I met Spike while hunting for the world’s coolest clubs for ShowGo.tv. Wherever I went, his club Smalls was named as a pioneer in livestreaming video, in his relationship with artists and in his emerging revenue model. I first went to Smalls with my friend Nancy on a Sunday afternoon, I believe, with Spike at the pain, rain pouring down, and some drops falling perilously close to his Steinway B piano.
At Smalls, you don’t watch a concert–you feel it because it’s SO intimate. 60 people tops, down a staircase, past the bar, sit too close and, you might have your teeth knocked out by a trombone player. My favorite time to go was past midnight. Every night, Spike’s club does what NY jazz clubs used to do: go all night, with session artists and musicians fresh off other gigs stopping by with their hardware. I’ve gone to hundreds of concerts, but Smalls remains one of my very favorite places to go.
Spike is currently doing an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign to underwrite his bold, imaginative new concept in streaming, recording and distributing the music of the hundreds of artists who play the club. More than 7,000 recordings and 500 artists have been recorded for the archive ,with a growing library of video recordings as well. Here is Spike and company telling the story:
Find out more about the campaign at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-smalls-jazz-club-musician-revenue-sharing-project. Or read about it in a recent feature story in the New York Times. From the Indiegogo site: “Our goal is to build a website for our subscription-based revenue sharing system. For a small subscription fee, fans will have unlimited access to an ever growing library of audio & video (approximately 21 shows per week). Revenue will be pooled and distributed to all of the artists in the archive based on the number of minutes they get listened to quarterly. All musicians on a date get credited – in this way popular sidemen can earn as much as leaders. Direct download of specific dates will also be available. If a fan chooses to directly download a date then the revenue will go directly to the artist rather than the pool. As long as the artist’s content stays in the archive then the artist will continue to collect revenue. The Smalls nightly live-video stream will be made available for free with a valid email registration.”
Spike has an office around the corner from the club and we stopped by there late one afternoon. We talked about the Smalls brand (quality NYC jazz) and the tradition of jam sessions all over the city every night, all night, even 24 hours a day. The history of the club, the origin of its name, the early days with Mitch Borden (BYOB) and how musicians cultivated a subculture there. Spike was one of the first clubs to livestream shows and he is raising money now to upgrade production systems, among other things. Spike believes the Internet is giving us a tremendous opportunity to document huge amounts of music and make it available to worldwide audiences inexpensively. A new model with artists and club having a symbiotic relationship and copyright regime. His 5 desert island choices for must have music: Art Tatum, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Fats Waller.