The Italian jazz scene changed profoundly in the new millennium. Public support to events declined, representation of general media nearly disappeared despite highly successful benefits, but on the other hand jazz expanded in the educational system with most conservatories opening jazz departments and a new generation of millennial musicians appeared on the scene with creative use of new promotional media.

Unfortunately some traditional characteristics of Italian jazz are weakening due to the diminution of active brass bands in small centres, a traditional source of brass and reed players in Italy. Popularity of local traditions in the World Music market did not translate in increased interest from the jazz field, due to the heavily touristic and commercial approach of the local authorities (the Pizzica in Apulia is a typical case) bypassing jazz to reach directly into the pop market.

Despite the limited presence on the media jazz is a culturally alive presence in the culture. Jazz concerts were around 5000 in 2019, or 5% more than in 2014, with a total number of tickets sold of around 615.000 and 75.000 presences at free concerts (last number certainly underestimated). July is the most active month with 656 events and 107.000 tickets. Italian society, culture and politics is heavily conditioned by local histories and tradition, and it’s difficult to organize and coordinate at higher level. The support to cultural activities in turn is fragmented and includes funding from State, Regions and Towns, where it’s more subjects to vagaries of politics, with the concept of autonomy of cultural institutions and curators often sacrificed to the will and interest of local politicians with procedures that are rarely transparent. The distribution is uneven on the territory with Lombardy seeing yearly more than twice the events and the revenues of the second (Umbria) and third (Emilia Romagna) regions.

The focus of the market is on pop music so both revenues from tickets and from merchandise volume are overwhelming (90%) from that area, jazz apparently being less attractive for private sponsorships and financially representing only 2% of the market. Lack of support from the State to private sponsorships (tax cuts) exacerbates this situation. 

Until now support for jazz export is quite limited despite leading experiences like Puglia Sounds that allowed local talent to tour internationally and present in international fair events. Creative approaches to a respectful valorization of historical and natural heritage are still rare (Suoni delle Dolomiti, Berchidda Jazz festival among them). Development of networking among professionals in the field hopefully will increase lobbying strength  with state and local authorities for public financial support; no sign still of major private investment in sponsorship and support. The most active regions across the year are Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna, whose cities (Milan and Bologna) have with Rome the most active jazz scenes.

Guide compiled by Francesco Martinelli