August/September 2009 By Lee Mergner
JazzTimes Returns: Share the Passion
The JazzTimes issue you hold in your hands may not look any different from recent editions, but in fact it’s the result of a very special transformation. For the last 39 years, the magazine was owned and run by the Sabin family—first Ira Sabin, who founded the publication in 1970, and then his sons, Glenn and Jeff Sabin, who took over the business in 1990 and transformed it into the award-winning glossy magazine that All Music Guide called “arguably the number-one jazz magazine in the world.” However, recent financial pressures made the economics of a one-title business untenable for the owners. After a brief hiatus, the JazzTimes brand was purchased in early July by Madavor Media, a publishing group based in Boston.
We appreciate the support and understanding we received from subscribers during this period. Whether it was calls and e-mails to the JazzTimes office or messages posted to jazztimes.com, the communication from our readers was almost unanimously positive. Just as readers could more readily value a publication they suddenly didn’t receive, we can now better appreciate the loyalty of our vocal and passionate audience.
A more significant result of the hiatus was the opportunity for us to objectively evaluate ourselves, determining what should be changed with the magazine and how the publication might be transformed yet again to make it more competitive. What we found was that JazzTimes is an excellent magazine. Thanks to a stellar list of contributors, from Nate Chinen to Nat Hentoff, the writing is intelligent and crisp. With photographers such as John Abbott, Jimmy Katz and Nick Ruechel, and with top-notch graphic design, the look of the book is contemporary and sophisticated yet still very readable. The magazine is able to cover the diversity in artists and music that fit, albeit sometimes uncomfortably, under the wide umbrella of jazz. We have no plans to tear up the playbook and work against the strengths of this publication.
However, we do realize that we need to adjust to the changes in the way that music is made and information is shared. Our Web site was recently redesigned and now features a depth and breadth of content. The site also allows our readers to voice their own opinions and share news, commentary and photos from all over the world. That international aspect is no small consideration. Jazz is no longer solely an American phenomenon. Alert readers may have already noticed more and more coverage of artists, releases and events from all over the globe—from Italian jazz pianists to young Israeli players. That trend will only increase in the coming years.
The music industry itself has changed a great deal since Ira ran his newspaper from his record store in Washington, D.C. Large labels have come and gone in the jazz field, and the DIY approach now reigns supreme. As a result we need to cover more artists and releases than ever, and we are already doing that by using jazztimes.com for extended coverage of the hundreds of recordings and performances we’ve traditionally ignored due to lack of space. There will be other tweaks in the approach of the magazine, but our focus will remain on reader engagement.
We are confident that JazzTimes will remain not just a viable outlet, but also an essential one for jazz fans and practitioners who share a passion for this vibrant music. One major reason for our confidence in this lies with the formidable resources and expertise of the Madavor organization. Founded by Jeffrey Wolk, Madavor has done its own transformation act and in the process become a leading publisher of niche fan and enthusiast magazines, from International Figure Skating to New York Golf. Madavor’s credo is to tap into the shared passion of people within a specific community. We are very excited to be working together to strengthen the relationship between this magazine and the uniquely diverse jazz community.
For many years JazzTimes used the slogan “About the Music” in all of its promotional materials. We dropped it not just because it ran its course the way slogans do, but also because it had become internalized like a mantra. Of course JazzTimes is about the music. Some things will never change.
Originally published in August/September 2009