Founder Mike Jeffers
In 1994 Mike Jeffers returned to Chicago after attending the University of North Texas (UNT) on a full music/percussion scholarship. He began sitting in nightly at some of Chicago’s legendary jazz clubs, learning the music, connecting with other musicians, and growing as an artist. By 1999 Mike had built a name for himself on the music scene and had several steady weekly gigs along with over 60 private students a week.
A friend, who worked as a computer programmer, mentioned that he should have a website to promote his playing and teaching. He agreed but didn’t know much about the internet at the time. They both investigated what domains were available—yes MichaelJeffers.com was available—but to their shock ChicagoJazz.com was also available. That moment sparked a new thought process for Mike. He was now driven to get as much knowledge as possible on how to start and run a successful business. He learned about developing content, optimizing for SEO, creating content that would drive traffic to a website, and different ways to generate revenue.
In late 2000 the first version of ChicagoJazz.com was launched with a focus on promoting the musicians and venues that create the Chicago jazz scene. It was very simple—just a couple of pages with a list of venues, a profile for Mike and a couple other musicians, and a small jazz calendar. Because there wasn’t anything else around, the site immediately got traffic and Mike was contacted by corporate event and wedding planners looking for help in connecting with musicians. He realized if he added in some additional content features the site had a potential to grow and connect with even more people.
While still playing nightly gigs and teaching 60+ private students a week, Mike started writing content for the site and doing feature interviews with artists. Traffic picked up and the site began to grow in popularity—not only in Chicago but on a national level. However, generating revenue was a struggle, as most of the jazz world was primarily offline.
For the next two years Mike continued to work very long hours creating content and getting more and more traffic to the site—but generating revenue still lagged. To that end, in 2002 Mike teamed up with a friend, Dan Ferris, who was the sales manager at a national publication and a jazz vocalist, to launch Chicago Jazz Magazine. Mike managed to sell enough ads to pay for the first issue and it was premiered at the 2002 Chicago Jazz Festival on Labor Day weekend. The feature interview was legendary jazz violinist Johnny Frigo. Other content included a photo gallery by Bill Klewitz, a full schedule of performances at the jazz fest, a few reviews, and a map of Chicago jazz venues.
The new print magazine was distributed for free throughout the weekend to jazz fans at the fest and at 50 venues, bookstores, and music stores in the city and suburbs by Mike and his wife, Christine. The launch was successful, and Chicago Jazz Magazine started regular bimonthly production featuring local and national artists, record reviews, regular columns, and musician profiles.
The following year, 2003, Mike and Ferris met with the city of Chicago and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events to solidify a deal for Chicago Jazz Magazine to become the official publishers of the Chicago Jazz Festival program book. In 2004 Chicago Jazz Magazine became the official publisher of the Chicago Blues Festival program book for the city of Chicago—a relationship that continues today.
In 2007 Mike restructured the company under the corporate name Chicago Jazz Publishing & Entertainment INC, enabling him to create separate divisions for Chicago Jazz Magazine and ChicagoJazz.com. He also launched a new division called Chicago Jazz Entertainment, which focuses on providing entertainment for corporate receptions, private events, and festivals. Highlights include the founding and production of the Deer Park Jazz & Wine Festival, The Gallo Wine Garden at the Taste of Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago’s Jazz Series, and many others. Chicago Jazz Entertainment also offers event management services for corporate clients, municipalities, and non-profit organizations.
In 2017, with the cost of publishing skyrocketing, Mike decided to take the publication exclusively online and turn it into a monthly digital magazine that would include video feature interviews and podcasts. That format lasted until the spring of 2020 when the pandemic forced Chicago Jazz Magazine to pause day-to-day operations due to the closing of many jazz venues and the cancellation of festivals. Reworking his concept during the pandemic, Mike pivoted and started a daily online video/podcast show called Chicago Music Revealed. He interviewed artists from around the world about new releases, projects, and how they were coping with the pandemic.
In 2022 ChicagoJazz.com has become one of the leading resources for jazz in Chicago. The site now features weekly video interviews, podcasts, weekly photography features, and much more. Mike continues to be 100% owner of Chicago Jazz Publishing & Entertainment INC.
Chicago Jazz Publishing & Entertainment INC
Chicago Jazz Publishing & Entertainment INC 1999 - 2022
1999: Domain purchased ChicagoJazz.com
2000: ChicagoJazz.com launched
2002 – 2017: Founded Chicago Jazz Magazine (print magazine)
2003 – Present: Official Publisher of the city of Chicago Jazz Festival and Chicago Blues Festival Program
2003 – 2019: Official publisher of the city of Chicago Jazz Festival Program
2007 - Present: Founded Chicago Jazz Entertainment (entertainment booking and event management)
2012 – 2018: Official merchant for all artist merchandise sales,autographs sessions at Chicago Jazz & Blues Festivals.
2010 – 2017: Produced a live music booth at the Chicago Jazz & Blues Festivals
2010 – 2015: Produced the Gallo Jazz Wine Garden at the Taste of Chicago
Presented live jazz performances throughout the day. (2010 & 2011 - 10 days) (2012 to 2015 - 5 days)
2011-2012: Radio Show produced “This is Chicago Jazz” with Mike Jeffers 950am
2012-2013: Radio Show produced “Chicago Jazz Revealed Live from Katerina’s” with Mike Jeffers WDCB 90.9 FM
2012 - Present: Founded and produced the Deer Park Jazz & Wine Festival (Chicago Jazz Entertainment)
2016 - Present: Produced "Talking Jazz with Mike Jeffers, Chicago Music Revealed, Around Town with Chicago Jazz
Youtube, social media, podcast interview show
2017 - Produced & Published "Stay On It" a personalized journal of NEA Jazz Master Joe Segal (founder: Jazz Showcase)
2017 - Present: Launched Chicago Jazz Magazine Digital Magazine