Working Lives in Black British Jazz


Working Lives in Black British Jazz
What is it like to work in UK jazz? This report explores the working lives of UK jazz musicians, and, in particular, the working lives of black British jazz musicians.
Why is this necessary? Firstly, in the UK, the growth of the cultural or ‘creative’ industries has become one of the more pronounced features of contemporary economic life, with the music industry playing a more than significant role. Yet jazz music barely features in discussions of the creative economy, despite making significant contributions to the nation’s economic and artistic wealth. It is important to begin to rectify this omission, by evaluating both the economic
and cultural value of participation in UK jazz. Secondly, if we wish to understand jazz as a cultural or creative industry then it is important to establish just
how people undertake working in jazz – how they make a living and a viable career (or not, as the case may be). Indeed, from a policy perspective, the day-to-day struggle of musicians to survive is an important consideration. If it is to be effective, intervention to promote jazz needs to take into account the actual working lives of those at the heart of the music. Such experiences are not widely known about or understood. Thirdly, how the jazz economy treats its black musicians – fringe workers in what is already a marginal cultural and economic practice – is also virtually unknown, outside of the direct experiences of musicians themselves. Black musicians ‘punch above their weight’ in British jazz, and bring important cultural experiences and musical influences to bear in their practice. Yet there remain unanswered questions about the treatment and inclusion of black musicians in the larger jazz scene.
This report therefore aims to raise awareness of three key issues:
• The role of jazz as an important component of the UK cultural or creative industries
•The general importance of understanding the working lives of musicians in UK jazz
• The particular experience of British black and other ethnic-minority musicians working in UK jazz
This includes black and other ethnic-minority musicians, either born in Britain, usually as first or second generation children of Caribbean, African or Asian migrants, or else born overseas in these regions and then subsequently migrated to the UK.