Approaching jazz can seem intimidating for those who don’t know hard bop from bebop (or maybe even “Blitzkrieg Bop”). The genre’s history stretches back a century and it comprises innumerable recordings. It’s the subject of academic papers and, at the same time, it appears as samples on many rap and pop albums. With all this in mind, one prestigious jazz label is trying to make its catalog a little more accessible.
Today (Thursday), Blue Note Records launches its app on Spotify that emphasizes jazz discovery over snobbery and opens its vast catalog. Since 1939, the label has released landmark albums by jazz legends like John Coltrane, Art Blakey and Freddie Hubbard, as well as recent records by the likes of Norah Jones, Anita Baker and actor-singer Jeff Bridges. However, those names are just a small sampling of a bigger picture; the creators of the app aimed to present the label’s approximately 500 records, which include its very first session through the most recent output, in a way that helps people navigate toward music they would like rather than music they’re supposed to like.
“When they put the app on my computer, I said, ‘Wow, I have this amazing record collection?'” jokes Blue Note president Don Was, a lifelong jazz fan with a big personality who made his name performing with the quirky dance-pop group Was (Not Was) and producing records for the likes of the Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop and Stone Temple Pilots. “One of my concerns when I first came to the record company – not just for Blue Note but for all record companies – [is that] I understand why a 15-year-old doesn’t feel incentivized to download some file. There’s nothing romantic about that. What strikes me about this app is that it makes the music larger than life. I think it has a wonderful vibe to it. It draws you into the mystique of the music.”
“We didn’t want the app to feel like it’s coming from some authority, telling what records you should like because they’re important,” says Walter Gross, EMI Music’s Senior Director of Digital Marketing, who has led the creation of Blue Note’s Spotify app from its inception in April. “The whole catalog is there for people to discover in many different ways.”
The way Gross and his team present Blue Note’s catalog within the app is unique, as it provides many points of entry into what may seem like an intimidating number of recordings. First, they broke it into the expected ways a fan might sort his or her catalog, allowing users to sort albums and artists by subgenres like traditional jazz, groove-oriented jazz …
Read more: Rolling Stone