The second William Chernoff album, Maybe Eventually, is out today.
I read a article about book publishing that has fascinating relevance to album releases:
The writer, Erik Hoel, says a lot in this long article. But here's what I got out of it: soon, the best musicians won't make albums.
Is Maybe Eventually going to be my last one? What about you – maybe now you're wondering if I think you should stop making them...
But before we can answer that, there are a few things to highlight from the article.
The analogy from book publishing
First, Erik lays out the different steps that published authors face:
"Think of it like a chain of successive events, a chain that goes manuscript → pitch → getting an agent → getting a publisher → getting good reviews → getting sales."
That's a gauntlet of hard steps to run; and the best musicians, for the past century, have had to navigate similar steps.
The analogy for releasing an album with an independent record label would be production → pitching labels → getting a publicist → getting gigs → getting good reviews → getting sales.
If you want industry success but don't have a label as your dance partner, you still have to navigate them yourself.
But what if you don't want to do the steps?
Cutting out the steps, being sustainable
Emmet's Place is the Ed Sullivan Show of jazz and just hit 100 episodes; it seems a lot more sustainable to produce than an expensive studio album, or the kind of tours which brought Emmet to Vancouver recently (as wonderful as that was).
Don't get me wrong – Emmet does a lot of the steps, he has albums. But the thing he's best known for happens to not be the product of those traditional, hard steps.
We're moving from the necessity of the full cycle, production → pitching labels → getting a publicist → getting gigs → getting good reviews → getting sales...
...to artists who sometimes try things that are production → getting sales! Once you own some equipment and have a process, that's what uploading a new video / piece of content / etc. is.
New Jazz Underground don't have an album but are beating almost everyone in my generation. More people are hearing their music, and they're making it at lower cost, possibly zero.
Who's like that over in the world of letters? Erik points to one of the most influential online writers of the past decade, who has so many of his own readers on Substack that he can view it this way:
"When I asked Scott Alexander over at Astral Codex Ten why he’d never published a book, he said (and I’m paraphrasing) there was just no reason to, and from his understanding of the process it looked convoluted and difficult."
New Jazz Underground might think that making an album is too hard and not sustainable. The best musicians will want to be like them and like Scott Alexander, skipping all the steps because they can...