[JPL] Computers are useless

Bob Rogers rwsfin at hotmail.com
Mon Sep 4 13:26:54 EDT 2006

"Computers are useless because all they give you are answers."

                                            Pablo Picasso

Suppose I assert that the only acceptable way to present any form of 
artistic expression is to present it with artistic intentions.  That is, 
present it in a manner aesthetically pleasing to the presenter, one who 
always feels perfectly free to “lay it out as it plays,” like a good jazz 
musician.  How would that idea strike you?  Unworkable?  Pretentious?  
Self-indulgent?  Naïve?  Incorrect?  How about Necessary?

The notion today that one or two people in a radio station should compile a 
list of music that it’s okay to play and that that list will best represent 
the music and serve the listeners, is an outmoded idea and exactly the 
opposite of what needs to happen.  If every member of your air staff is a 
knowledgeable and gifted presenter, centralizing the decision of what gets 
played is inherently inferior to the collective consciousness (including the 
moods, spells, notions, eccentricities and sudden urges) of an air staff.  
If you don’t have a good air staff, maybe you should switch to a news/talk 
format.  That way there’s at least a chance that someone might say something 

Music radio was born when music was scarce.  From the 1920’s until quite 
recently, radio was a way to help mitigate that scarcity.  Today, as people 
discover that they are able to hear almost any music they want when they 
want it, music is no longer scarce.  With an iPod and a little effort most 
people can build their own music stream.  There’s certainly less and less 
reason to spend time with a radio station that’s not exceptionally good.  By 
good, I mean unique, irreplaceable.

I think that one of the fundamental survival skills for music radio is to 
provide unique, one-off sources of music that are as compelling as what 
listeners are doing for themselves, a valued option despite the fact that 
they may also “roll their own.”  Music-based stations with centralized play 
lists and other tools of “top-down” management, are facing diminishing 
importance.  They mistakenly assume that an optimum presentation of music is 
some kind of marketing science rather than an art, and that as such, music 
selection should be placed firmly in the hands of “program management 
professionals” who act as gatekeepers or tastemakers.  In the name of 
consistency, such stations offer a distillation of the views of those who 
are well-schooled in chart reading and adherence to whatever passes for 
programming status quo.  But views are no substitute for vision and 
consistent is not a synonym for compelling.

Another survival skill is to become cutting-edge adept at, and attentive to, 
your web presence and deft adaptation to other emerging platforms.  If you 
live, it is by the grace of your role as a content provider.  Old-school 
jazz radio won’t cut it in that environment.

You need to put on a hell of a show, actually a series of them.  That’s the 
kind of consistency that really counts.  To do that you need an air staff of 
knowledgeable and gifted presenters, people who already know what to play.  
Such people are not known to be particularly interested in what’s on your 
list or what your view is of those eternal questions, “What is jazz?” and 
“What are we to do? (Ruby, my dear)”

That’s why I’m not interested in listening to anyone that I think would 
follow my play list, much less yours.  I want crazy-brilliant, willful, 
passionate people on the air, doing what they love to do, making it up as 
they go along, people who love playing music more than they love the radio, 
or for that matter, they mamas.

Can I get a witness or something?

Bob Rogers
2816 Barmettler Street
Raleigh, NC 27607
WSHA - www.wshafm.org
Bouille & Rogers Consultants
email: rwsfin at hotmail.com
phone: (919) 413-4126

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