The Blog Thing...

May 27, 2009

I'm wondering what the future of Smooth Jazz is. Radio stations have fallen off considerably and/or changed formats entirely. There's still an enthusiastic audience out there. But why has radio dropped the format? One indication that the genre was taking a strange turn is when I was shopping in a grocery store one day and instead of hearing Muzak, they were playing Smooth Jazz. That's good for the artist, but not so good for the music itself. I, for one, feel that there's room and it's also time to step it up. Radio forced musicians to fit into this tiny little audible space surrounded by commercials. A "window dressing" if you will. Now I don't like labels and I've never been a fan of the term Smooth Jazz anyway. Smooth jazz to me was Miles Davis' Kind of Blue and Nefertiti, music of that nature. Anyway, back to my point. You had to tone it down for radio, you had to do covers, yet they would play the original vocal version as well. Sometimes you'd get caught in the middle and get your version tossed! However, at the live concerts, it's a totally different animal. You can open the music up and be more creative. Why was that not allowed on radio? I think that had a little to do with the music being where it is today. Now there are other radio avenues that are a lot more in satellite radio. The internet is a great tool for creative freedom, probably more than any other outlet. I think these two formats offer more creativity for the artist and the listener. If we as musicians take the lead creatively, will our listeners and fans follow? Just a thought!

If you'd like to add your thoughts, enter them on my contact page and I'll respond and post your comments as well.

Peace 2 U

Pat D'Amico 27-May-2009

Unfortunately, everthing that happens on commercial radio is market driven. The format has to provide a clear path to a particular demographic for an advertiser that wishes to target the demographic and/or psychographic tuning in. It's always been that way, no? What is different today is that the economy is beating the hell out of brands and subsequently, out of the media that serve them. With far far less advertising dollars to go around (radio stations and formats are folding right and left) the stations that provide the broadest reach for the lowest cost per point (thousand) are going to survive. Smooth jazz delivers an audence that is more affluent but that also means smaller overall numbers. Therefore, smooth jazz stations have to charge a premium for the audience. Couple with with luxury brands getting the crap beat out of them and you have a perfect storm that could very well mean the end of the format. Let's hope not. But that is the dynamic that killed commercial classical stations 15 years ago.

All that said, as commercial radio continues to devolve until all that is left is Hannah Montana and Akon, listeners wil turn in increasing numbers to XM/Sirrus and future sat stations for its purity and variety. That's where my head is these days. Today I listened to some great smooth jazz (hate that label) Boney, Elliot, Lee Rit, Benoit, et al. And just one click away is the more tradional traight ahead stuff. That's the future of the format dude. And the bigger the audiences that sat radio generates, the bigger the live crowds will be and vica versa. That's my 2 cents and I reserve the right to be wrong about any of it. -- PD

Andrew Lienhard 27-May-2009

Great thoughts Dwight! It's especially interesting to hear a perspective on all this from someone so familiar with the industry. The whole live vs muzak thing is what I say to the naysayers -- "yeah, but.. have you heard them live?? They play their behinds off!!" True of all those bands.

I wrote a similar editorial for jazzhouston last year about the demise of KHJZ that speculates about the future of the genre. Curious to hear you feedback.

When are you playing live in Houston next? Love to see you play with these guys!

All the best,

ps -- glad you got to meet/hear Aaron! He's a really cool fella. Yeah, we're working on a neat little web blog. I'll send you a link as soon as we get it rolling.

May 30, 2009

I'm a Smooth Jazz hack. I'm also an R&B hack, a Pop hack, an AC hack, and an Alternative Rock hack as well. Yep, I'm all those things but most importantly I'm a musician. A while back, someone referred to me as a "smooth jazz hack." I was trying to figure out how they came to that conclusion. Maybe it was someone that knew me when I was playing fusion or straight ahead jazz and they figured I'd "sold my soul to the devil" by actually making a living playing music. Or maybe they just think I suck! Well, whatever the reason for the comment, I want to give my take on it.

I figure if you're going to make a living as a musician, you've got a few ways to go with it. One way would be teaching or writing and placing songs with established artist (good money, but hard to break into. I've gone that route myself!). Other ways are to write jingles or go the performance
route. I chose performance and studio work. In order to do that, I had to be open and capable of doing lots of different things. It depends on your taste and what your goals are.Yes, there's music that I prefer to play, and from time to time I get to do that. It doesn't pay the bills, but it's fun and rewarding.

I love jazz, bebop, straight ahead, and fusion. I absolutely love it! Early on when I was playing tunes out of the Real Book or original jazz and fusion tunes, I had a purist attitude about it. I had the attitude without the credentials! To be a true jazz musician, it's a lifelong quest that requires discipline and sacrifice. I'm not that guy! Not that I don't have those qualities, I've made quite a few sacrifices in my day to do what I'm doing. It's that I'm a working musician, which to me means, I play music for a living. Any music that I play, I try to add something to lift it and make it a little better. Even if it's a two chord "minor 9" vamp that goes on for days with no end in sight. I try to make it a little more interesting without being the "pretentious musician." That's the beauty of creating and loving what you do. I can go on and on with this, but I won't.

At the end of the day, you've got to do what's best for you and what you can be proud of. On this level, music is a business. I learned the hard way, but I learned. It reminds me of that saying, "Don't hate the player, hate the game." After 30 plus years, I'm still trying to navigate through it all!

If you'd like to add your thoughts, enter them on my contact page and I'll respond and post your comments as well.