Sunday, January 03, 2010

Another Smooth Jazz Station Bites the Dust

This week WNWV "The Wave" in Cleveland has flipped formats, pushing their smooth jazz content onto the digital radio platform.

Whilst this is potentially good news for Smooth Jazz, as whenever these changes occur people inevitably turn the Internet for their smooth jazz fix and an awful lot of them find us, the long term outlook is not particularly rosy as the genre itself is now becoming threatened.

The change at WNWV is attributed to the PPM (Portable People Meter), a device used by Arbitron, who rolled out the PPM, a pager-sized device that electronically records what the person is listening to. The information collected is uploaded each night to Arbitron via a modem.

I'm personally not surprised that the results of this device have shown a decline in listeners to smooth jazz stations (many more have already "flipped" as a result of the PPM data). I've lost count of the amount of communications I receive from people who have found Smooth Jazz when their local station has changed formats. They mostly say things like "Why didn't I find you before?" and more importantly "You actually play smooth jazz!".

In fact most of the mail we have received over the last few years has pretty much followed the same pattern. People are really tired with getting served up 20-30 year old tracks by Sade, Al Jarreau, Anita Baker, Simply Red, Luther Vandross, Phil Collins, etc in the name of smooth jazz. It doesn't have to be that way.

On Sky we play none of the aforementioned. I guess it's a bonus that in the case of Internet radio we can see when people tune away and of course we know exactly what song was playing when they went. It was this information that helped me produce and prune the playlist for my original smooth jazz project "Soft Jazz FM" back in 2001 (still the #1 smooth jazz station on after 9 years) and it was this information that I used for Sky in 2004. It took about a couple of years for Sky Smooth Jazz to become the World's #1 Internet Smooth Jazz station. We have been in the top slot ever since.

So I humbly submit that there's nothing wrong with the genre, it's the station playlists that are killing smooth jazz.