[JPL] Time To Re-Think How We Do Radio

Jae Sinnett jaejazz at yahoo.com
Fri Jan 16 15:36:11 EST 2009

I've been thinking about this for a while now and what brought it to a head with me was a show I did this past Monday evening. My bigger point will be made later in this note. 

I had a few "local" musicians on the show with me and we performed. One section of the performance was educational in that I was able to explain to our listeners...to a degree...and demonstrate...how jazz works. I asked the guys what questions do listeners of their music ask the most. "How does the rest of the band know when to come back in after the drum breaks?" " How do you know what to play for your solo?" "I get lost when the solos start so how do I learn to follow along?" "It just sounds muddled to me so how can I learn to hear the music more clearly?" "I have a heard time with the rhythm of jazz...can you help me to understand?" These are just a few of many but what it clearly shows is that many that listen to jazz...don't really understand it. Now think about those that don't listen...they don't because I would bet they simply don't understand the music and most that don't understand don't have much positive to say about it and won't give it a

The response to that section of the show was amazing. Ninety percent of the responses where about that portion of the show. What this tells me is that clearly many...probably the majority of our listeners... don't know much about what they are hearing and two...they want to learn. It's simple to me, for jazz to find a bigger and more supportive audience we must find a way to get them to understand what it is they are hearing with the music and making them believe it is something worth listening to.

Most programmers for years simply play the music and tell the listeners who it was they've heard and give out bits of historical shorts occasionally. This is the way most have been taught. The reality is this method of programming is not helping us build an audience. It's going nowhere fast. I'm just one that is sticking my neck out here and saying it. 

We've all heard that we're not on air to "teach" the listeners. I've always disagreed with that assessment. I've always felt the mission of public radio was education first. To inform and most importantly and ironically, every bit of research I've conducted for our jazz programming continues to tell me that what the folks appreciate about my show the most is what they learn. It's not what or who I play that gets the most interest...it's what they learn. So why do we keep saying we shouldn't be teaching on air? 

When I say "re-think" I'm referring to coming up with concepts that do teach listeners about the music without sacrificing the musical presentation but more enhancing it. We need more ideas here and unless we do more and more formats will disappear and our audience will not grow in my view. Methods so far in keeping an audience like simplifying the music works to a degree in helping to maintain a strong audience base but it also treats the music like a relic and doesn't help any artist doing material other than the familiar or something that sounds like such. 

I belive we can make this situation better. If anyone else feels the same way and would like to develop or start and objective dialog about this my hat is in. 

Jae Sinnett  


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