[JPL] Background to "the query"
lyohn at emich.edu
Thu Jun 14 08:30:32 EDT 2007
Thank you to the many who have responded off-list and to those who
have responded on the list with a response to my "80s-90s pop
sensiblity" query. It has been interesting. I knew about the covers
and may that be the way to go, although I hope that I can find more
newer sounding music that isn't just covers. (Sure wish Fresh Sound-
New Talet would service radio...!)
I sense that there are some newer members on the list who are not
aware of me or the station I work for. I'll quickly explain myself
I come from a musical family. I have loved jazz all my life. Nothing
in the world would give me greater pleasure than appreciating it's
beauty, joy, sensitivity, swing, verve, swagger, energy, intelligence
with listeners. I truly enjoy being on the air. I love communicating
with people. I love people and I love jazz music. All I would like
in life is to pay my bills, keep my marriage filled with love, stay
healthy and play jazz music on the radio for listeners.
I've been music director at WEMU for 20 years. We are in the most
crowded public radio market in the nation. No joke. A listener in
Ann Arbor can receive classical music from WKAR-FM in Lansing, news-
talk from WKAR-AM in Lansing, news-talk from WUOM in Ann Arbor, news-
talk-jazz-folk from WDET in Detroit, classical-jazz from WRCJ in
Detroit, classical music-news from WGTE in Toledo, all the programs
from CBC, free-form and jazz from WCBN in Ann Arbor, fine college
radio from Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn and a very
agressive AAA station 107.1 in Ann Arbor that has lots of money to
throw at taking away the WEMU listener. We are programming jazz,
blues, news and special programs such as Cuban, Brazilian, funk and
roots music. We have done all the right things for years. We MC
shows, we give free talks at libraries, we throw listener appreciation
parties, we volunteer at community events, we do give-aways, we do
interviews, we do co-sponsorships, we hang out and more.
We have tried programming in just a strict mainstream fasion for
years. And for years, that served us very well. But, our audience is
growing older. They are moving away. They are retiring to the
Carolinas, Arkansas, Nevada. The people moving in to Ann Arbor to
take their place are very hip. They work in research, for The
University of Michigan, education, medical research and health care or
in development in the automotive industry.
In my original e-mail I never said that WEMU would forsake the best
classics. We will play the best Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, Billie
Holiday, Bill Evans, Charles Mingus, Jimmy Smith, Gerry Mulligan, John
Coltrane, etc. We will not forsake them. But, I must find more
current, modern acoustic musical sonorities and rhythms in jazz to
work with these classics.
In fact, WEMU has to "chase their ears"! If we don't try to play what
we think they would like to hear, they won't listen. There is so much
good radio competition--not to mention the fact that Sirius radio
comes in new cars--and that Ann Arbor is high-tech heaven where people
love their online listening. We can't say "this is good for you...eat
your peas (jazz)!"
In an area that abounds with 35 year old people to have your median
listener age of your station be 55+ is scary. In defense of the
current listeners--they are incredibly generous. We have less
listeners giving more and more. We have taken many cutbacks at
Eastern Michigan University and listeners have stepped up. We will
take another cut very soon. Can our current only 55+ contingent be
counted on forever?
The move to find newer musical sonorities will assure that WEMU stays
on the air and that Eastern Michigan University does not sell the
frequency to a religious broadcasting organization for a much-needed
quick financial windfall to a troubled university. It has happened at
many universities. Just ask Dennis Naranjo about losing his gig in
I need to keep my job. I am the main breadwinner of my family. I
have a mortgage to pay. I have to think about the future of my
position at WEMU. I have to think about the future of this station.
I think it can be in jazz-news-blues, but if we just do what we've
been doing for the past 20 years we will be gone.
If you work in a situation where you can just play what you want to
play, consider yourself very, very fortunate. That used to be my
world, but I don't live there anymore. I live in competitive, cash-
poor Southeastern Michigan and I have to think smart to keep my gig.
That's the more of the background than maybe some of you wanted, but
that's the scenario. I'm prepared to take more hits on the list, but
I have to think about a future.
In closing, I must tell you that I really do love jazz. Ben Webster,
Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge, Charlie Parker, Jimmy Giuffre. In my
dream world I could just play their music and people would throw money
In jazz love,
WEMU Music Director
lyohn at emich.edu
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