Should We Lose All Those YouTube Videos?

We live in a time of some amazing cultural changes. When the head of marketing at my former label Immergent Records called me in to tell me about this new thing called “Facebook” and that he had set up my own page, and that I needed to spend some time every day updating it, my first reaction was not a positive one. I was already working night and day to keep up with my schedule, and now I had to spend time helping him to market the Big Phat Band? Or course then he says, “Oh yeah, we also set up a Twitter account for you. And you should start posting stuff on YouTube too.” What? You gotta be kidding. Shouldn’t I be spending my time writing and producing music? Isn’t selling this music your job? Of course few of us had an idea of how ubiquitous those platforms would come to be. Nowadays I find myself spending at least 30 -60 minutes everyday on those sites, and on the days that I miss, I start to feel like I am not doing everything I can to stay in the game.

As these platforms have evolved as a way to market your music (or whatever product you may be hawking) I have started to ask some questions about some of the way this whole thing is working.

My manager recently suggested we consider something that more and more artists are doing, which is to pull their videos from YouTube.  The feeling is that if people can hear your music on Youtube for free, they are less likely to purchase your records of pay to see the band live.  It seems like a pretty radical suggestion to me, but as I thought about it, I realized that there were a number of examples I could site in my own experience to support the idea.

Example #1. When I was in college I took some arranging lessons from Alf Clausen (composer for “The Simpsons”). At the time he was charging $50/hour, which was way more than I could afford at the time. I asked Alf if he could give me a break on the price and he said “I wish I could, but I can’t afford to give up my time for less than that. And frankly, the information you will get is worth that much, or more.” It was hard to argue with, so I scraped up the money and took some lessons. And I found that by paying for the lessons myself I was super attentive, soaking up every word, every nuance. It wasn’t like my parents were writing the check and I was sitting in class, enduring it until I could get out and play the saxophone again. I was on the hook, and therefore assigned real value to the experience.

Example #2 About ten years ago my doctor told me I needed to stop doing my daily run on the streets where I live. He said that it was trashing my knees and that I should run on a track or at the gym on a treadmill. I told him that I might want to just buy a treadmill to have at my house, and he said “Fine, but don’t get a cheap one  – don’t buy an $800 treadmill that will break down in a year and you will just hate running on it because it’s so wobbly. Spend a little more.” So I ended up spending around $3000 for this treadmill! And that thing is still in great shape – but the main point is, since I spent so much money on the damn thing, I was determined to get my money’s worth! So I would go up there every day and run for an hour.

Example #3 When I am pounding away on that aforementioned treadmill, I like to watch TV or something, and lately I’ve been watching Netflix on my iPad. Just the other day, I started watching a show at the beginning of my workout, but after about 5 minutes I decided it wasn’t digging it, so I made another choice. I watched that one for about 10 minutes before deciding I didn’t like it either. My 3rd choice was better and I watched it to the end. But it occurred to me that had I went out and rented the first two programs, I would have probably stuck with them and watched them all the way through. I appreciate the affordable price that Netflix charges, and yet it seems to devalue the product they feature to some extent.

Example #4 I believe that we have progressively devalued music throughout the years, and that it dates back to the invention of the phonograph. Once you could package it and sell it, music became a commodity. Consider living in the year 1700. If you wanted to hear music, you had to either learn to play it yourself – which many people did – or get in your horse and buggy and ride down to the town square and listen to a string quartet or brass band. Of course nowadays music is everywhere. We hear it so often that half the time we tune it out as background noise. But can you imagine how music sounded to those people that only rarely got to experience it? It must have sounded like magic to those people! But as technology advances, getting to experience music became easier and easier, with less and less of a personal investment required. To the point where we can currently carry our entire personal music library with us at all times. You don’t even have to manually select the track you want, all you have to do is say: “Siri, play the Big Phat Band” and bam, you are there. Which in that case, may be a good thing (!) but that’s not my point. My point is to ask how much better would it be if you had to earn the privilege of enjoying music? That probably sounds pretty nuts to some of you, but please read on.

Example #5 I don’t have an example #5.

After my manager made the suggestion regarding the Big Phat Band YouTube videos, I thought it would be interesting to test the waters and see what people thought about the issue. So I posted this status on Facebook:


Somebody recently suggested that we pull all the Big Phat Band videos off of Youtube on the grounds that it devalues the product if people can go there and listen for free any time they wish. What do you think? Do you have more appreciation for things you have to pay for?


This post elicited nearly 100 comments in the next 24 hours, with a clear majority saying I should by all means leave them up. The most common opinion was that it was “good exposure” and that people would definitely purchase the music after sampling it on YouTube.

Like this post:

That is absolutely false. People who truly appreciate your music love the free listens on YouTube, and it makes us more motivated to pay to see you in person, hoping you bring the recorded music that we are familiar with to a whole other level.

Or this one:

My two cents. I always thought of it as “free advertising, and in my opinion it has helped to maintain an audience when people are less willing to spend money on things that are for selfless joy.

Some were quite flattering:

Personally, anything I put out there is because I STILL, 13 years later, am pissed because I feel you guys haven’t gotten your proper artistic due as an ensemble. It’s not nearly noticed enough considering the level of musicianship on the band – which is superior to that of any on this planet. I won’t stop posting. EVER. On my Youtube channel, my website, or Facebook – until you have won several more Grammys and you’ve won for best large jazz ensemble. Period.


Or this one:

Hey, Gordon, What you don’t want to forget is that the students and fans of the PHAT BAND LOVE to watch these videos and they totally BOND with the players by seeing them VISUALLY. They know each musician by name, and the chance to meet Eric, Bernie, Andy, Sal, Andrew…any of those guys is an amazing experience for some of these kids! By seeing them play on these videos they feel like they KNOW them and it inspires them in so many ways. It’s a visual world where all these kids are living on their computers and they don’t have the patience to LISTEN , but you grab their attention when they can SEE their favorite guys playing something amazing. That will encourage them to listen to even more music, come hear them play live if that’s possible… download or buy a cd, and they will want to meet their favorite players in person at one of the concerts!


A few were kinda snarky:

I think it’s a free world. If you don’t want to “devalue” your stuff, don’t post it.


 Are you comfortable with you life? Do you make “enough” money? In my opinion art is an expression of the human experience. If you are not willing to share your story with others then you should take them down. But if you have a message, then you should try to reach as many people as you can no matter what.



As I consider all these comments, it seems to me that many people may not be very well informed about the economic stresses that many artists have to deal with today. Backing up for a minute, let me say that one of the most gratifying things in my life is hearing young musicians get inspiration from our efforts. I just judged a jazz festival and remarked to a particular band that I still had not gotten used to seeing my charts in a set along side Thad Jones and Sammy Nestico, it’s still quite a thrill for me. I think that music education is so very, very important for people to support and I will continue to do whatever I can to enable it. But, sadly, there is an economic side to the argument. The recordings that we do are not cheap. Believe me, as the guy who writes the checks, I wish they were, but the reality is that we NEVER make our money back on those records. And we are not unique, most jazz musicians are in the same boat. But many of those guys don’t have 18 guys to pay. And, as it turns out, I have 18 high priced guys to pay. Even if the musicians elected to donate their services – and many of them have, or might choose to– the musicians union does not permit them to do it. There is no way the union will go there, and I assure you, I have asked! It is one of our biggest issues – we cannot control how much we spend on our records, and yet we are operating in a marketplace where those records sell for less and less. Believe you me – for every big band record you see for sale on, somebody is in the red on it. The economic equation just does not balance. Most of the time the reason these records exists at all is because of a benefactor. Sometimes it’s the bandleader, sometimes it’s the guys in the band risking a fine by going around the union and donating their time. Sometimes it’s a record label.

And sometimes it’s the musicians’ families. I know this from my own career trajectory. The more time I spend on the BPB, the more popular it got, the less income I brought in. The less time I spent writing commercial music, the less resources I had to spend on making Big Phat Band records. And when your income drops (throw in a recession on top of it all) and it’s time for the family vacation, or time to pay your kid’s college tuition, well, things get complicated. However much I love this music and however much I think it great that it might be helping kids in their jazz studies, the people that hold my mortgage don’t seem to care much about that and they just want to get paid. So this is why artists are starting to look at the current paradigm in a critical way.

The argument that YouTube provides good exposure tends to ring hollow after you’ve been around the block a time or two. How many musicians have heard that over the years? “Play in my club on Friday – I can’t pay you, but it will be good exposure.” Please. But here’s the thing – there is some truth in that –it IS good exposure sometimes. But all too often, that exposure does not lead to monetizing your services, and you get caught in a loop of constantly donating, or getting underpaid for your work. At some point, you need to demand that people respect your efforts and compensate you properly.

But I admit that the current model is quite seductive. I LOVE going on YouTube and being able to see and hear almost anything I want to. Doing research for a style of music I have to compose has never been easier. Want to hear the theme song from an old TV show? Most of them are just a few clicks away. Once again, I LOVE being able to poke around and discover stuff on YouTube. But the question stands – should I really get this service for free? The argument stated in many of the comments to my post said that people discovered the band and only bought the CDs after hearing the music for free on YouTube. That is probably true for many, but when you look at the numbers, it’s not that impressive. One of our tracks on YouTube has 250,000 views – not great compared to a big pop star, but not too shabby for a big band. And yet, I can tell you that we have not come close to selling 250,000 records, or even 125,000 records. So you must question the percentage of viewers that are motivated to buy something that they can get for free anytime they want. If only one third of those 250,000 listeners brought the record, we’re talking about 82,500 records, and I can tell, you have to add up the sales of a few of our records to hit that number. And the argument that the audio quality on the internet is so poor that people will want to upgrade…not sure about this one either, especially when you are talking about younger kids that have grown up listening to MPs and never even heard vinyl or any of the higher end audio formats. These kids have grown up thinking that information and intellectual property should be free, dude. THAT is the battle we are fighting, and many think that Elvis has left the building, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle -pick your analogy.

Regarding the Big Phat Band YouTube videos, I am not sure what we will decide to do about them, but whatever our decision, it is essentially motivated by our wish to continue to play and record this music. If we can figure out a way to not go broke in the process, all the better!


Postscript: Today, I turned on my ESPN app on my phone and it told me I had to upgrade and pay a one time $4.95 fee to continue to use the app. I had been listening to sports talk radio on this app for a year or more, and all of a sudden they want five bucks? What the hell?! Then I realized my position was hypocritical, and that I got at least $5 worth of enjoyment out of their product, so I took my own advice and bought the app. But the fact I had that reaction myself may be illustrative of the degree of the problem we are dealing with.

Postscript #2 How about .25 per view? Would you pay a quarter to hear/view a music video on YouTube? If 250,000 people paid .25 to view one of our videos a single time, that money alone would almost pay for the cost of an entire Big Phat Band record! And if that was the case, our fans would not have to wait 2-3 years between Phat Band releases. Worth thinking about?

29 thoughts on “Should We Lose All Those YouTube Videos?

  1. Gordon-
    I read your comments with sadness, for it is true (in my opinion) that the amazing talents of you and your band members is undervalued. But how do you get to be heard by more people- who will pay you- when there is no radio airplay for bands like yours, and no TV exposure either. Miley Cyrus is what people are interested in- but I think when kids hear you, they will begin to understand the difference.

    When I stumbled across your music years ago, I think it was on Amazon when one of your albums was suggested as something similar to what I had purchased. As soon as I heard your band I was a fan and have bought all the albums. I am old school and stil get CDs because I like liner notes (when available) and I like to listen in the car. But nothing beats listening carefully to the band with a good set of headphones.

    I’ve done this since my first record purchase as a high school kid and trumpet player- Maynard Ferguson MF Horn in about 1971, then the Don Ellis Big Band, anything by Thad and Mel, then I discovered the older bands like Basie, Herman, Kenton, and Ellington. What a world this revealed. Then of course Chicago, BS and Tears, any horn band I could find (and play). Then- gloriously- TOP and other funk groups. PAt Metheny and his amazing ability. The joy of discovering music which affects you in a deep way. Bach, for example. . .

    I did not hear live music until I was in college and big bands would come to the Prom Center in St. Paul. To see Maynard Ferguson Band live in 1975 was just a whole ‘nother level of experience.

    Now, living in a rural area far from the west coast and the urban centers, the way I get to experience music is by recording and sometimes YouTube. To me, YouTube gets me interested in an artist and I want to buy the recordings for the incredible sound. But I would surely pay 25 or 50 cents or maybe more to see you guys play a track- no question.

    But I am an old guy now, hopelessly not interested in the pop scene. I am interested in the ingenuity, craftsmanship, skill, and professionalism I hear in your group. I would pay ALOT to see you live, and I’m sure many would, esp in an ideal venue.

    So- charge me more, hit me up, I’m ready for it. It is WORTH it to me.
    You guys are incredible. Society cannot afford to lose musicians. Wynton Marsalis said “Music blows the dust off everyday life” which I believe. No one should just get your efforts for free.

    Tom Lundquist
    Rice Lake, WI

  2. Hey Gordon,

    I’m a teenager, and I really love your band, and your compositions. Your compositions are catchy, cool and really fun to play, and the Phat Band has so many incredibly talented musicians – I play trumpet and as you say, the guys in the BPB are so talented, and really inspiring (Wayne B is so awesome).

    Anyway,I agree with others saying that i would be very happy to pay to watch your songs on Youtube (what i usually do is listen to your songs, then buy them on itunes). If only youtube had this kind of subscription service! But i understand that many people, with the easy access to music on the internet, especially on mobile devices, just listen to your music on Youtube, and don’t appreciate the needs of an actual band- maybe this is because so much music now-days is crappy 4 chords pop, which relies on marketing etc. rather than good music to make money.

    I think that pulling your videos wouldn’t be a good idea, because many people only come across your music because they can easily look it up on Youtube, and this accounts for a lot of viewer traffic. I think, for now, the best solution would be to take down the videos, but first upload them to a big phat band youtube channel, run by the band itself. It think this would make a lot more people think about the band, and then go and buy your music, rather than just hunt them around from random channels on youtube. Go a dedicated and certified Big Phat Band channel!

    Anyway, I heard you guys are going to the generations in jazz next year (2014)- i live in Sydney but i will DEFINITELY be coming down to south australia with a couple of friends to see you guys live!

  3. Dear Gordon,

    Man, my brain is getting an ice cream freeze just thinking about this YouTube dilemma! Maybe you should give up the music-writing-playing gig and start customizing saxophones or something–you know, where YouTube can’t possible get in the way?!! ;^)

    But seriously… I’d pay the 25 cents to watch a Big Phat YouTube video, or maybe a dollar or more to download it from iTunes store onto my iPhone or computer. I’m also thinking that taking the videos down altogether might be counter-productive since a lot of people still don’t know who you are–and yet allowing people to view them all, all the time, for free, is not a good thing either. (Maybe you could leave up a couple shorter teaser videos?)

    Another thought: Why don’t you involve the entire band in some kind of dramatic/sit com’ish video production–TV series or one-time special–where various things happen to various members of the band, relationship issues, mild slap-stick?, etc., kind of a “Happy Days” meets “Desi & Luci” where the band also gets to play a few minutes here and there. I’m serious. That would be a blast to watch, and you could feature the occasional rap/hip hop artist, folk singer, rock artist–anyone that you are NOT–to create some “tension” and have some fun with it. It MIGHT even get a few younger people to dig the Big Phat Band?!


    PS, See you at Tunerville!

  4. As a reply to postscript 2, I would LOVE to pay 25 cents per view of high quality 1080p video of my favorite big bands and sax players. The reality though is that my parents wouldnt pay that kind of money. I grow exponentially as a player by listening, and listening a lot, and I doubt my parents, the ones with credit cards, would pay much, if any, to fuel this.

  5. Gordon,

    Here, in the middle of the night, I ponder your deliberation on You Tube exposure for BPB. It’s a two edged sword…I would never have known about you without your CD releases. My radio audience on Metromedia Radio, Live365 hears you all the time on my show and I love being able to grab music video of you to put on my web site. However, we both have the same problem…we love the publicity…we love the awareness but we are in danger of becoming a commodity unless we turn expossure into better marketing. I’m awake in the middle of the night because I’m trying to do that very thing…how can I create more revenue from Big Bands Ballads and Blues? Creativity and talent lead to exposure but how do we make money from this business? Unfortunately it’s the hardest part of the equation. Good luck…I’m with you.

    Dick Carr

  6. I would like the express my opinion re: Your Youtube videos. How about just a 30 seconds sample. Just like they do at the iTunes store? Give people a sample, no more.
    I’ve seen you live. I have your CD’s. You guys are impressive !!

    Good luck !!

  7. Hello Gordon,
    You have not mentioned one thing in this post:
    The most popular BPB video on YouTube has 287.000 views (“The Jazz Police”), followed by “Sing Sang Sung” with 224.000 and “Hit the ground running” with 120.000 views. I am not very familiar with how the YouTube partnership system works, but I am almost sure that these numbers more than qualify you for that. This means that the guys who uploaded these videos potentially make a lot of money out of YOUR hard work with next to no own effort. This can’t be good. (I’m not sure if they actually make money; I think YouTube checks quite thoroughly for copyright infringements before offering the partnership.)
    If you choose to pull down the videos from YouTube, this solves that problem. If you however decide that you want to keep them, you should not just stand aside and watch the thing developing. You should put up an official BPB channel (if there is one, you’ll have to advertise it more, I wasn’t able to find it) and upload stuff there. It wouldn’t have to be only full titles. You could, for example, put up short interviews with band members or “sneak peeks” of titles to appear on the next album (first 30 seconds or something like that). If you’re really concerned about people just ripping your music off YouTube instead of buying the album, you could also add some audio distortion to the titles (I would hate that, but that’s exactly the point: If you like the music, go buy it.)
    Greetings from Germany,

  8. Late to the party here. I would NOT leave up any videos posted that are tunes only from BPB CDs posted by other individuals. First, that violates You Tube policies and © to begin with. If you feel it’s valuable to post tunes yourself, go ahead. Or post clips. Do it for promotional reasons.

    As far as videos of the band posted by others from concerts, etc. I’d leave those up. There’s really no way to generate income from those anyway. The quality level on most is obviously not professional production. Those do serve as a representation of a BPB performance and serve to entice viewers to see the band live as well as purchase CDs. I know they do for me. (They’re also historical for the future.

    In a recent interview in Downbeat with the Yellowjackets, Bob Mintzer stated something to the extent of (and I paraphrase) “We now almost encourage people to take videos of the band and post on YouTube. For us, radio airplay has nearly become nonexistent. We don’t fit into a radio format at all any longer. So YouTube has become our new radio and means of exposing our live concert experience to others who will hopefully seek us out live, buy CDs, etc.” I think you really have to think of it that way. Otherwise of course, you or someone on your behalf is just going to be spending time figuring out how to request of You Tube that all the concert videos now and in the future be pulled and to not allow posting in the future.

    Anyway – my 2¢ worth. Tough nut to crack. Unfortunately these days, it seems as if there’s little one can do to make it a profitable endeavor any more. Very sad. But I think pulling the presence of the band from You Tube completely would be unwise. Find a happy medium if possible.

    You know what I would pay a high price for? Videos in the studio of the band recording, the process, etc. Even if it was just small video cam production. Also you rehearsing the band, how your process works. I’d also pay to see the guys sight reading a chart for the VERY first time. As well as your writing process. Just some video of you actually writing a chart. Real life behind the scenes – raw would be fine and almost better that way. Not some polished over produced fake kinda thing. Real life. Those are the kinds of things I and I bet others would love to see, and would gladly pay for. Perhaps off your website? Just a thought. Of course then, I suppose you have to pay the guys in the video, too from those.

  9. Interesting question, but it raises questions. Do you want to be nationally or locally known? Yes, we all need as much free publicity as possible, and an income too. If your band was “really” well known in more “popular” circles, and not just the tight knit jazz circles, then pull the videos. Unfortunately, until you are a household name, then you need any and all publicity, even free, to get out of the local CA network, and to be nationally known. Free videos may seem to hurt CD sales in the short run, but to get to the next level of nationally known, and bigger incomes that it entails, you need these YouTube videos to get to that next level or pay someone to do publicity for you…it is a gamble. I also do not think you can look in the short-term at how You Tube video views related to CD sales…the next level is usually a jump, because of a single product (CD, DVD, particular concert, or concept) that finally somehow rings home with a very wide audience…a building process over many years…of the audiences getting to know you and you getting to know what the audience wants…sort of magic…

    Bottom line, you need to offer something for sale to the public that they cannot get for free, that they feel they need, and cannot go without. That is the toughest part of your job to figure out….there are tons of big bands, and yours is without a doubt one of, if not, THE best, but…what can you do to set your band apart from the rest and go for it…amazing musicians is not enough…amazing arrangements may not be enough either, unless they can really catch the “general” public…you need to make yourself unique artistically…

    Thus, until you are nationally known in every household, I assume that is what you want, you need these YouTube videos…once nationally known in more “popular” circles, the income will come, because you will have the wider audience to draw from and the business know how to make an income and still be able to be artistically true to your self…

  10. I think they should stay. With certain videos you can hear different solo ideas. Comparing the recorded solos in High Maintenance to the performance at the New Trier Jazz Fest. The videos are a great way for some jazz students to work improv. It gives them new ideas to use in solos. I have used different ideas I hear from festival performances and song recordings to improvise solos. Listening to different solos that they do makes my improv better because I have different ideas.
    The next reason is the fact that this does free-advertise. I know it’s a way to find new songs of yours. I went from High Maintenance to everything because of YouTube. I don’t always have the money to buy your music, but when I do, I usually get 4-5 songs at a time. And from watching you guys perform at festivals, It makes me really want to see your band live and meet them. Ever since I started listening, I’ve wanted to meet the saxophone section really bad. Eric and Sal inspire me to do more with the alto when I see a festival performance on YouTube. It’s the same situation with Jeff and Brian when it comes to my tenor sax playing. And Jay makes me want to learn more instruments in the saxophone family. And I’m sure if I see you perform live, I would feel way more inspired to become a better saxophone player. It’s not just a way to freely advertise, it’s also a way to inspire fans to see you perform and become better musicians. I have the feeling you’re going to have a smile on your face when I tell you my next portion. I look up to your band. I look at them and tell myself, if I want to be as good as them, I need to learn from them. Which I am doing. The saxophone players are great people. Sal and Jeff have helped me to get better. Listening an watching you perform makes me more inspired to play tenor and alto. I told some friends about this thought, and they seemed a little upset because they can’t buy your music, and YouTube is the way they listen to it. I showed a friend a performance of Back Row Politics, it made his day. Somebody else heard Count Bubba’s Revenge and they loved it. I heard High Maintenance at a jazz fest. It was a very great song that I knew had a great band behind it. That night when I got home, I went on YouTube and found it. From there, I just loved your music.
    Thank you for your time reading this. I hope this will also help your decision.

  11. How does a jazz musician become a millionaire? You give him $2 million.

    Thanks for those illuminating and positive thoughts. They have helped me see my own position and activities more clearly.

    If people have automated their payments so that the 25c comes off their credit card without them having to do anything, I think it’s easy for them (meaning us, really) to essentially ignore the fact that they’re spending money – which is a good thing for you and me. It’s a small amount, paid irregularly, and flies under the radar. It’s an old principle in making money selling things, isn’t it – low margin multiplied by high volume leads to worthwhile profits.

    I’ve not found an answer to the ‘come and play for the exposure’ problem. Just keep asking for as much as the buyer seems able to pay, over and over again, is all I’ve found so far. But, in the totality of things, I also know that the music I bring to people is part of what we do as musicians in contributing to keeping our societies civil, empathic and joyful. More ‘primitive’ societies recognised this and musicians were fed and housed in the town or village because their music was needed for the mental and emotional health of the people. Their contribution to rituals and celebrations was vital to the lives of everyone. Maybe one day we’ll get away from the ‘music as commodity’ attitude and our communities will see the light again.

  12. Couple thots.

    1) If you think you and the band will make more money by not having YouTube videos, then you should pull them. (Do I read correctly that that’s basically what the discussion is? Not 100% sure.)

    2) FWIW, this isn’t the first such discussion — anyone who does creative digital work has been asking this question since long before it was possible to post something on the web. (Software companies have been asking this literally since the first PC was invented — there’s a famous letter from Bill Gates in which he chastises the hacker community for freely sharing his original version of BASIC for the MITS Altair 8080.) The question seems to boil down to whether free access cannibalizes revenue or enhances it. I don’t think there’s a clear answer to that question, or at least, not one that applies to every case.

    3) Couldn’t you leave some content on YouTube?

  13. Hi Gordon….first, I own virtually every CD BPB has released. The music and musicians are virtually peerless in my opinion and worth every penny I pay, in fact I’d pay double the going rate to have your art in my life. That said, we live in a something for nothing world where most are simply along for the ride and themselves, pick the subject, it’s not just music or YouTube. Bottom line, absent skin in the game, humans take things for granted and become entitled. If it were my decision, I’d yank all BPB from the net absent website teasers tied to CD sales. I don’t want you sweating the mortgage. Your genius deserves better. Good luck though, I think our culture is to far gone to change now absent a critical mass of artists telling the world to anty up or go to hell. Best Regards, Jim Gardner

  14. I like your prows nearly as much as I like your music. All of your points were valid. My favorite was your Example #4. Music should be magic. The business side of music chased me out back in the mid 1990s, I was a saxophone playing arranger too, but not even close to being in your class. My last steady gig, playing bad clarinet in a Dixieland band in Macon, Georgia, lasted about a year. Between gas, drinks (not on the house) and the occasional basket of fried okra, I lost an average of $15.00 every Wednesday night during that time. But, I was disappointed when we got replaced by another band that “drank more” according to the club owner. I am glad that you did not draw your discussion to an end by offering a definitive conclusion. I would have to agree that there may not be one. But, I for one would like to say that I would be happy to pay $0.25 to listen to your stuff out on YouTube, even though I have all of your CDs. Keep finding the way, Gordon. Please!

    PS: By the way, I would kill to sit in the sax section of a band that had your charts sitting alongside Thad Jones’ and Sammy Nestico’s charts.

  15. Mr. Goodwin,

    Incredibly well stated. I currently pay .99 for each cut on iTunes. I would pay .25 for a preview. Both are a bargain for what we get in return.

    My children use to roll their eyes at me when I tried to explain why they shouldn’t be sharing MP3s with friends. People simply don’t understand or don’t want to understand how quickly we can loose an art form if we don’t support it.

    BTW, I was on the Dimensions In Blue tribute recording. It was the best recording I ever participated on. Thanks for that too.


  16. Quite thought provoking! I agree with most of your examples, but for what it’s worth, here are some of my thoughts.
    Concerning example #4 and also further along your blog, is hearing music a privilege? Do we want to go back to the 1700s when the only people who experienced the pleasure of music were those that could afford it? The answer would be no, but then that also has to balance out with the needs of those making the music. If people want the music, they need to pay something. As you pointed out, musicians have mortgages and kids and the rest.

    So I’m afraid this is what is going to be the results: a lot less musicians making a living making music. I’m not a big free market guy, but it’s supply and demand being altered by technology. 70 yrs. ago if you wanted music you needed a group of musicians to play it. You could listen to them on a 78 record or on the radio, but the QUALITY of the music was nowhere near as good as the real thing. People LOVED to hear live music because that was the only way they could experience it. That no longer is the case with the quality of recorded performances and that was pounded into me last nite at a wedding gig I played.

    It was a 7 piece group of all capable experienced performers: Piano bass drums guitar fiddle reeds and a female voc. The bride wanted bluegrass for the first hour and then dance music for the rest of the nite. However, the dance music in this group consisted of all standard wedding music from the 60’s to 80s. We went on break and the bride gave a cd of dance music she wanted to hear during the break, all stuff from the last 20 yrs. and a lot of sequencing and techno stuff that the group I was with could never do. In essence, it turned instantly into a dj gig and the floor was just as full as if there was an entire band. Live music was not really needed. They were just as happy with a cd.

    I’ve been making a living in Nashville for over 30 yrs. I grew up listening to all the Herd, Rich, Kenton, Basie, and also Brubeck, Dixieland, Miles, Weather Report, and on and on. My career in Nashville has been built on my ability to play a wide variety of styles well. I’ve done Engelbert, Boots Randolph, the Jack Daniels Silver Cornet Band, Broadway Shows, Jack Green, Lee Greenwood, and everything in between. I’ve made a pretty good living, but if I were starting out today, the opportunities are very limited compared to 30 yrs. ago! No demo sessions left. No steady club gigs. A lot less studios with the explosion of home studios. And there’s no way to stop any of this and it shouldn’t be stopped! It’s progress the same as the invention of robotics and refrigeration knocked people out of work 80-90 yrs. ago. I feel we may be going thru the same process. There will always be musicians, but there won’t be as many able to make a good living. This also goes for writers. The days of making a fortune for writing a hit record are over. The whole business model is different and I really don’t know where it will finally end up. I do know that the musicians union, of which I’m a hearing board member will have to adjust also, because there isn’t a big bad corporation to battle. Everyone is fighting for a small piece of the pie and unions are not equipped for that.

    I do know that I will miss your videos if you pull them, but I’ve also bought your product. The videos on Youtube are a bonus for me. Either way I totally understand your dilemma. I also want to alert you to a book I’ve recently written that might mesh with your teaching efforts. I’ve recorded a few hundred sides with Music Minus One of big band material directed at singers. However, the founder of MMO asked me to write out the drum charts so he could put out a drum oriented play along book. I turned that into a book on how to read and interpret drum charts since there did not seem to be a whole lot of material out there on this subject… possibly the last subject not covered to death by the percussion world! I hope it will help explain to non-percussionist band directors from middle school up to college, and their students in jazz programs how to play a drum chart and also how to write their own. If you’re interested, I would be happy to send you a copy and would love to get your feedback on it. So far response has been very good. It includes some great tracks with some of Nashville’s finest players. You can check out the book and tracks at the following website:

    Good luck with your deliberations! As always, I look forward to anything you put out there. The band is great!

  17. Gordon,

    Thanks for taking the time to post this honest and thought provoking essay. I totally understand the evolution of your thinking. I do, however, disagree with your example #3, because I believe that turning off a crappy TV show is a better use of my time than enduring 30 or 60 minutes of worthless drivel. In that regard, I think the Netflix subscription is money well spent. I would make the same argument for Youtube. I would be much happier and more willing to buy a monthly subscription than pay per view.

    Regarding the value of Youtube in general – I would like to take the argument one step further. Having taught jazz history at the university level for 30 years, I can state categorically that Youtube revolutionized the classroom experience. As in the previous post you quoted, the visual aspect is unquestionably compelling to the novice. But also having students be able to compare and contrast bands, musicians, and just be introduced to new stuff in a medium they are familiar with made the class way more relevant for them.

    Bottom line: we (you) are about audience building for the future. That was always my goal in the classroom; introduction, instruction, inspiration. The only way the world will hear your music is if it’s out there.

    So my suggestion is 1. either have abbreviated teaser clips available (plus maybe one full length clip) on Youtube that will give folks a taste and then drive them to buy a recording, track, or subscription to your own website broadcasts, or 2. Hang in there and hope Youtube starts selling subscriptions. I would gladly pay an amount equal to what I pay Netflix to hear your music and all the other treasure trove of wonderful jazz history available there.

    All the best,

    Rick Condit

  18. Gordon,

    Thanks for taking the time to post this honest and thought provoking essay. I totally understand the evolution of your thinking. I do, however, disagree with your example #3, because I believe that turning of a crappy TV show is a better use of my time than enduring 30 or 60 minutes of worthless drivel. In that regard, I think the Netflix subscription is money well spent. I would make the same argument for Youtube. I would be much happier and more willing to buy a monthly subscription than pay per view.

    Regarding the value of Youtube in general – I would like to take the argument one step further. Having taught jazz history at the university level for 30 years, I can state categorically that Youtube revolutionized the classroom experience. As in the previous post you quoted, the visual aspect is unquestionably compelling to the novice. But also having students be able to compare and contrast bands, musicians, and just be introduced to new stuff in a medium they are familiar with made the class way more relevant for them.

    Bottom line: we (you) are about audience building for the future. That was always my goal in the classroom; introduction, instruction, inspiration. The only way the world will hear your music is if it’s out there.

    So my suggestion is 1. either have abbreviated teaser clips available (plus maybe one full length clip) on Youtube that will give folks a taste and then drive them to buy a recording, track, or subscription to your own website broadcasts, or 2. Hang in there and hope Youtube starts selling subscriptions. I would gladly pay an amount equal to what I pay Netflix to hear your music and all the other treasure trove of wonderful jazz history available there.

    All the best,

    Rick Condit

  19. I think that leaving the music would be a great idea. When you stated about how it might lower sales since it’s free to listen to on YouTube, that isn’t my case. If they weren’t on YouTube, the only songs I would know would be High Maintenance, That’s How We Roll, and Jazz Police. But since they are on YouTube, I now know all of the songs on That’s How We Roll, and the majority on Phat Pack, XXl, and Swingin For the Fences. YouTube is my way of learning more about the band, listening to more of the music, and gives me more improvisational solo ideas as a jazz tenor sax and alto sax player. Since I started listening to your songs, I have learned the majority of the players names, and know them by name. Whenever I listen to your music, I get into more songs. I listened to High Maintenance. From there I got to Attack of The Killer Tomatoes, That’s How We Roll, The Phat Pack, Jazz Police, Sing Sang Sung, and Samba del Gringo. Each time I hear a new song, I find more that I like. Recently I listened to Thad Said No! and Backrow Politics. Those got me more into the Act Your Age album. As you stated, this is a very good way to advertise your songs freely. And this does offer more encouragement to see you guys perform live. And I really want to see you perform live after watching countless performances at New Trier Jazz Festival, Disney World, and anywhere else. And I know some of my friends are willing to buy the songs after listening to them. I really wish more people would listen to this band, they are talented people. Leaving the videos on YouTube will promote your band to those people who don’t know of the band. And back to my statement about the improv. It is a great way to generate solo ideas. Since I have started listening to more songs than just High Maintenance, my improv has gotten 200% better from listening to solos from you, Eric, Sal, Jeff, and Brian.
    As I have stated, there are many beneficial reasons for leaving the music up. I hope you read this and it will help your decision. I am a huge fan of your music, please leave it up. Thank you for your time reading this Gordon.

  20. Gordon, Sadly I have to agree with much of what you say. You bring top quality in the videos in a world that wants or expects “free.” I have enjoyed seeing/hearing what you are doing as a fellow writer. I put out CDs as well of my own music & the economic model is broken. The creator has now taken on all the risk in the marketplace & it’s hard to recoup. I would pay $.99 a download to see yur videos if that would help you recoup. I can guess the work involved on your part & the 1,000 deals you make to record your music. And the content is outstanding!!

  21. As a former professional musician you have touched on a subject close to my heart and a big problem with the world we live in. To me the problem is both the fault of musicians and how musicians are treated by the “real world”. Making a living as a musician is not thought of as a “real job” at least in my experience. I had 50 students and was playing 4-5 nights a week making enough money to pay all my bills and even able to put some away for a rainy day. Then I tried to buy a house and was basically laughed out of the bank because I did not have a “real job”. That is how the “real world” perceives musicians. It is a hobby and not something you can make money doing. As musician’s we perpetuate this idea by our actions. We as musicians do not treat playing music as a “real job”! How many times have you been to the bank and see any employee drinking a beer, wine or some variation as they are doing their job? Now look on most band stand’s… Granted most of my experience has been doing casuals BUT that is where people see and have the most interaction with musicians. So now since being a musician is not a “real job” our income potential is very low, we turn into criminals and steal from each other. Rather than pay someone for being creative encouraging them to continue being creative we just transcribe what they have done or make an illegal copy from one of our friends. I don’t think this done maliciously or out of spite but necessity. If we don’t have music to play how can we play music a real catch 22.
    After expressing my opinion and experience as a musician I will throw in my thought comments/thought on you question. I think pulling your videos from youtube is educationally a bad thing. This could be the only way kids today could you see or be exposed to a big band. Granted it is not the same as a seeing the band live but unfortunately the kids today can’t get that experience. What about a preview/partial viewing type thing. Like what the music publisher do to entice band directors to buy the charts. I have no idea if this is a more cost effect solution just an option.
    In conclusion we need a scapegoat to place the blame on for putting musicians in this predicament. To me it is Beethoven but Mozart got the ball rolling. Musicians had a great/steady gig, a couple hour rehearsal during the day and play a dance gig in the evening. But Beethoven said no one will own me or tell me what to write and it has been downhill ever since then.
    Thank you for your time and letting me comment.

  22. What about putting ads on the content? Might be a link to purchase your music, might be for Vandoren reeds, might be for Tide. I thought that was an option for artists, to help them collect some revenue.

    Second thought, what are your thoughts on music streaming services, like Spotify, Mog, Rdio? Do you get a little change from that?

    Will we ever see older Gordon Goodwin, pre-Phat Band music released? I’m in a big band that has some of your charts, both old and new, and it would be great to put in some study on those charts.

  23. Sadly, you did not mention your very positive reaction with my new jazz students in China. If this whole thing is really “bottom line” driven, then why not consider the only current burgeoning rising middle class in the world, alongside numbers so colossal as to defy the imagination? Jazz education is now officially here while only the smallest handful hold the reigns. In fact, as Americans go, I am the sole guardian. However, very soon that will no longer be the case, as western planes arrive daily with even more guys like me in possession of the same idea. Currently, public video dissemination is the only way my students can know of you, while building an audience of 100 here leads to 100,000 or a million in not years, but months….or even weeks. Frankly,I think management need drop the xenophobic perspective for acquisition of a much bigger picture they’re obviously not seeing. As someone who has started 58 big bands on four different continents, including a few that were pretty darned good, I fully understand what a financial black hole those things are and always will be. For that reason my comfort zone is periodically limited, as my wife and I go from country to country building these school jazz programs for the purpose of forging cultural bridges that truly make a difference in this world. Mindfully considered, you already know you have a wonderful band, which means we all know why you fight like you do to keep it going. However, in my estimation, one must ask himself (as I do every day) if forbidden from making another penny for the rest of your life, would you still be doing this? With that said,I think you know the answer. Best Wishes from the seventy-eight jazz students currently in their inaugural year at Ningbo University, Zhejiang Province China…and Tom Smith, Senior Fulbright Professor of Music, director.

  24. Gordon, I saw your original post on FB and found your blog very interesting. I’m not clear if you are only considering options that currently exist such as pulling your videos off of YouTube or if you are also thinking of options that might be available in the future like charging .25 per viewing. If it’s possible to charge per view, start that right away. Who can argue with paying a quarter? If that’s not possible, why not consider pulling your videos for 6 months (but don’t announce when you’ll put them back or you’ll skew the results) and see what effect it has. It seems like you’ve already gotten your own “good exposure” as well as a good demand for your services. So take the next step. Be as bold as Alf was. Value your time and let others value it too. If this somehow backfires, it would probably be reversible. Although the BPB is something you love, it seems as though you’re already subsidizing it from your own pocket so how much worse coukd it get from a financial perspective? There’s a reason your manager suggested trying a new approach and there’s a reason you have given it so much thought in recent weeks. Might as well try a new approach then see whether or not you like the results. Remember how we knew exactly who was playing on the Kenton band in the early ’70’s? That wasn’t from Stan giving free concerts

    And that’s my two cents (but you don’t need to pay this time).

  25. I think the music you create is amazing, and I think the personnel you have is an amazing collection of personalities.

    From a student/budding professional…
    I definitely feel that money needs to be collected in some way. If there were some way for tons of people to even pay just a quarter for a listen to even a video that would probably bring in tons of cash. But, I think there some, and by some I mean the collegiate students who pretty much worship the ground you walk on, that probably want to listen to you all day and night. There are a lot of students at that age that don’t have money for that amount of listening. Some don’t have the money for CD’s either. I myself have your recordings and they are GREAT. I guess what I’m saying is that you have done well by putting up those videos. But, the video is not a substitute for the cd’s. To tell you the truth….
    Is there some BPB DVD that I have never seen???? I mean, all this troubled thought about videos on youtube but I have wondered for at least five years now…
    What about a BPB DVD??? Just a thought.

    As far as youtube, it is good publicity though,and you can’t knock that. Just one search and its easy to find out the true awesomeness of your amazing group. But, I’m not interested in what other people trying to run your business are trying to do. I’m interested in in what “Gordon Goodwin” thinks about this? I mean, you could either leave them a bit longer, or forever, or take them down and make a dvd immediately? I guess in the end its up to you.

  26. The first time I heard the band was on a youtube video. That led to CD’s and concerts anytime ur in town. I love watching the youtube videos so I can see people playing and who is doing what. I agree with others who say the exposure only helps. It like when you see a photo or video of a far away friend, its way better than just a phone call.

  27. Perhaps the best solution is to use YouTube videos to whet the appetites of big band lovers by showing only a portion of a performance–similar to the way a few pages (but not the entirety) of a digitized book may be read at Google Books, or preview portions of an audio track may be heard on CD Baby, etc. YouTube is an amazing way to get the word of out…have to admit!

    Love the music you and the band make! Best wishes!

  28. Hi Gordon – I appreciate your band and your talent. I have many of your charts and play them (but don’t share them). I am on the fence about “free music” and big bands in particular. I have a band, and MOST of the bigband venues out here are free. We don’t dig it, but we do it sometimes for the exposure. I don’t see musician’s salaries going up with the cost of living, which is not fair.
    The PHAT band is exceptional – in sheer talent, musicality, intelligence, and the charts are killer – YES I’d pay a damned quarter per view. I also like the fact that you are setting such a high bar of excellence for young jazz students, and the videos are available to them. FREE advertising is good for music, youtube has wide exposure. Does every video link to easy access to buy your stuff? Charts and albums? Make it so. Come back to N. Ca soon and my whole band will come pay and see YOUR whole band. Deal? Then my band will DRINK with your band and mayhem will ensue.

  29. Dear Gordon,

    I wish your music was on vinyl. All my favorites, I buy on vinyl. They are bulky, but this is how I show my appreciation to the artists: Buying their vinyl (not CDs or MP3s) and going to live performances.

    PS: I liked example #4.
    PSS: What about Spotify?