Why is shopping for jazz at iTunes and Amazon so difficult? If you browse by artist, you won't have a problem. But good luck browsing the latest re-issues from the 1940s and 1950s—the decades that count most to jazz fans. You simply can't locate these releases in one place at iTunes, and they're impossible to find at Amazon. By contrast, releases by current jazz artists are everywhere on these sites. Which is great, since new jazz artists have something to say artistically and should be able to earn a living. But I'm much more passionate about re-issues of albums recorded and released between 1935 and 1965. And I can't find what I want.
Whenever I visit iTunes and Amazon to see what's new in old recordings, I typically wind up in a cul-de-sac. For example, if you go to iTunes, select "jazz" as a genre from the drop-down on the left hand side, your home page changes. Good. Scroll down and there's a section called "Reissues." Great. But scan the titles and you'll find only two measly pages with a total of just 32 albums! And many of the titles have been available for some time, with hundreds of releases missing.
Part of the problem is that record labels re-issue older albums through dozens of different lines, leaving workers at iTunes and Amazon confused about where to put them. The other problem, I suspect, is that record labels must pay for placement, the same way they had to at stores like Tower. So if you're a company and want your album under a particular category, you probably have to pay a premium for the privilege. Hence, labels have to be picky about what they pay to place. Even if this isn't the case (and I hear from a record industry pal that no money changes hands for placement at iTunes), the upshot is the same: Hundreds of newly re-issued jazz albums from the 1940s and 1950s remain hidden from consumers and largely forgotten.
So here's my suggestion to iTunes, Amazon and all e-retailers of CDs and downloads: Group jazz re-issues by the decades in which they were recorded. In other words, create a main "Reissues" tab. Then feature sub-tabs for each decade: 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, etc.
Then, if I were to click on "1950s," up would come a screen of album images starting with the most recently issued jazz albums and compilations from that decade. Like the one on the right, for example, which I found only because I typed "Gerry Mulligan" into the search engine at Amazon and then changed the drop-down menu to "Release Date." Now imagine that all that latest releases of great old albums are located in one place—on pages featuring 100 album images each!