Even in the best of times, the jazz recording business was, as Duke Ellington termed it, a “money jungle.” Today, when the low royalties paid by streaming services can’t compensate for the sharp reduction in overall sales of physical and digital media, finding money in that jungle may seem impossible. “I haven’t profited from my recordings; they’re really just a fancy business card,” saxophonist Noah Preminger told me, invoking a metaphor used by many musicians.
Last year, jazz pianist Elan Mehler and computer-industry executive Jean-Christophe Morisseau teamed up to launch a new record label with a fresh approach to the business of recording and packaging jazz. You won’t find Newvelle Records on any streaming service. Their recordings are available only on vinyl, and only through yearlong subscription programs. Newvelle produces six records per year, and releases one every two months. At the end of the year, the subscriber receives a box to hold the set. Only 500 copies of each record are pressed.