O.k., here’s how the optimist in me sees this dramatic—and seemingly traumatic-- scenario being played out by broadcasters, advertisers, and program directors all across “Radio America:” The smooth jazz format is being flipped more than a stack of pancakes at IHOP. There’s no denying that anymore (although I admit to being in such a state of denial for quite awhile). For advertisers and broadcasters, being the kind of marketing beings they were trained to be, the format is spelling so-called disaster to them now, even though it was the rave for well over 20 years. Why? I’m told because there is frustration over “what the music has become.” What has it become that is such a turn-off? And who’s saying this, by the way?
Anyway, all of this means that one source of information about new releases and CD signings, after-work parties, etc. has been drastically reduced, although one of my colleagues here has just reported the “resurrection” of the genre in Chicago--just as the dirt was being poured over its gravesite.
Keeping things in perspective, I just happen to know many, many smooth jazzers who, like me, consider themselves quite resourceful. Until the artists stop making recordings and stop performing live, we will always have ways of finding out what’s happening. There’s Art Good’s Jazztrax.com; there’s Amazon.com and CDbaby.com, both of which offer samples of releases; there are the web sites, like Smoothvibes.com, that get and review new releases, often directly from the labels; there are the smooth jazz live venues that are still effectively advertising upcoming shows, and so on and so on. Online stations and the like are not the only sources remaining, and serious smooth jazzers know this. Now we hear of stations finding the courage, resourcefulness, and commitment to keep the genre intact and alive.
When record sales for the genre slip significantly and the concert halls become hard to fill, then I say: PANIC! Until then, what will keep smooth jazz alive will be, quite simply, its resourceful fans…who, by the way, complained long and loudly about the lack of new material and the stale repetition of music on the contemporary stations, anyway. Now that smooth jazz has been thrown a lifeline in Chicago, I am also happy to hear that fans there will soon experience what it’s like to be taken seriously and have their concerns addressed regarding the format. We are always aware that there are artists who have been seldom aired and who are deserving of airplay.
So, fans, please, let’s not panic because the stations and their representatives and cohorts are telling us to do so. Take a look again at the resources, as well as the encouraging move by WLFM (The “L”), and just keep on jazzin’! Just one man's opinion, but I am both hopeful and confident that it's shared by many. I'd love to hear from you on this, so please feel free to e-mail me with any comments. Do keep 'em clean!