences in the way that the arts are funded but it’s an idea I am very keen to investigate to see whether it’s something we could try in Scotland.

Our attendance at the event felt productive and beneficial and here are a list of the outcomes of our trip

  • Jazz from Scotland was invited to join the Jazz Promotion Network, and subsequently Kim was voted onto their board last month. There has to be more collaboration across the UK and Ireland and now Scotland has a voice in this organisation.
  • We gathered a database of European festivals open to submissions from Scotland as well as a list of broadcasters keen to play Scottish jazz artists on their shows. We’ll announce how musicians can access this shortly.
  • We met with All About Jazz and were invited to become partners in their Jazz Near You app. All events added to our calendar be automatically shown on Jazz Near You and All About Jazz are planning to publish editorial content on the Scottish Jazz scene. More on this soon…
  • We met the team that organise InJazz, a conference and festival in Holland who are keen to have some Scottish jazz festival directors give their recommendations of artists that they can book for their festival. They have, as yet, not showcased any Scottish bands so we’re keen to change that and so are they.
  • We met with Sue Edwards, who has taken over the running of Made in the UK, the scheme run at Rochester Jazz Festival in the US to showcase jazz from the UK and Ireland. She will be putting out an open call for bands to apply to be part of their 2018 showcase soon and we’ll be helping to spread the word, letting Scottish artists know what they need to do to be in with a chance. This is one of the only ways for UK jazz artists to work in the US, an endeavour that is both expensive and convoluted, and we are keen to make sure Scotland is showcased at this kind of event.
  • We brought two musicians to JazzAhead with us, Brodie Jarvie and Joe Williamson, following an application process. They were able to promote themselves and meet with festivals and labels, using the Jazz from Scotland stand as a base.
  • We met with a number of organisations that represent potential collaborative opportunities for Scottish musicians – festivals, jazz support bodies, venues keen to book more Scottish acts. These relationships are being developed now and we hope to build on them next year.
  • Although an international event, having all of the UK organisations and venues in one place was incredibly useful. We are now in talks to work on a collaborative stand that includes England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales on an equal footing. With a balanced and comprehensive display of activity across these four countries, this has the potential be a very strong stand. Some countries currently work this way at JazzAhead and pooling resources often results in a bigger, better presence. This also allows us to think seriously about running a showcase of our own, featuring music from all four nations.

The less tangible benefit, but one which feels vital, is that we were present. The number of people who remarked how pleased they were to learn how vibrant the Scottish Jazz scene is was both heartening and illuminating. We hope to expand our presence next year, offering 6 places for musicians to attend the event (selected via an open call) and we’re looking at ways to showcase the scene in different ways – including a ‘digital showcase’, showing videos of gigs and short video interviews with the sector. If you have any thoughts or ideas on ways to improve Scotland’s presence at an event like this, we’d love to hear from you.


In the meantime, check out the list of links below –

JazzAhead Offical Website

Kim Macari’s JazzAhead Diary

Jill Rodger’s JazzAhead Diary

Caroline Bond’s JazzAhead Diary

Video tour of the JazzAhead exhibition hall & Timelapse video of an hour at the Jazz from Scotland stand

Musician Testimonials (Joe Williamson & Brodie Jarvie)

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