Back in 2008, I was fortunate enough to interview Scott Wenzel of Mosaic Records. That interview help draw eyes to this blog and I’ve been curious about a follow-up for awhile. This summer, Scott and I e-mailed back and forth about how things have changed for Mosaic:
Q1: In our last interview, we briefly discussed emerging technology in music. At that time, Mosaic had mostly ceased to issue vinyl in favor of CDs. Yet here we are almost seven years later and vinyl is back in a big way. With CD sales dropping precipitously, is there pressure on Mosaic to release music digitally (perhaps in a lossless audio file format)? Where do you see Mosaic heading in terms of format. Is streaming an option?
Streaming is not an option at this point as we’re actually caught in a legal net that is dictated by the parent record companies. For the most part, Mosaic is routinely cleared by the parent company for re-release on either LP or CD but currently we are not given the rights to put the music out in any type of audio file. And although downloading is the way most people obtain the music of their choice these days, we have stayed afloat and are dedicated to do what we have been doing for as long as we can by offering listeners an opportunity to physically collect, hold and cherish the music in a tangible way. Would you believe that we still have customers calling us for a printed catalog (which we offer annually) since they don’t own a computer! So, even with CD sales dropping, Mosaic has this niche that very few labels, if any, can claim to and until something else of a physical nature can replace the LP or CD, I see us as continuing in this format indefinitely. (By the way, many of our customers take our LPs and CDs and then download it themselves onto whatever device they use for listening so it’s kind of a “win-win”).
Q2: I am a big fan of Mosaic’s Daily Jazz Gazette. How did this come about and has it helped drive traffic to your site and product? The internet has been a great leveler in terms of access to jazz in all forms (from all eras). Is this wealth of availability a good thing for the music or has piracy and streaming undercut an already niche market’s profitability?
There’s a richness of great writing, photos and videos available across the world that we come in contact with when putting together sets and we thought it would be a worthwhile service to have a place where we could curate this info and share with jazz fans. I’m not sure how much traffic or sales it drives but it certainly brings the music a lot closer to people. It also sparks a number of phone calls from customers ready to order the music they saw on our website! The availability of music is, of course, a good thing, however piracy obviously hurts any musician and small labels.
Q3: Has Mosaic discontinued its Select line? There hasn’t been a new one in quite awhile. I was a big fan of the Tyner, Chambers, & Moncur selects, though much of that music has since been re-issued by the originating labels. Was that a factor in the decision?
The reason for the discontinuation of the Mosaic Select and Mosaic Singles line is plain and simple. Financial. Although our hearts dictate the passion of what we release, the bottom line is that we make enough of a profit off of each set to continue in our mission. Generally speaking we need to produce sets that are at the minimum 4 CDs worth of music. Anything less than that is suicidal. It’s too bad since the Selects and Singles were price friendly for our customers and served as a ways and means of making available certain chunks of music that normally would not be feasible in a larger set.