Tuesday, July 31, 2012

There's a Meetin' Here Tonight

Tonight's the night of the jazz radio meeting at the Boston Copley Sq. BPL. No, the whole world is not watching, but interested jazz and blues fans in other cities will take note if creative solutions are advanced and consensus reached.


As a guy who's tried to get community action going on media (specifically, LPFM), I believe the trick is to keep the chaos at a minimum and to get volunteers to do things before they leave the room. Gotta get names and emails on lists, not let folks say "I'll sign up later online." 


Should be interesting. I'll follow up tomorrow.




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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Boston Jazz Radio Consortium?


The college radio stations I listed in my last post would have to be approached in different ways. Some are tightly formatted, fully scheduled and already have some jazz. 

For the stations with some or no jazz but with time on the schedule, jazz DJ's (who seem plentiful among our ranks) could be recruited to take those slots. 

It will be challenging to try to place shows such that jazz will be available somewhere on the Boston dial 24-7, but that should be a goal. I do think WHRB programmers should be asked whether they would consider moving their long jazz block to a time that is more propitious for the jazz audience.

All these stations would be asked to affiliate with some kind of jazz radio consortium. 

I doubt any content coordination among these shows is possible although if someone does an interview with a musician, promoter, etc., they could make it available as an upload for another DJ in the consortium to play during his or her show. 

In any case, stations would be agreeing that their jazz shows would have a dual identification-affiliated with a particular station and also with the consortium. On-air ID's would say something like "You're listening to Crepuscule Jazz on wwww, 80.1 FM, Brighton, Mass, an affiliated member of the Boston Jazz Radio Consortium (or something with a better acronym)." 

Other publicity, like print ads, stickers, etc, would be able to list these shows and DJ's would be encouraged to cross-promote programs. 

Or words to that effect.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Jazz & Radio; A Man, A Plan, A Channel

It makes sense that jazz fans want their music on the radio dial and not just on the internet. Even in the face of streaming stations, Satellite, Pandora, et al, radio continues as a force. The numbers vary, but somewhere between 85-95% of Americans listen to some terrestrial radio every day. Radios are everywhere, easy to operate and you don't have to put quarters in to make them work. The charges (and annoyance factor) are "hidden" in ads and underwriting. Americans, weaned on endless TV and radio ads from a young age, have built up an amazing tolerance for the 15-25 minutes of ads and promos per hour on commercial radio stations and for endless public radio fundraising drives. 

But radio is changing in a way that's very important to anyone who wants jazz (or any other "demographically insignificant" format) on the radio: The idea of a high-power station playing more than one format (multi-format) is disappearing. Public stations, as we are learning, are moving rapidly towards all news/talk. Commercial stations hyper-refine their music formats to maximize desirable demographics and they have stopped the little jazz they used to play on the weekend. There was once some leakage in the tight radio edifice, but like every nook and cranny of urban real estate, all cracks have been accounted for and leveraged for maximum income.


I want to thank Larry Cronin for sending a vision for jazz in Boston radio (posted as a comment in my last post and on a Facebook group). Given the landscape as I see it, he presents a somewhat utopian vision.

I do think the Boston jazz community should unify under one organizational banner, either a new one or a pre-existing one like jazzboston. But, even if it does, it will still have little power at a bargaining table freighted with financial concerns. So, to make any of Larry's proposals happen would require large institutional backing. I agree that a consortium of local colleges would bring considerable weight. The question is, why would they do it? They would have to be convinced that this liaison would either greatly elevate their educational mission, or that it would somehow pay off financially. Either argument can be made, but I don't think either can be successfully made.

Instead, I would propose taking a close look at the following Boston-area college stations; radio resources we could actually leverage:
WMBR
WZBC
WUML
WMFO
WMLN
WZLY
WHRB
WBRS
(WERS is a "professionalized," tightly formatted station and of no use to us).

There's already a lot of jazz scattered through the schedules of these stations-especially WHRB. Taken as a group, I think they represent a tremendous opportunity.

Rah

There are challenges. Some of these stations have strong community components and some don't. We don't know how management at these stations would respond to be approached. Their signals range from moderate to weak, certainly nothing like WGBH. It's a major challenge getting people to tune in at a certain time to get the program they want, as opposed to just going to a number on the dial and knowing what they'll hear. But if the coordination was done right, promotion could be effective. I.e., "You can find Jazz programming 24 hours a day on one of these stations." I'm one of a number of musicians with radio experience, invested in this process, who could provide the person-power.  

There are scores of details that would have to be ironed out, but like Larry's post, this is just a beginning.

On the other hand, AM stations are getting cheaper all the time...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Building a New Jazz House

Jazz people are increasingly having their media sanctuaries taken by eminent domain. Here's the press release: "We got more cars, need bigger highways, something's gotta give. Sorry... Feel free to stand by the highway holding signs, trying to convince drivers to go back home and ride their bikes to work."

"You are a diminishing and not very desirable demographic. We're not saying you're not a wonderful human being, but romance without finance is a nuisance. The bigger the broadcast outlet-and we are the biggest around here-the bigger the gap between your needs and ours."

Ok. I hear you and I accept your explanation.

I'm not happy about having my home bulldozed by the news/public affairs juggernaut (I'd be slightly happier if it wasn't lurching ahead on retread tires). But over the last 15 years I started several pirate radio stations because I knew the game was rigged and I knew the answer was to find another place to hang my porkpie hat. At a certain point, I stopped bad mouthing Clear Channel, as I'm done now with bemoaning the wrong-headed-ness of WGBH. There just ain't no traction in it, nor a convincing moral case. As my recent post about my daughter and her friend clearly showed, art and morality are in the eye of the beholder.

Call it a plea to the jazz community to use this moment to dream a little bit; to look for unthought-of creative solutions. Let's look ahead, not back. Regulatory action is a dead end. Positive actions win hearts. Jazz is at the center of all this. That should give us all the inspiration we need.



Friday, July 6, 2012

Rockin' 'GBH


Last night's jam in front of WGBH demonstrated a beautiful sense of solidarity among the jazz community of Boston. It's impossible to know what the ripple effects of the event will be, but it felt freakin' great to be there.



There are several more videos at this link: http://bit.ly/Ma4Umw

There will be an open meeting at 6PM on Tuesday, July 31st at the Boston Public Library and I hope that some focused goal will emerge, as well as the right strategy to make it happen. B.C. readers are encouraged to send ideas.
Photo by Cherrie Corey  


Monday, July 2, 2012

Jazz & Media-Teenage Perspective

I thought I'd ask my 14 year-old daughter and her same-aged friend what they thought of the whole jazz/WGBH/media thing. Their response was thoughtful-and instructive.

Generally, I wanted to know if they thought that jazz should be left to fend for itself in the marketplace, whether its cultural importance merited some kind of small subsidy through the government, or if public media had a mission to carry it. I made sure they understood the disbursement of "discretionary" funds by Congress, the huge amount spent on the military, pork barrel projects, the small amount I was suggesting each person pay, etc. They seemed to understand.

They are both very into music. In fact, my daughter wants to be a singer. Despite that, neither one thought jazz or classical or any other kind of music should get tax subsidies. Without brow-beating them, I made the case as best I could, but each time, they said that there were more important basic things that should get funded first-the environment, hunger, housing, etc.

If you're invested in this jazz/media campaign-if a campaign it is-it's easy to get frustrated about the fact that to most people, the meaning and history of jazz carry little weight. But such perspectives have to be reckoned with.  Dismissiveness and glib responses will not carry the day. If you are actually interested in changing someone's mind, you have to respect what they have to say, persist, and trust that the weight of your position will eventually win out.