American Music in the United States

Jazz at BMI

The realms of country, r&b, and pop were not the only musical genres to receive BMI's attention. From its very start BMI had recognized the inescapable position of jazz in the musical environment and helped set up publishing companies for a number of America's most popular bandleaders, such as Jimmie Lunceford (New Era Music), and Lionel Hampton (Swing and Tempo Music). Small jazz-oriented labels also established BMI-affiliated publishing houses, and that support was crucial for the very survival of a musical form the major labels have never supported with the fervor the independents possess.

Because of its aggressive logging and advances, jazz composers signed with BMI in droves. Many of them were also recording artists and recognized the value of publishing as well as the performing rights earning potential funneled through BMI. By 1961 the list included Manny Albam, Bob Brookmeyer, Dave Brubeck, Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, George Russell, and Gunther Schuller, to name just a few.

Russell Sanjek, who by the early sixties was serving as vice president for public relations at BMI, passionately supported jazz and jazz composers and promoted their repertoire as a priority at the company. He personally helped organize major jazz festivals and directed the publication of a series of descriptive discographical brochures, distributed worldwide through the United States Information Agency.

Information on this page courtesy of the bmi library