Saturday, July 30, 2011

Smooth Jazz / A new way to beat a dead horse.

Another Smooth Jazz station goes down in flames but the world keeps right on spinning.

Let me address the common misconception that I take any sort of pleasure in 94.7 The WAVE in Canada flipping formats this year. As one of the long term unemployed and as a previous announcer here in the Louisville area my heart goes out to anyone working in the rather transient world of commercial radio and especially those finding themselves without a gig! 

That being said if you are truly shocked then you are not paying close attention while playing at home. "WAVE" did what a great many stations do jazz or otherwise - they flipped or will be flipping formats in the next 48 hours. Why?


For the uninitiated commercial radio is not in the business of promoting artists, music, or culture be it jazz, country or rock. Commercial radio's first and only intent is to sell advertising based on researched demographics in a particular location. Granted there can be error involved in any statistical study but the ultimate objective in a format change is increased advertising sales - period.

This decision by the powers that be at "WAVE" is not some grand musical middle finger to the world of smooth jazz. Check this out:

Recording sales are not broken out by genre in this chart, but the RIAA’s 2008 “Music Consumers Profile” contains data reviewing almost a decade of business. According to the published figures, jazz sales equaled 3.0 per cent of total sales in 1999, hit 3.4 per cent in 2002, dropped to 1.8 in 2005, and in 2008 registered a mere 1.1 per cent of sales. In almost every year classical sales trump jazz sales; religious music sales are in the 3.9 to 6.7 range; pop, country, urban/R&B and hip-hop each claim numbers in the low double digits, and rock accounts for between 24.8 and 34 per cent of year end shipments. Other data measures formats, channels, consumers’ ages and genders. ( for the complete article check out the link below )

Numbers do not lie. Jazz - not smooth, not urban jazz, not straight ahead jazz but JAZZ is the lowest in pre-recorded sales so if your station is struggling what possible sense does it make to stay true ( in this case ) to a format that is as dead as Elvis Presley? Chieli Minucci made some interesting comments concerning the documented decline in the industry in a review posted on this site. For me it is more than a vibe, jazz is the one true American cultural art form and an art form that should be celebrated in all of its forms, genres, sub genres and virtually any other label you would like to place on it to feel better about yourself.

The format change at "WAVE" can be considered yet another warning shot concerning the cultural dumbing down of this country and the "virtual" ease in which sonic ear candy can be transported to us in the blink of an eye. Taste is subject and there are far too many variables to consider.

Profit and loss are tangible. You make money or you lose money so how do we fix this? We attack this problem on two fronts first being music appreciation in the schools moving to more selective and smarter choices made by the consumer. You would not buy a car that seemed "slapped together" so why would you buy music that is merely a rehash of what was previously tried and true? Artists will only be as creative as they feel the need to be but if we support our artists no matter what medium or genre they perform in the results will have to better than some of the watered down pablum that sounds as though it has been run through a sonic soul press. I hold the same standards for the traditional community; put out a piano trio that is nothing but standards then how about bringing something new and different to the table in presentation? I have no musical double standard and neither should the passive listener.

The good news for the fans of "WAVE" as well as smooth jazz is that the Internet side of the equation remains in tact. To me the Internet platform is but a temporary fix to the solution. If they are not listening on commercial radio why would you expect Internet coverage to make the difference? Coverage and accessibility for Internet use is still an issue for some and until sales can even remotely approach double digits in pre-recorded product, much like the American economy there is a long and very bumpy road ahead for jazz.

I enjoy jazz in general and despite favoring the more traditional, thanks to this blog I have been able to become "friends" with some of the finest names in smooth jazz today and turned on to music that I listen to on a regular basis. It all comes down to support which translates directly into:


You can pay me now or you can pay me later.