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

Jeff Turton jturton at comcast.net
Sat Jan 17 09:53:38 EST 2009


While I agree that there needs to be some aspect of programming that  
informs the newer listener I disagree that it necessarily needs to be  
part of ones day to day presentation. One of the biggest complaints  
I've had over the years from listeners, newbies and otherwise is that  
they are not turning on their radios for a Jazz lecture. They want to  
turn on their radio to listen and enjoy what they hear, So I think the  
challenge then becomes providing music that they can be entertained by  
and to some small extent be challenged by while they are entertained.  
When I first began learning and programming in the 70's there was a  
guy on the radio in Boston, Steve Elman. Steve did a normal show  
during the week, playing the music but on Sunday nights the show  
became a learning experience. He would pick an artist or a concept and  
over the 4 hours expand on that in a way that you could learn more  
about what you were listening to. I've always liked that idea and I  
think would love that kind of show to be more interactive with Live  
musicians, but I don't think you can do that throught the normal  
listening week. Eric Jackson also does a similar thing with his Monday  
night specials and that is exactly what it is, a special. It happens  
once a week and that's part of the motivation for tuning in. Most of  
us do shows once a week or maybe a couple of times a week and I think  
it's impratical for us to assume a listener wants this kind of  
programming day in and day out. There's no way on Sunday morning when  
I'm on the air my listeners give a damn about being educated, they  
want to be entertained while they get their day started. Personally I  
like the idea of producing podcasts for listeners. Given that most  
stations stream and post podcasts, it would be very easy to produce  
the kind of show you have described with Live musicians and  
explanations of how the music is played and how different players  
approach their music and post those on the website for easy access any  
time. Then those who want to learn can do that and then apply that  
knowledge to the music they hear day to day on the station. I work  
with a group in Boston called JazzBoston and this is currently what we  
are working on, how to bring more people to the music and change their  
perceptions that Jazz is difficult and unapproachable. So this is an  
ongoing discussion. One of the biggest problems we've found is the  
intimidation factor most new listeners face, which is obviously where  
this discussion started but it's more than an intimidation factor  
related to hearing music on the radio, what we've found is that it's a  
Jazz cultural issue. This is from a letter recently received from  
someone who is actually produces Swing events around town and was  
queried as a relative new listener how to change people's perceptions  
of Jazz:

>> To reiterate the point I was trying to make the other day at lunch:
>> 1)      You mention “changing people’s perception of Jazz”.  I  
>> wonder what exactly that perception is (could be many different as  
>> well).  In order to change a perception, identifying it is of  
>> course key.
>> 2)      That said—using myself as a potential example--a perception  
>> I have, as a jazz novice and having only witnessed a few shows, is  
>> that it appears to be sort of a “stuffy, contrived scene”.  As I  
>> said, the Jazz experts at a show seem to be completely entranced in  
>> the subtleties of the music, and while I’m sure they are, it seems  
>> very gratuitous to me.  Note that I’m not asking anyone to defend  
>> that since it’s just an observation, not a judgment.  Rather, the  
>> point is as a novice, I don’t find myself enjoying the music at  
>> that level, and I thus somehow feel like I’m, perhaps, “a jazz  
>> idiot who’s not getting it” and thus sense that I don’t belong  
>> there.  Hence, there is a bridge that needs to be crossed.
>> More than anything, people come to things where they feel they  
>> belong, know people, and are comfortable.  It’s about building  
>> community.
>> Lastly, from my experience in these matters, it’s important to  
>> realize that the perceptions are of the people you are trying to  
>> reach are their realities, even if their perceptions are totally  
>> misguided.

After 30 years or programming I don't find these feelings unique among  
new listeners. So it's a huge task to overcome and it's more than just  
how we program radio. I think the bottom line is that we need to make  
people feel welcome and feel as though they can enjoy themselves.  
Getting overly academic is not always the best way to do this. I  
really like the podcast approach that allows people to access the  
information on their own terms

Jeff Turton
WFNX Jazz Brunch

> -----
> You are right Bobby and that's certainly one approach. I think...to  
> my disadvantage in talking about these sort of things about radio is  
> that most simply view me as a musician instead of a programmer. So  
> consequently when I talk about radio the presumption could be that  
> I'm approaching it from the musicians perspective. In my example  
> from the previous note that would be true. However, the core of this  
> issue has little to do with that.
> I think every programmer on this list with a few years under their  
> belt..as you and I have as a jazz host and programmer...can tap into  
> the my thinking with this and give the listeners something more to  
> latch on to in terms of comprehending what they're hearing. The  
> history is cool and helpful but truthfully it misses the point of  
> the problem...which is a musical one from my perspective. Everywhere  
> I go as a performer there are always questions about the musical  
> applications of the music. People are practically begging to "get  
> it" but many don't. That's the problem with jazz and too often those  
> of us in it consciously assume because we get it everyone else  
> should or does. I rarely get asked questions about the history  
> unless someone wants to ask my view on a particular artist or  
> recording. That's usually the extent of wanting to know the history  
> but the thing they are most interested in is how the music works.  
> Many are afraid to ask with fear of sounding
> ignorant but that's what they want to know.
> I think we're missing a great opportunity here to help folks with  
> this and you don't have to be a musician necessarily to help them.  
> There are "points' and such that many pocess in radio that can help  
> the listeners but the focus and intentions have to be different. If  
> we don't do something and start talking about this we're going to  
> see fewer and fewer hours of jazz being broadcast. Then that will  
> hurt live jazz. It's the domino affect really. I see it working here  
> and I know it can else were but few seem to be interested in talking  
> about it.
> Jae Sinnett
> --- On Fri, 1/16/09, Jackson, Bobby <Bobby.Jackson at ideastream.org>  
> wrote:
>> From: Jackson, Bobby <Bobby.Jackson at ideastream.org>
>> Subject: RE: [JPL] Time To Re-Think How We Do Radio
>> To: jazzproglist at jazzweek.com
>> Date: Friday, January 16, 2009, 4:45 PM
>> Sponsored by: JazzWeek Summit 2009
>>              http://summit.jazzweek.com/
>> -----
>> Aloha Jae and fellow JPL'ers,
>> To quote Duke Ellington in his book, "Music Is My
>> Mistress" and it's one
>> of my favorite quotes about jazz....
>> "To not know the history of this music, is to miss
>> much of its charm."
>> It is a beautiful and telling quote!  That being said, I
>> believe you
>> don't have to be a musician, to share what you know
>> about this music to
>> get people appreciate and get closer to the music.  You can
>> get "behind"
>> the music and share stories that you know about the songs,
>> the people;
>> the times it was created in to get people to listen in a
>> different way.
>> For example....
>> During the 60's we all know about the bombing of that
>> church in
>> Birmingham, AL that claimed the lives of 4 little girls.  I
>> could play
>> "Alabama" by John Coltrane and not give that
>> particular background.
>> I've heard hosts back announce the players and the year
>> it came out.
>> How boring and insider is that approach!!  It would sound
>> like a dirge
>> because of its somber tone and the uninitiated would
>> probably tune it
>> out.  OR, I could talk about that incident and lead it up
>> to the John
>> Coltrane song "Alabama" and the set up would give
>> listeners a chance to
>> listen with an intent based on the history of why it was
>> written in the
>> first place.  I might even tell them how the song makes me
>> feel.  Now
>> that's getting personal, showing a little vulnerability
>> and above all,
>> being human!  This kind of set up gives listeners a chance
>> to use their
>> own aural imagery creating that tragic moment.  This kind
>> of set up has
>> the potential to move from their heads to their hearts.
>> The context the
>> song is presented in makes all the difference in the world
>> to how you
>> will listen to it.
>> I had a conversation with my Mom just last night about Sam
>> Cooke's "A
>> Change Is Gonna Come."  She knew the song because it
>> was popular but she
>> didn't connect it to what was happening at the time it
>> was created.  I
>> gave her the background of Bob Dylan's
>> "Blowin' In The Wind and his
>> connection to Woody Guthrie through Alan Lomax and all of
>> these
>> connections through the Civil Rights struggle.  Now she
>> listens with a
>> different intensity to all of this music.
>> As programmer's we should always look for ways to
>> connect the music back
>> through our culture.  Like Charlie Parker once said,
>> "If you don't live
>> it, it won't come out of your horn."  Music truly
>> is a reflection of the
>> times it's created in.  As programmer's there is a
>> need to be more
>> intimate with the music that we serve our audiences.  Not
>> only will we
>> grow our audiences we will grow ourselves.
>> Keep A Light In The Window,
>> Bobby Jackson
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: jazzproglist-bounces at jazzweek.com
>> [mailto:jazzproglist-bounces at jazzweek.com] On Behalf Of Jae
>> Sinnett
>> Sent: Friday, January 16, 2009 3:36 PM
>> To: jazzproglist at jazzweek.com
>> Subject: [JPL] Time To Re-Think How We Do Radio
>> Sponsored by: JazzWeek Summit 2009
>>              http://summit.jazzweek.com/
>> -----
>> 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
>> shot.
>> 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
>> --
>> Jazz Programmers' Mailing List:
>> jazzproglist at jazzweek.com
>> List information:
>> http://lists.jazzweek.com/mailman/listinfo/jazzproglist
>> List archive:
>> http://lists.jazzweek.com/pipermail/jazzproglist/
>> Sponsorship information: jplsponsor at jazzweek.com
>> --
>> Jazz Programmers' Mailing List:
>> jazzproglist at jazzweek.com
>> List information:
>> http://lists.jazzweek.com/mailman/listinfo/jazzproglist
>> List archive:
>> http://lists.jazzweek.com/pipermail/jazzproglist/
>> Sponsorship information: jplsponsor at jazzweek.com
> --
> Jazz Programmers' Mailing List: jazzproglist at jazzweek.com
> List information: http://lists.jazzweek.com/mailman/listinfo/jazzproglist
> List archive: http://lists.jazzweek.com/pipermail/jazzproglist/
> Sponsorship information: jplsponsor at jazzweek.com

More information about the jazzproglist mailing list