In 1987, Prominent Jazz Musicians Wrote This Letter to Their Fans…

…this was found in the sleeve of a 1987 jazz LP vinyl release.




32 Responses


    Since it seems music is always expected to be free, everything else should be free to and If you disagree Go 2 Hell!

    • Bandit

      Dexter Gordon was Lars Ulrich godfather.

      I would be willing to bet that Dexter Gordon made more money from his appearances in movies and TV in the few years before he died than he did his decades long jazz career

  2. Myles

    And wasn’t this around the time the music industry started making huge profits off the sale of CDs? I guess none of the jazzers saw any of that money, they were literally dying off trying to make a living playing clubs night after night

  3. YrLic

    I was a serial taper. Then I stopped.
    I stopped when I threw out my cassette deck in favor of CDs.
    Then, I did downloads. I admit it.
    But that only put gas on the fire.
    I would buy as much as I could.
    The album art and the pride of ownership was everything.
    Rock on !

  4. Tcooke

    Interesting. Iv been thinking about the taping when I was a kid. Before my generation, it wasn’t possible. As an impressionable and ignorant 11 year old my percieved value of music was diminished due to the ability to copy. It wasn’t anything like today obviously, but there was prestige in having the actual tape.

    • Name2

      Interesting. Iv been thinking about the taping when I was a kid. Before my generation, it wasn’t possible. As an impressionable and ignorant 11 year old my perceived value of music was diminished due to the ability to copy. It wasn’t anything like today obviously, but there was prestige in having the actual tape.

      To each his own. I was 11 in 1974 and I’m curious to know when you were 11 that you attach “prestige” to store-bought cassettes – another overvalued, self-inflicted industry wound which ultimately cheapened and demeaned music’s value in the marketplace (but then, I’m old).

      Some “radio pirates” grew up to buy all the memorable music of their AMPEX’ed youth – sometimes several times over – forgetting that music which was (to them) forgettable. Sure, some never spent a dime. These aIl boil down to anecdote collecting, but I posit that the former have had a far more positive consumer experience over the years, remained attached to and inspired by their collections, and in the end parted with money for music with less regret.

  5. Iain

    The critical point is where they say “Jazz is not a mass-market phenomenon.” All the arguments that go to justify the culture of ‘free’ don’t work when you try and apply them to the smaller markets.

  6. And guess what

    Jazz is still here. The school of Jazz in NY and others still make money and churn out young musicians. And they all know Platinum albums aren’t in their future. Nothing has changed since this letter was written. Jazz is still here and as “big” as it was in relation to cultural changes. Not technological. Which means the music industry is still wasting its time and money fighting and complaining, not learning from history. In 30 years someone will print some letter by some artist today and we can have the same conversation.

    • Musicservices4less

      “Nothing has changed since this letter was written (1987)”
      Oh my friend, you couldn’t be more wrong. And apparently you need a history lesson and “learn from history.”
      From the start of the modern record distribution system (call it around 1950-1960) there was always what is known in physical product businesses “shrinkage.” That is missing product due to theft, breakage, etc. In the record industry, not only is there shrinkage at every level (manufacturing plant, wholesale warehouse & retail locations) but there is the phenomena known in industry parlance as “records having babies.” That is when you know how many records you manufactured and are fairly certain the minimum number of those that are in the end consumers hands but yet your warehouse manager tells you that your customers have returned more unsold records that you even manufactured! Remember physical records were always sold on a full or high percentage on a guaranteed return basis. And if you had the time and money to investigate, it would inevitably show that your returned product contained pirated goods (counterfeit), unauthorized copies (so-called overruns at the authorized manufacturing plant) and returns of promotional copies (this was really a very small percentage of the situation).

      There was never a real problem or concern in the industry about home taping. It was impossible to stop and did NOT represent any real economic hit to the industry.

      Along comes the current distribution system named the Internet and entire generations grow up with the concept that music isn’t owned and because this new distribution system structure and technology allows unauthorized, unlimited duplication direct by and to the consumer, it is free and they thumb their noses at all those in the creative process and who work in that process.

      Now this “mindset” has been allowed to flourish for 20 years. But as you can see it has finally reached the breaking point. A combination of overreach by the major distributors (YouTube, Spotify, SiriusXM, etc., etc.), ISPs and the mother of all the internet, Google, along with a rising consumer and political awareness (the Internet is now a utility) that something is wrong with this picture, the tide is starting to turn again but this time in favor of the creative process and not the delivery system of the results of the creators.

      Ask questions please.

      • Response

        So first, of course the losses made a difference or you’d be implying this letter wasn’t necessary. But the fact that they did matter enough to write this letter, and still matter now, what’s changed? There was a time when this all started, as you mentioned, where there was no such thing as a “major label.” Artists were the business until labels came, lots of people got robbed, things evolved, and now they’re robbed but less openly and can sue if they catch on.

        But not to fall off track, we’re now at a stage where the industry is circling back to where it started. And yet this time, artists can still be millionaires and certain things like promoters booking look-a-like performers is no longer possible. So all is well, history still repeating itself.

        But what we have today is a group of major corporations trying to hang on to their profits and trying to convince the creators that its “their” profits.

        Nothing has changed like I said. Only the few who monopolized a business who are feeling like that monopoly is being snatched away. Jazz is still jazz, music is still copied and stolen, artists can still be stable (though the means aren’t identical) or wealthy. Its all relative if you’re not distracted by propaganda. And instead we should be trying to work more constructively to keep money in the hands of creators. Without any preconceived notions of the value or way its defined or earned.

        • Musicservices4less

          Hi Response and thank you for your observations. First, your are right in saying that the losses to the individual artists of that period, late 80’s did make a difference to them. In fact, from an individual artist perspective, all during the modern music business history such losses were/ are significant especially to an artist that has limited sales in its best day due, in this case, to the genre of music they create – jazz.

          My points concern the industry as a whole, all genres combined. At no point in the history of United States music was the individual artist or group the “business”. There was always a club, manager, accountant, etc. that controlled the business of the artist. There are a number of books and some excellent documentaries that were broadcast on public television that you can catch up on laying out this period of the music business. And yes, some (many maybe) artists have received a raw deal throughout and up to this day from some of the managers, etc. and then various record labels both independent and major.

          And your “sue” statement is just wrong especially in the case of an artist. Do some math on the cost and cost effectiveness of bringing a lawsuit in today’s judicial system.

          A very small portion of artists became “millionaires” throughout the history of the music business. To imply that this will be something new or that percentage wise it will be more because of the Internet again is wrong. Financial success in the music business has nothing to due with the method of distribution itself. I’m sure you misspoke on that point.

          I suggest checking your local (urban cities) arts and entertainment paper and you will see that the look-a-like/sound-a-like performers are still alive but they may not be so well in this music economic climate. All is not well my friend.

          And it is nothing new that major corporations are trying to hang on to their profits (including the major music based tech distributors) and do whatever is necessary to accomplish that. Welcome to American capitalism.

          Yes, we ALL should be trying to work constructively to keep money in the hand of creators. “All” includes consumers (educate them like we are now doing with this conversation), labels and most importantly the relatively new players to the music business, Google, YouTube, Spotify, etc.

          And now, for the absolutely major flaw in your thinking . . .”Without any preconceived notions of the value or way its defined or earned.”

          The Internet tech industry is by definition “new” to the music business. There was a time when music distribution was run by people who at every level of distribution recognized the unique value of music and the arts. A unique value because great music brings to human beings something that you really can not put a price on let alone start at zero value as you are implying. Didn’t you ever listen to music that changes your mood, thinking or just for pure enjoyment? Tell me, how is that done and please, put a price on it.

          And as you point out, you and I are at the beginning of working more constructively to keep money in the hands of creators. Thank you again for engaging in this discussion.

      • small labe1

        Absolutely right, music4less. (“and guess what” doesn’t have clue one)
        Not only was this ‘jazz’ letter spot on (there is no more investment in artists, there is (to a practical extent) no such thing as a “record store” anymore and if you’re lucky enough to find one, they damn sure don’t carry jazz..), etc., etc.

        I suggest everyone go back and look at the Lars Ulrich interview. LITERALLY EVERYTHING HE SAID and warned about came true… even more so than he worried about. Lars should no longer be a tale of caution against speaking out, but heralded as a fuckin prophet, and we need to be the witnesses and activists. If WE MUSICIANS don’t stand up RIGHT NOW, there will be nothing left to stand for.
        As they say, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything… the ‘new boss’ is a thousand times worse than any of the worst-case “bad label deal” of yore. wake the fuk up people!

        • So...

          iTunes and Spotify aren’t record stores? You might be the one sleeping. Have you ever heard the one about the wagon wheel? Wooden tires were replaced by rubber ones. At the time you probably could have sued, lobbied, cried to the media, OR you might just realize that the innovative and progressive companies would adapt. Why do musicians think they can make art a “business” but don’t think its going to function like ALL other businesses? Yes, please all musicians, wake up!

          • Versus

            They do expect it to operate like other businesses: they expect that customers will pay the asking rate for their product or do without, not wantonly steal it. No business can survive if its products are simply stolen.

        • Anonymous

          If WE MUSICIANS don’t stand up RIGHT NOW, there will be nothing left to stand for.

          It’s so ironic isnt it?

          A huge group of people often known to be the ones, the voices, the true stand up guys and girls always raising their fist to injustices, and now a time finally comes where they have the opportunity to actually be more then just all talk, and look what happens, essentially they all grab their tales and turn around and head for the door, scared straight about it, which is so funny and awesome i cant even tell you…

          When that bugle blows artists and musicians, people with some of the loudest voices, well their knees start trembling and they get all wobbly and the sweats start happening, and they run the other way… Its not even like the bugle is blowing for a real violent war or anything, and yet these voices, these true rebels and revolutionaries, always beaking off and telling people to stand and rise up, suddenly go silent and become just ordinary working joes, unable to lead or rally people into anything, its HILARIOUS!

          Id say you musicians need to crap or get off the pot, but thats long gone, we have finally exposed these artists and musicians for what they are, and there is nothing wrong with that, stick to strumming strings and dancing on stage and selling t-shirts… Seems like you all are waiting around for that ONE person to lead the troops, thing is, history has shown, once that one person gets taken out, the troops scatter running scared, so im not sure any one person is going to do that again in any normal frame of mind…

          anyways, carry on!

          • small labe1

            .. that sounded an awful lot like a threat…

          • Anonymous

            im tired of taking crap from music people and listeners for things yet all they do is sit around and talk a big game but never do anything but dance around or strum instruments, so i just really dont want to take anyones ish anymore…

            either be about it or dont, but dont not only not be about it but talk it up in a super passionate way like you actually care and then take it out on others for things. i mean, i stood up and said lets go, the whole music community, just splat, fell flat, nothing, so whatever, i just do not want to take a millisecond of anyones b.s. in music for anything, whether they are creators or consumers or facilitators, im not interested in it anymore. so if anyone in music doesnt like anything i do or say, doesnt like any move i make, basically they have to sit on their hands and zip their mouths, they have lost all right to even think about it, you speak only when spoken to and im not speaking to anyone in music anymore, so you basically have to become a statue mute until i feel you are worthy to exist again…

            hows that?


          • ...

            … I don’t get why you would waste your time talking to me, or anyone else for that matter. Oh, you’re full of shit, or sour grapes… either one is sufficient.

          • Anonymous

            … I don’t get why you would waste your time talking to me, or anyone else for that matter. Oh, you’re full of shit, or sour grapes… either one is sufficient.

            Full of shit or sour grapes?

            Hmm, how am i full of shit and what about exactly?? and why would i have sour grapes and if so over what?

            im tired of the music, media, tech etc. industries and just posse people and gangs and reddit lame trolls constantly bothering me, bullying me, intimidating me, threatening me, all the time, everywhere in my life, so the only sour grapes i have is that theres nowhere or no one for me to go to that can help resolve this matter and that you all get to just continually get away with it, after ive been gutted anyways from theft and pinata play and being a target.

            just simply dont even engage me or reply to me, stop it already, unbelievable…

            what a miserable business with miserable people…

    • Myles

      You may know something about music business and how there is a long history of screwing over artists so nothing has changed, great perception and great outlook

      but you are absolutely ignorant of jazz and jazz history so before declaring that jazz us the same as it ever was do a little research before making yourself look stupid again

      • I apologize

        Relax Myles, we’re only saying Jazz wasn’t a popular genre in 87 and its not now. But there are still working Jazz musicians young and old. That much I’m sure you can agree with. We weren’t implying any further knowledge or insights in regards to the genre. And any drop in popularity hasn’t been a result of technology or bootlegging. Its purely a cultural shift in the US, the largest music market in the world. Classical music is suffering the same fate as a result of it.

        • Musicservices4less

          Hi I apologize. I would be interested in seeing the study or other data you have to back up your statement that the drop in jazz & classical music is PURELY a cultural shift in the US. Maybe you really didn’t mean to use the word purely. Let me know. Thanks.

          • No problem

            We can change the word purely. There’s a possibility that our “news” consisting of Kim Kardashian, our “reality” programming consisting of ignorance, and our NYC public transportation system promoting an actual campaign to “Be Polite” are all just my humble opinion that American culture is no longer suitable for music like Jazz (on a broad scale). Perhaps we’re as intellectually and artistically inclined as we were in the Jazz hay day. Or perhaps the cultural state in America in that day played no role in its popularity. I guess both are possible, I’m not being sarcastic. I’m just not very impressed at the state of this country so I could just be biased. And also too young to possibly know what the Jazz era was really like.

  7. Anonymous

    I remember the days of illegally copying piano rolls.


    Good times. Good times…

  8. Mike Greensill

    Didn’t Bill Evans die in 1980? That would make this letter from even earlier than ’87. In fact I very much remember it doing the rounds.

  9. Glendon Gross

    I often hear this argument, especially from the RIAA, but I frankly don’t believe that copying hurts the music business at all, then or now. Copying a digital file increases its distribution; while it may be true that according to the law of supply and demand, the value of that digital file diminishes with unauthorized copies, the fact remains that the original artist who created the song is capable of creating many more songs. So the artist’s performance value for future performances should increase proportional to the demand for that artist’s music, and the more people hear the song, the greater the demand. (remember payola?) The people who are really losing under the new digital business model are not the musicians so much as the middle men, because it is now possible for musicians to bypass the middle men in the distribution of music. If digital files are shared, that makes the artist’s future performances worth even more than they would otherwise be. I also believe that future generations will view the time when a physical medium was required to purchase a song as the anomaly rather than the norm. Even in the days of booming record sales, there were still poor musicians who didn’t get compensated for their work (such as the original composer of the tune on which “Oye Como Va” is based, Israel Lopez Cachao. ) Even in the days of Bebop development, the writing of contrafacts was a device to avoid paying royalties on the part of the musician, because chord changes cannot be copyrighted. So the avoidance of royalties has been a part of the music business for a long, long time. Probably some record company lawyer coerced these artists into “signing” the mass-produced letter, or perhaps their signatures were used without their permission. Copying is also guaranteed under the fair-use provision of the U.S. Copyright act, as it insures that the consumer’s rights are not excessively curtailed by the businessmen who want to claim ownership of a file that has been “sold” to the original consumer. Needless to say, such inserts are not often found inside packaged music that is sold today, which may give you an idea how effective the device actually was in preventing fair-use copying of records. If I were asked to sign a similar insert, I would refuse to allow my signature to be used in that manner because I would not want a likeness of my signature to be mass-produced.


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