I am always amazed at how commoning reaches into the most unlikely realms of life. The latest example that I’ve discovered is jazz performance! For the moment, leave aside the idea of jazz as an artform that is fundamentally about commoning – improvised collaboration, individual artistry that flowers within an ensemble, being attuned to the present moment.
Let’s just consider concert production as a commons.
In western Massachuetts, where I live, Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares represents a creative mashup of the CSA farm model (community-supported agriculture) with concert production. Instead of paying upfront for a season’s supply of vegetables, people pay for a September-June season of ten jazz concerts. It’s like a subscription model but it’s more of a community investment in supporting a jazz ecosystem. Talented musicians get to perform, fans get to experience some cutting-edge jazz, the prices are entirely reasonable for everyone, and a community spirit flourishes.
As the group explains:
Our members purchase jazz shares to provide the capital needed to produce concerts with minimal institutional support. A grassroots, all-volunteer organization, we are a community of music lovers in Western Massachusetts dedicated to the continued vitality of jazz music. By pooling resources, energy and know-how, members create an infrastructure that is able to bring world-class improvisers to our region.
Cofounders Glenn Siegel and Priscilla Page decided to launch Jazz Shares after realizing that there were many more jazz musicians in the region than there were commercial venues to support them. As a longtime concert producer at the Fine Arts Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Siegel lamented, “Each season I would receive many more worthy gig requests than I could honor. With a limit on how many University concerts I could produce each year (six), and without the personal resources to just write checks, I got tired of saying ‘Sorry, no’ to some of my musical heroes. I knew there must be another way to bring these great musicians to town.”
As an economist might put it, there was a market failure (demand did not induce an adequate supply). So commoning came to the rescue!