The Secret Life of a Jazz Publicist – Don Lucoff

Don Lucoff has been marketing jazz professionally since 1983. He got his start in the music industry when he took a 6-10 A.M. shift on KCR, San Diego, while enrolled at San Diego State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing. Lucoff is a native of Los Angeles, California, and came up listening to the late great jazz dj Jim Gosa on radio station KBCA during the early 1970’s. Lucoff credits Gosa with passing down the ethics that guide his work today at his own public relations firm, DL Media.

It was fan appreciation that brought the young 14-year-old Lucoff to visit Gosa. The meeting proved to be the catalyst for Lucoff’s own radio experience in college (WKCR, KSDS) and public radio (KCRW). In 1982, Gosa introduced Lucoff (who was by then working in the voice-over department at Herb Tannen Associates) to Darlene Chan of Festival Productions. She gave him a job as transportation coordinator for the 1982 Kool Jazz Festival in Los Angeles; ask Lucoff about the time he got lost in Watts with Oliver Lake.

“My stint at Festival Productions provided me with an invaluable opportunity to appreciate the experience of the artist by putting me in direct contact with world-class musicians,” states Lucoff. While working as jazz editor for Music Connection magazine, Lucoff began his career as a publicist working for Playboy Enterprises, signing on to handle media relations for the 1983 Playboy Jazz Festival.

Through his Playboy Festival experience with the Modern Jazz Quartet, Lucoff met publicist Peter Levinson. They struck a deal that called for Lucoff to make the pilgrimage to the jazz capitol of the world — New York City.

While an associate at Peter Levinson Communications, Lucoff developed relationships with such esteemed artists as Antonio Carlos Jobim, B.B. King, Artie Shaw, Dr. Billy Taylor, Woody Herman, Bill Evans, The Count Basie Orchestra, Mel Tormé and Rosemary Clooney.

In late 1985, Irving Azoff, then President of MCA Records, announced the formation of a new jazz division headed by Zebra Records founder Ricky Schultz. Lucoff was hired as National Director of Publicity for MCA Jazz. MCA was the only major label to have a staff solely promoting jazz. Schultz, Lucoff, Marketing Director Randall Kennedy and Promotion Director, Brenda Winfield, got off to a fast start by signing Larry Carlton, Henry Butler, Mike Metheny, George Howard, Yellowjackets, Jack DeJohnette and Michael Brecker. The prestigious Impulse! catalogue was revived and shortly thereafter, MCA Records was recognized as “Jazz Label of the Year” in Billboard magazine. However, MCA Jazz abruptly closed on November 18, 1988 as part of a major company-wide restructuring, and Lucoff took the opportunity to establish his own company, DL Media.

Since the beginning of operations in the winter of 1989, DL Media represented the prestigious Blue Note Records label, spearheading their 50th, 60th, and 70th anniversary campaigns. DL Media has also consulted: Warner Brothers, Sony Masterworks, Motema Music, Columbia/Legacy, Concord Music Group, Mosaic Records, Marsalis Music, Mac Avenue Music Group, Jazz Village, Resilience Music Alliance, Resonance Records, Dreyfus Jazz, RCA Victor Jazz, Evidence Music, ACT Music, Denon, Island, GRP, Liberty – Nashville, ECM, Shanachie, DIW, Koch International/eOne, Black Saint/Soul Note, Intuition, Savoy, Heads Up, Smoke Sessions Records, Justin Time, Impulse!, and Verve Music Group.

Additionally, DL Media has also represented artists representing traditional and contemporary genres: Willie Nelson, Kamasi Washington, Tina Turner, Bruce Hornsby, Keith Jarrett, Dave Holland, Bill Frisell, Jack DeJohnette, Jim Hall, Chick Corea, Christian McBride, Max Roach, Branford Marsalis, Charles Lloyd, Tuck & Patti, Les McCann, Jackie King, Kamasi Washingtion, Dave Holland, Pat Metheny, Freddie Hubbard, Grover Washington Jr., Jazz Is Dead, Steve Morse, Derek Trucks, Shirley Horn, Abbey Lincoln, Terri Lyne Carrington, Clarence Clemons, Joe Zawinul, Bill Laswell, Roy Haynes, André Previn, Ronnie Laws, Ahmad Jamal, Dianne Reeves, Bobby McFerrin and Courtney Pine, among others.

“I felt that there was great music being produced all over the world and these artists needed a voice in the U.S.,” states Lucoff. As a result, DL Media has successfully ventured into the Brazilian and world music field representing artists such as: Caetano Veloso, Milton Nascimento, Hermeto Pascoal, Toninho Horta, Eliane Elias, Ricardo Silvera, Marisa Monte, Carlinhos Brown, Mahlathini and The Mahotella Queens, Fela Kuti, and Zulu Spear, Kodo, Alpha Blondy, Hugh Masekela, Lucky Dube, Salif Keita and the Skatalites.

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