Gordon Sapsed reports on British radio and clubs not quite keeping jazz at arms’ length and not quite embracing it.
Here in the UK the London radio station Jazz FM recently changed its name to Smooth FM. Explaining the change the owners said, “it’s a sad fact of life that Jazz FM has never made a profit in 15 years of existence …..the station will continue its commitment to broadcast 45 hours of specialist jazz programming each week ….. but there is an enormous appetite for artists such as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, George Benson, Michael Buble and Diana Krall who will fill the daytime schedule…… In-depth research shows that 40% of our listeners prefer the name ‘Smooth FM” and two thirds of non-listening Londoners are put off tuning in because of the name Jazz FM. 42% say they do not tune in because ‘they were not into jazz music.”
Meanwhile, here in the Southampton area, the Concorde Club (usually thought of locally as the Concorde Jazz Club) has undergone a multi-million pound refit but maintained a jazz policy by keeping jazz away from the money-earning Thursday Friday and Saturday nights. ‘Clubbing’, with dancing to D.J.s and tribute bands (clones of Elvis, The Stones,The Beatles and such) provides the funding to make jazz affordable on other nights. Jazz is just one part of the club’s overall image
Back in the USA, as one of those clone bands is probably singing, a veteran New York jazz pianist who has had trouble finding work told me about a gig she was offered. The conditions were that she play nothing but Sinatra hits and Italian songs…for no pay. She declined. At least, the club owner didn’t ask her to pay him. That has been happening in several cities, a rather radical redefinition of market share.