[JPL] reply to Ron Gill

Bob Rogers rwsfin at hotmail.com
Thu Sep 7 01:43:54 EDT 2006

Thanks, Ron.  Coming from you, that means a lot to me.  I agree that the 
teaching aspect of what we do is important and very much a part of the art 
of it -- to teach not in a pedantic, or even necessarily linear way, but 
obliquely, through our presentation of the music we love, put together by 
indulging that love and knowledge of the music.  If we as program hosts can 
bring that to the table, why should our presentation be defined or limited 
by what a program director or music director thinks (or knows) to do?  It's 
as if the station has been professionalized, but only to the level of 
program management and no further.  In a large or major market with seasoned 
air staffs, that's crazy, bordering on programming malpractice.  Yet it 
happens, but thankfully, not at WGBH.

Studs Terkel, Mort Fega, Alan Grant, Joel Dorn - what programming manager 
would have had the chutzpah to suggest what these people play?  At too many 
stations, such people couldn't exist today.  And where that's the case, I 
think program management is overstepping its bounds, perhaps due to a 
misunderstanding of what they're supposed to be doing for the radio station. 
  Support staff is there to support what makes the station sound better and 
more interesting, and not to limit what is possible.

Best regards,

Bob Rogers


From: Ron Gill, WGBH/Boston

Bob, your comments are well stated and I could not agree with you more. As 
as programmers, we should attempt to be teachers as well, using our 
and knowledge to present music in a way that the listener is not only 
but is surprised by the depth of what they are hearing. There are so many
choices, but there is always new/old music that people don't hear and 
never will unless talented, knowlegeable and caring programmers expose them 
Thank you.
Ron Gill
Jazz Gallery
WGBH 89.7 FM
Boston, MA

"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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