[JPL] Re: Younger people on the radio

Robert Hoff rhoff at mercyhurst.edu
Fri Mar 9 16:30:23 EST 2007


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Toulouse, Sarah" <stoulouse at chicagopublicradio.org>
To: <jazzproglist at jazzweek.com>
Sent: Friday, March 09, 2007 3:45 PM
Subject: [JPL] Re: Younger people on the radio


This Week's JPL Sponsor: SUMMIT RECORDS


As an early-30's woman, who has nearly a decade of jazz/music hosting
experience in a major market, (and having now experienced first-hand how
unfixed radio is, and how programming and formats can change, and
therefore change your life -- including in public radio) I'd like to
chime in on this topic.

First of all, my former music director, two decades my elder, took a
chance on hiring me right out of college at 20 (BA in Communications,
started my professional career while still in school as a freelance
public affairs reporter before I started working in the music dept. for
WBEZ).  I had to develop my chops for about the first four years before
I had a regular full-time gig, all the while also developing my role as
a producer for our performance / music programs such as the Jazz/Blues
Festival b'casts, and local music-related segments for our talk shows.

I had wonderful mentors - my fellow music hosts - to bring me along,
ages ranging from 30s to 70s, men and women, Latino, African American
and white.  When I screwed up a name or pronunciation or a fact, they
simply told me the correct way to say things, without pretension.  I had
regular air-checks with my MD to review how I was progressing.  No one
made me feel stupid or embarrassed, and they all made me feel like they
had once also been in my shoes and gave me encouragement that I could be
just as good as them, with some experience under my belt.   I can play
the guitar and did learn general music knowledge as it did help in the
development of my job to have some of that background info, but I didn't
come to radio as a musician or music student.   Before the internet, we
had actual books around the studios so I could double check facts and
find interesting stories to tell....NOT just names and dates and Jazz
101 lecture.  Who tunes in to for a music show on radio for a lecture
anyway?  Does anyone go to a jazz show to be lectured?  I never
understood this notion that the academic tone is supposedly the gold
standard for a jazz programmer.  It's boring and elitist.  Jazz and
classical seems to be the only type of programming that takes this
approach...and how's that been working for us in the last 10 years? I
did happen to have an affinity for jazz, as well as other genres of
music, so that helped, but I was certainly not a walking encyclopedia
when I first started.

The older generation has been fortunate to experience many of the great
artists first hand, however, the next generation, like me, was not even
born until after greats like Duke Ellington died.   We have to learn how
to carry the history with us, but also we DO have our own current
generation of artists, doing great work that WE relate to, but the older
generation (generally speaking, of course), seems to be ignoring.  I
think we all can learn a lot from each other and move forward with more
compelling radio.

And moving on to radio itself, when it comes to being a professional
broadcaster, especially for public radio, the job requires a proficiency
in a variety of areas beyond simply personal interests/knowledge base,
and beyond knowledge of JUST jazz (or whatever your main gig is).  I
find this to be a problem with a lot of programmers/producers,
regardless of age, but specifically, I find that the younger generation
is not being mentored or trained to develop a broad knowledge base, and
a well-studied knowledge base at that.  (Note to Jae - I hear grown
folks say names wrong all the time too....but I think we're all speaking
in general terms with this topic anyway).

The listeners' interests are not singular, so why should we approach
programming, regardless if it is music or news/talk, with a narrow
focus.  Sure, jazz aficionados like to hear the rundown of all the
members playing on a tune, with the recording date, etc, but why just
think of that niche audience only?  Regular people don't give a crap, so
they tune out either bored to death with all the facts and technical
music talk, or they feel like they don't belong to the secret jazz
elitist club. Why not try to relate the music to more general areas to
regular life?  For example, jazz pops up in films and has been part of
culture in more ways than strictly just being music for music's
sake...why not relate some of those general interest connections to jazz
during the course of a program?

Also, I respectfully disagree with Mr. Wilke's statement about it being
easier (I'm taking this as also meaning better, sorry if that was not
the implication) to train a jazz fan/musician to be a host rather than a
radio/communications grad (or newer broadcaster, not necessarily just
young) to be a jazz host.   I think there are already too many jazz fans
working as hosts, who don't also take the initiative to study how radio
and audience works.  In my opinion, this is one of the reasons jazz
continues to fade out of public radio frequencies.   I have always
thought of myself as a radio programmer first, and the genres I worked
with as the focus of my job - my "beat" if you will.....not the other
way around.  Just as the city hall reporter has to keep informed and
study everything there is to know about his/her news beat, the same
approach should be applied to a music host.  Also, every market is
different, every audience for any given daypart could be different, and
I never understood how JUST the taste of one jazz fan (just the host's
taste) is considered sufficient to determine programming decisions,
without getting to know what kind of audience you are programming to.


Before our station cut most of our music programming in January, I was
hosting a "traditional" jazz slot weeknights and had a specialty program
on Fridays that focused on more modern jazz, as well as some other
modern forms of music, not necessarily categorized as jazz, but
complimentary as far as the sound and tone for this program was
concerned.  I did bring some of those modern artists into the weeknight
shows a couple times a night.  I wouldn't make the train go off the
track, but I would try to introduce some newer artists and sounds that
complimented a set one to three times over the course of a four or five
hour show.  (For the record, our weeknight jazz had about 100,000
listeners a night, and I did see in one book my Friday night specialty
show hit an 8 share...whoo hoo, granted it was on pretty late, but
still, a freaking 8 share!).  Then, the dominant news/talk wave came to
Chicago.

There is a wide and diverse range of artists making music that could
work with existing current jazz formats, if programmers would open up a
bit.  Now, I don't believe programming to every single style that falls
under the jazz umbrella works either.  Trying to please everyone at the
same time doesn't seem to please anyone.   However, within a "regular"
jazz format, I think it is great to throw in something different than
the usual suspects occasionally - say once an hour, or every other hour,
frequent enough to catch a listener's ear without throwing them off the
rails.  Some specialty shows could also help appeal to a younger/new
audience.  (I don't know why NPR suits don't seem to get that most
younger people have historically been drawn into public radio through
the music programming -- not talk --, but hay, I'm not a GM or PD, so
what do I know.)

Here were my picks for best of 2006 releases, most were featured on my
specialty show, but there are several here that I would also include
during weeknight jazz either regularly or on occasion, depending on the
release.

ARTIST -- CD

Hazmat Modine -- Bahamut
World Saxophone Quartet -- Political Blues
John Ellis -- By A Thread
Dr. Lonnie Smith -- Jungle Soul
Jack DeJohnette/Bill Frisell -- The Elephant Sleeps...
Jamie Saft Trio -- Trouble
OOIOO -- Taiga
Nomo -- Newtones
Bobby Previte -- Coalition of the Willing
Charlie Hunter -- Copperopolis
Skeriks Syncopated Taint Septet -- Husky
Stanton Moore -- III
Medeski Scofield Martin Wood -- Out Louder
Ernest Dawkins New Horizons Ensemble -- The Messenger
Von Freeman -- Good Forever
Spaceheater -- The Record
Gianluca Petrella - Indigo 4
Dave Douglass -- Meaning and Mystery
Nino Moschella -- The Fix
Dead Combo -- Vol. 2
Juana Molina -- Son
Extra Golden -- Ok Oyot System
BellRays -- Have A Little Faith
Irma Thomas -- After The Rain
Califone -- Roots & Crowns
Islands -- Back To Sea
Annuals -- Be He Me
Beirut -- Gulag Orkestar

Ok, thanks for wading through my manifesto.  God speed to all music
programmers left out there in pubic radio (Hurray for the return of the
classical station in D.C....perhaps the tide is turning again?)

Best regards,
Sarah Toulouse
Producer, Programming/Performance Studio
Chicago Public Radio (yes, I'm still here)


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