“Everybody loves a winner”…no truer words were ever spoken. From Big Brother, The X-Factor to Let’s Dine Out it the element of competition underpins popular culture – almost defines it. One of the first jobs I had in jazz management was with the formidable Janine Irons of Dune Records. When I arrived in 1999 Janine was in the throes of organising a campaign to gather votes for Denys Baptiste who was nominated for his wonderful debut album Be Who You Are. Janine’s determination and relentless campaign for votes ensured his victory and Denys’ career and profile had a massive boost as a result. Janine taught me a lot about winning and determination for which I will always be grateful.
When I struck out on my own in 2000 working with my then partner Dennis Rollins I found the going really tough because although he was recognized as a talented instrumentalist he didn’t have any ‘gongs’ for me to tout to promoters and the press. It was many years later in 2006 when Dennis finally won The BBC Jazz Award for ‘Best Band’ that things really began to move in the right direction for him profile-wise. Dennis subsequently won just about everything that was on offer – the Brtitish Jazz Award twice, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Award in 2007, and the list goes on – even Doncaster’s Freedom of the Borough! I leveraged each accolade marketing-wise and with the help of my talented PR professional – the late Helen Maleed – the news of Dennis’ success spread far and wide resulting in opportunities we could only have dreamed of prior to 2006. I employed the same strategy with Empirical whom I managed from 2007 to 2011: When they didn’t win the prestigious Peter Whittingham Award award the first time around in 2006 (they later won it in 2008) I scoured the internet and discovered a call-out for submissions for the inaugural European Broadcasting Union (EBU) Jazz Competition. Empirical made the cut and along with 4 other finalists participated in a nail-biting (for me anyway) competition at North Sea Jazz Festival in 2007. Long story short Empirical won, their lauded Courtney Pine-produced eponymous album was released three days later and the rest – including their MOBO jazz category award in 2010 – is history. It all helps the cause. Whether or not the award is prestigious like a MOBO or a little less high brow a win is a win and gives the artist a good excuse to remind promoters why they should give them a gig and provides the press with a reason to come out to review it.