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Final Chorus: Conventional Unwisdom About Jazz

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.”

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Originally Published
Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

Over more than 60 years, Nat Hentoff (1925-2017) wrote about music, politics, and many other subjects for a variety of publications, including DownBeat (which he edited from 1953 to 1957), the Village Voice (where he was a weekly columnist from 1958 to 2009), the Wall Street Journal, and JazzTimes, to which he regularly contributed the Final Chorus column from 1998 to 2012. Of the 32 books that he wrote, co-wrote, or edited, 10 focus on jazz. In 2004, Hentoff became the first recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Jazz Masters award for jazz advocacy.