WFMT Radio Network [link], based in Chicago, will begin distributing a new version of The Jazz Network to stations nationwide on January 10, 2017, according to a blog post by Robert Feder of The Chicago Tribune [link].
WFMT is already a proven Jazz distributor. In 1990s WFMT Radio Network began distributing Jazz with Bob Parlocha. Pariocha died suddenly in March 2015. Since then WFMT has been featuring hosts Greg Bridges & Lee Thomas.
WFMT claims that over 300 stations are currently carrying service. Almost all of the stations are noncoms that use the service to fill lunar hours on Friday and Saturday nights.
Now WFMT is debuting something bigger and bolder: Four hosts from the Chicago area providing 12 hours nightly of mainstream Jazz programming. The new hosts are:
|Chicago Tribune photo|
• Jazz vocalist and educator Dee Alexander
• Jazz radio host John Hill
• Long-time WFMT and WGN radio host Dave Schwan
• Jazz critic, GRAMMY® Award-winning liner note writer and former WBEZ Jazz host Neil Tesser
The Jazz Network is being marketed as an economical turnkey option for stations. Here is the sales pitch:
Designed for you and your listeners, all Jazz Network hours can be fully customized as your local program product. The service includes flexible hourly modules, with optional internal covered breaks which allow for news, ID’s, local promotion, funding credits or commercials, and customized continuity with a local sound.
The Jazz Network, like other WFMT Radio Network services and programs, is being distributed via PRX.
BUT IS THERE A MARKET?
The Jazz Network will be competing in an uncertain and changing Jazz syndication marketplace. Jazz music stations like WBGO in NYC and KKJZ in LA continue to do very well in Nielsen Audio PPM ratings. They are successful at underwriting and pledging. These stations are best known for their live, local hosts and intense focus on the local music scene.
Format focusing – specializing in one type of programming such as 24/7 NPR and local news – also decreased the number of stations carrying part time Jazz. Case-in-point: WBEZ in Chicago which dropped Jazz to air news 24/7.
The hottest thing going at the moment is Jazz 24 [link] from the newly empowered KNKX (formerly KPLU) in Seattle-Tacoma. Joey Cohn and company are making Jazz 24 available via streaming audio.
Another syndicator providing Jazz to noncom stations is PubMusic Jazz [link]. It is a 24/7 Jazz format distributed on the Public Radio Satellite System (PRSS). It is easy to combine with local station automation. PubMusic Jazz is the brainchild of Chuck Leavens, a well-known and liked producer who was with WDUQ-FM, Pittsburgh, before the station was sold and dropped Jazz programming. WDUQ is now NPR News station WESA.
On the PubMusic Jazz website, they claim carriage in Detroit (WRCJ), Philadelphia (WRTI), Charlotte (WFAE) and Grand Rapids (WGVU). So PubMusic Jazz controls a lot of radio shelf space at a low price.
A “mystery factor” is JazzWorks from WESA [link]. When WDUQ was sold the new owners agreed to provide a Jazz syndicated music service. I went to the website for JazzWorks and found almost no information about the syndicated format. It apparently is carried on one of WESA’s HD channels and looks like it is on WUCF in Orlando, but who knows for sure. You can hear the truly obtuse and uninformative demo for JazzWorks at [link].