An espresso with…
Vincent Bessières

Image Credits: Vincent Bessieres © Eric Garault

June 5, 2018

Jazz in France

We have met Vincent Bessières, the owner of Jazz&People, a label which is producing a lot of very interesting records.

How and when was Jazz&People born?
I started Jazz&People in 2014 after being active as a professional jazz journalist, radio producer and exhibition curator. A lot of musicians were coming to me asking for advice on how to release their music. Some of them, all very talented, were determined to subscribe a loan at their bank to get the funds to print and market their albums because they could not find any label. I thought the business had really gone mad if artists had to take bank loans and that there should be another way of doing things. ArtistShare seemed to be doing great in the US with artists like Maria Schneider and crowdfunding was on the verge of becoming popular in France, so I thought there was probably something worth trying there.
How do you choose the artists you produce?
Most of the artists on the label are self-produced. They own their masters but, generally, we are partners on the making of the album and on the release. I really try to work hand in hand with them. Most of them are people I have known for years and followed initially as a journalist. I sometimes wrote the liner notes to some of their previous albums! I know what they have done, where they are coming from and I try to help them develop projects that have both artistic value and commercial potential. The market has been shrinking for so many years that you have to take both in consideration. I also encourage the French artists on the label to collaborate with internationally known musicians to help them to increase their visibility. That’s also a way for me to feature on the label some of the musicians I admire the most, such as Walter Smith III, Chris Cheek or Seamus Blake. I have always been very interested in upcoming talents, and I am glad to have been launching artists such as pianists Yonathan Avishai and Enzo Carniel.  
Labels are facing hard times given the streaming model and YouTube: do you think the future will be easier for the music industry?
I have very strong doubts that the future of the record industry will be bright. If nothing changes, small labels will not survive and jazz artists will have to cover 100% not only of production but also marketing and promotion. Most of them just cannot. They already struggle to make a living, and even if they can get some public funding in France to produce their records, it is not enough. The streaming income has to be related to what subscribers are really listening to. Why does the money I pay to Spotify go to Rihanna if I only listen to Keith Jarrett online? That does make sense. My money should go to him or whoever I listen to. This has to change.
What would you suggest to some youngsters wishing to become pro and have a record deal?
I would recommend them to start producing… videos! Make a good video, share it, spread it, get people like it, and then you’ll have a reputation that will make a first album more feasible. You have to create your audience, people who will help you fund your albums or who will buy them at gigs.
Which record you would have liked to produce in the history of jazz?
There are so many that it is hard to tell, I wish I could have been sitting next to Alfred Lion during the Golden era of Blue Note Records, but I am not nostalgic. And I sincerely believe that some albums on Jazz&People will last and that they are already part of the great history of this music.
Which is the dream you would like to come true?
Make the label profitable!
Which are the next novelties in your catalogue?
The upcoming albums are trumpeter Fabien Mary Left Arm Blues (and Other New York Stories), guitarist Romain Pilon Copper featuring saxophonist Seamus Blake and pianist Pierre de Bethmann and the very first album by pianist Dexter Goldberg, who was named by his father after Dexter Gordon! 

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