[JPL] response to Jae Sinnett's post of 03-31-06

Eric Jackson eric-jackson at comcast.net
Sun Apr 2 10:10:01 EDT 2006

On Saturday 01 April 2006 14:52, Bob Rogers wrote:

>a show that has been created for the listeners to expect simply – the
> unexpected.”

     Jae Sinnett, post to JPL, 3-31-06
>                 Thanks to Jae for a posting that certainly resonates with
> me.  I thought the set list example especially well-chosen:
> Hubbard-Lark-Mehldau-Christian Scott-Dafnis Prieto. To me, the invocation
> of surprise as a prime programming directive speaks to many of the issues
> he mentions earlier, such as radio overvaluing marquee names, programming
> more by marketing metrics than by ear.
> 	If I have a stack of music to listen to for airplay consideration, and
> that stack includes Wynton Marsalis and Christian Scott, I’ll make time for
> Scott first because good music from someone I don’t know anything about is
> more interesting to me than the fact that Wynton has recorded another cd.
> Understand I’m using these names only because they were the ones in Jae’s
> example.  Marsalis and Scott could just as easily be James Carter and
> Rudresh Mahanthappa. The degree of their “marquee-nameness” is the point.

I think a balance of some sort is important here. I understand the idea of 
wanting to play the new artist but I remember back in my student days (back 
before I got promo copies) when  I would walk into a record store that if I 
saw a recording by someone and I was interested in their music, I wanted to 
hear it. Sometimes an album of people I wasn't familiar with would catch my 
eye and I'd be curious to hear it but obviously if someone whose music I 
liked released a record, I'd want to hear it. I've always remembered that in 
programming. If a marquee-name puts out a new recording I would assume that 
he or she has an established fan base waiting to hear that new release. In 
order to serve my audience, I factor that into my auditioning and my 
programming. I do want to program that new artist too. The challenge is to 
find some balance, some mix of both.

> 	I can only program jazz in a very personal way.  Someone else (or everyone
> else, for that matter) might listen to Wynton first.  But personally I’d
> rather present someone new to me.  And whatever I want to play after the
> current cut, is what’s going to happen.  It’s that simple and only depends
> on what music I thought to assemble before me.  Because I don’t like to
> preplan my programming, I have to preassemble quite a large body of music
> from which to choose. [note: programming sponteneity is much more
> time-consuming that mere program preparation]
> My decisions are pretty much governed by the passions and emotions I am
> experiencing while that current cut is playing, which in turn may well be
> governed by what I had for breakfast this morning.  It’s pretty much beyond
> my prediction or understanding. The point is, it’s personal, spontaneous,
> very subjective radio. That’s the thing I always listen for and too seldom
> experience. Maybe that’s just me. But when I’m listening to the radio, that
> too is just me. I think radio (and jazz), properly understood and
> practiced, need to be highly personal.

That sounds fine to me.

In 1970 and 1971 I worked for WBUR, doing a Friday evening jazz show. It 
eventually became an overnight show. When I started  I found what you might 
describe as an after hours scene going on in the studio. Lots of musicians 
would drop by just to play in the studio, not on the air. It was a huge jam 
session and lots of other folks stopped by to listen to the music. It was a 
unique experience for me as an announcer because it was like doing a jazz 
show on the radio with a live audience. That's something most of us today 
don't do. When I made segues I could often see and hear the audience 
reaction. Although they might ask me later about the unknown artist, the 
response to the familiar was immediate. People responded verbally. They often 
showed some sort of body movement that indicated how much they liked the 

From 1972 to 1977 I worked at WBCN doing the overnight show during the week. I 
was hired to do a show and the show was to be about 60% jazz. I remember one 
of the veteran announcers coming to me and saying how much he enjoyed my 
show. He thought it was the best all night show in the country at the time 
but he did have a comment I never forgot. He told me that sometimes he felt 
lost. There would be no words and nothing familiar. He said that while 
listening, he needed to have something familiar or else he got lost. I think 
he was challenging me to find some sort of balance between what will be 
familiar to a number of listeners while also taking them musically to new 

> If I am listening to the radio, it’s going to be jazz most of the time. And
> if that jazz programming isn’t interesting enough to me, I’ll turn it off,
> which happens a lot.  If I hear too many marquee names, I figure the person
> on the air either is not making their own decisions or, from my
> perspective, they don’t seem to know their ass from a hole in the ground or
> it sounds like some marketing plan in action.  Why would I listen to some
> marketing/celebrity-addled airhead? [CLICK!]

Well, I would just ask you, do you see yourself as just the average music fan? 
My guess is that you and I  and a lot of the other people on this list are 
not the average music fan. When I program I am trying to stay true to the 
music while trying to reach as many people as I can with my show. I need to 
be able to appeal to the average jazz fan and not just to the aficionados. 
Not every listener is as adventurous as we might be.

In addition, just because something is familiar to us or because it's 
something we've heard a million times that doesn't mean it's won't be a first 
time listening experience for someone else. I've had callers who didn't know 
who Duke Ellington was.

> Moral:  If you can surprise me maybe I’ll keep listening.  But understand
> that if you don’t surprise me you will bore me.  And I can get music from
> any number of sources.  I don’t have to tolerate boredom in music.  If I
> wanted boredom I’d be listening to some “rock” station on commercial radio.

As I tried to point out above, the familiar, can surprise and bring joy to 
many listeners and that is who we are doing radio for.

Eric Jackson
8 pm - mid Mon - Thurs
WGBH Boston
89.7 FM

> Best regards,
> Bob Rogers
> 2816 Barmettler Street
> Raleigh, NC 27607
> WSHA - www.wshafm.org
> email: rwsfin at hotmail.com
> phone: (919) 413-4126
> >From: Jae Sinnett <jaejazz at yahoo.com>
> >Reply-To: Jazz Programmers Mailing List <jazzproglist at jazzweek.com>
> >To: jazzproglist at jazzweek.com
> >Subject: [JPL] Elevating the Instrumental Artist
> >Date: Fri, 31 Mar 2006 11:09:38 -0800 (PST)
> >Permit me to share some thoughts on an issue that I think has major
> >significance in keeping jazz vital and moving forward. I've always thought
> >about this but with the deluge of product radio receives I've thought
> > about it more. Over the past several years a major concern with me in the
> > industry is the apparent inability to create new instrumental marquee
> > names. Some might identify them as "jazz stars." I've talked about this
> > many times but it's getting worse. Now one can argue how much
> >responsibility and or potential radio has in helping with this issue but
> >certainly it can do more and I'll discuss this in more detail in a moment.
> >Firstly, the reasons as to why I think this is happening.......
> >
> >   Print and electronic media in all genres of music simply focus too much
> >on established artists. There is a presumption I believe that if they
> > don't folk won't read, listen or watch. I don't necessarily agree with
> > this thinking. Peeps - from an historical perspective.......
> >
> >   Think about all the jazz marquee names that were created in the 40's
> > and 50's. It's astonishing to think how many came out of those decades.
> > Now look at the 60's and 70's. Several but not as many as the preceding
> > two and then the more happy jazz artists started popping up like Spyro
> > and the Rippingtons. Now look at the 80's and 90's and you would have a
> > difficult time coming up with enough true instrumental marquee names to
> > fill two hands. Wynton, Branford and Joshua are a few of the few that
> > come to mind in these two decades but here's an interesting
> > observation...... Wynton is coming here April 30th and apparently will
> > sell out 2200 seats at Chrysler Hall. As of today he's at 1600. Branford
> > is coming April 8th and is now at about 600 in a 1700 seat venue so we
> > can debate what actually constitutes a "jazz star" based on drawing
> > capacity. It's also different from market to market but when you really
> > think about it the jazz artists that are selling in the upper hundreds or
> >  thousands have been established mostly before 1980.
> >
> >   Another reason this is happening is that on the major jazz festivals
> >over the years the overwhelming number of artists relentlessly featured
> >were marquee names that were part of a revolving door on these festivals
> >while a generation was coming up underneath them with little or no
> >exposure. Now all those major names are gone and you have this generation
> >and now almost another that folk not directly connected to the industry
> >know little or nothing about. This "tilting" started in the early 80's I
> >believe and has only gotten worse since.
> >
> >    Now radio........From my perspective folk tune in because of the
> >concept of the format. The serious jazz fan will tune in because....it's
> >jazz. The not so might because they are waiting to hear their favorite
> >artist or someone that "sounds" like them. So yes, while jazz fans have
> >their favorite artists in this regard, as do programmers, it's not so much
> >about who you play but the concept of what's being presented. So when I
> > see a programmer saying that the bigger names with the bigger labels will
> > get the priority it's really not necessary because for the most part if
> > the audience member doesn't have the recording and from a purely musical
> > position, they're not going to be able to tell you who's playing anyway.
> > So we as programmers need to look at this more closely and perhaps from
> > different perspectives.
> >
> >   For example, if I play Freddie Hubbard blowing lets say....."You're My
> >Everything" then Bob Lark doing "Bye Bye Blackbird" then closing the set
> >with Brad Mehldau playing "Monk's Dream," that's within a certain musical
> >concept.  Now what if I wanted to play Christian Scott doing "Say It" next
> >and Dafnis Prieto? This is outside of that previous musical concept but
> > not necessarily outside of a concept of a show that has been created for
> > the listeners to expect simply - the unexpected. Consequently, your
> > listeners are tuning in to not expect "Stella" all night but in fact the
> > core audience of this type of jazz show tunes in to hear what's new. If
> > we act like slaves to the familiar the music moves no-where and the
> > belief that a show can't succeed if not presented this way is simply not
> > true because I've proven it can work. When you have a jazz program that
> > airs Sunday afternoons and weeknights from 9pm-1am raise more money than
> > Morning Edition and ATC (not combined - Jazz  $51,000 - ATC - $48,000 -
> > ME - $43,000) during our fall 2005 two week fundraiser......are you going
> > to tell me it can't work?
> >
> >   One simple but extraordinarily helpful way radio can help more, is the
> >interview. That's the deal breaker in my opinion with the artists folks.
> >You can play "new" artists until you're blue in the face but I will
> >guarentee you most won't get it. It's the story behind the artists that
> >will get the listeners attention and I truly believe in radio we must make
> >more of an effort to bring in new or lesser known artists to the
> >interviewing table - by phone or live and not simply wait until they are
> >appearing in your area. This is the best way radio can help these artists.
> >
> >   What has really gotten me thinking this way as programmer is I look at
> >the success I've had from the interviews I've done in reference to my
> >recording(s). Every market where I've done interviews I've seen major
> >increases in sales and their listeners emailing me asking when we would be
> >performing in their areas. In saying all of this I will add that the
> >artists have to be capable of intelligent and insightful engagement to
> > make the interview interesting and thought provoking. I think most know
> > the value of interviews but too often we wait for the "big" name or
> > again, when the artists come to town. I personally think this is a major
> > area in which radio can contribute more to the development to the lesser
> > known. I would bet if we re-focused on this area of our programming we
> > can certainly help in creating more "jazz stars."
> >
> >   Jae Sinnett
> -------------------------------------------
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