A doomsday statistic I hear often-and, I confess, have used myself-is that jazz record sales are only three percent of the total in this country, proving the very limited popularity of the music. I have now been disabused of that misleading factoid by a letter from Bill Kirchner in Gene Lee’s invaluable Jazzletter (P.O. Box 240, Ojai, California 93024, $70 for 12 issues a year). Said Kirchner: “As Dan Morgenstern has pointed out, the oft-cited figure applies to only major labels. It doesn’t include independent labels, or imports, or bootlegs, or sales of used records.” And, I would add, it doesn’t include musician’s increasing use of the Internet to sell their self-produced recordings.
I called Dan Morgenstern, who made the tellingly visual point: “You go into Tower Records, or others of the major record stores, and you see oceans of jazz releases. It would make no sense for these stores to give so much space to jazz to fit if it doesn’t sell.”