Shola Ameobi

Looking for some insight into the business side of Jazz in the 50's and 60's.

4 posts in this topic


I am currently in the process of writing a screenplay about a fictional jazz musician in the mid-1950's and my research has hit a brick wall.  I am hoping to find any help I can get in regards to the business side of jazz musicians at this time, namely:

  • What was the role of a manager for a jazz musician in the 1950's?
         - What role would the manager play in the musicians career? Booking gigs? Handling the financial side? Booking studio time? 
         - How much of an input would the manager have in the career of the musician? It seems like the artist would have a lot, if not all control over who they played with, what musicians they collaborated with, and authority over pretty much all of the artistic decisions.
  • At what point would a jazz musician gain representation?
         - Was it possible/common for artists to manage themselves or not have representation altogether? Was the role of a manager essential?
  • Would the manager represent just one person or the whole group?
         - It would seem any business decisions would affect the whole group of musicians in say a quartet, would a manger represent just the leader  of the group or would he represent the group as a whole?
         - Would each musician have different representation or would some not have any representation at all? 
         - If he represented the group as a whole and the band leader were to fire him, would he stop representing every musician in the group? 
  • Would the artist(s) have to sign a binding contract to a manager?

The character in question is a (locally) well respected musician but has not reached any national level of fame, or recorded any studio albums yet. He is getting work due to his reputation as a musician, but has yet to reach any real level of success. If anyone knew the managerial situations of artists such as Miles, Coltrane or Bill Evans both prior to or during the 50's 60's that would also be very useful. 

Thank you in advance for any help whatsoever with the above questions, any other useful information regarding the business/management side of jazz in the 50's (/60's) would also be greatly appreciated. 


Edited by Shola Ameobi

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To get some "period" insight for background info, try to get a copy of "The Jazz Scene" by Francis Newton (first published in 1959).

The Down Beat "Music '63" Yearbook says this about the book: "A fine, new thinker in jazz probes without cant or bombast the origins and directions of jazz and has much to say about social and business aspects of the music."


Edited by Big Beat Steve

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I know off your topic, but have you given any background to where or how this musician learned his skills? In the army? touring with big bands? How old is he meant to be? Disregard question if it is to diverting. I look forward to learning from the replies myself. And very good luck with your story! It just come to mind that in the Grant Green bio, Leo Goodens who was a club owner and local DJ if I remember correctly was looking after Grant's interests before he went to New York. So Grant Green's place in the music at this time  would correspond to your timeline very closely, i.e.; late 50's (location St. Louis), relatively unknown accept by local music community, no level of fame yet, etc.

Edited by robertoart

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Although not specifically on the issue of management, Marc Myers' excellent Why Jazz Happened will give you an instructive picture of the social and financial background to jazz of that period.

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