Due to the fact that the last three weeks have seen me start a new job at a major record label, my organisation levels, and the subsequent formalisation of blog posts, have been somewhat lacking. I have however had time to soak in my new surroundings and analyse, in marvel, the commercial industry protocols and processes that contribute towards the marketing, distribution and ultimate success of a number of chart topping artists. Far from breaching anything that resides within the confines of a confidentiality clause, I am not posting to talk about the inner workings of the industry, but more to communicate how jazz can learn and develop from a fleeting glance at the cultural pillar that is the pop world. I'll do this through the auspices of it's maiden messenger; BBC Radio 1.
Whilst my immersion into the Radio 1 listening mould that I used to so fervently avoid didn't come easily at first, it's a process that I'm grateful I stuck with. Listening to the countries most popular music station, I noticed that it's success, and the inherent success of artists that are played on it, can be broken down into three main subsections:
Radio 1 plays what is fashionable now; a constant source of the latest musical trends and fads which hold the nations interest at a particular time. Enthusiasm for new artists is built through subsequently formalised 'Scenes and trends' which appear through the collective exposure of a group of artists who all adhere to the same musical principles or artistic vision. As a result of this, people are constantly buying into new sounds and scenes, generating new interest and revenue around new aritsts!
Jazz does not have any sort of trend scene, artists are not collectivized as meticulously as in the pop circuit and as a result there is nothing to buy into but the music! Perhaps this fact makes jazz the perfect genre for a 'music lover', but trends and scenes need to form within jazz for it to become interesting again! There's so much to be collectivized but it never seems to happen due to the common consensus that 'jazz is jazz' and the metaphorical full stop which seems to follow that thought process.
- Credibility of Artists
The 'father figure' of commercial radio stations has also taught me to respect commercially viable artists. I think it's a common misconception amongst many outside of that 'Top 40 bubble', that these successful artists seem to have got where they are due to looks, luck or favour; three factors which I for one used to completely subscribe to. The reality seems far different, a large proportion of artists that come in to play radio 1's 'live lounge' or were recorded performing at the stations recent festival 'The Hackney Weekend' were fantastic! Jazz musicians may have the technical edge but to what extent does this count for anything if no one is buying into their premise?
- Reach, acceptance and subsequent revenue
The subtitle is description enough of what the station stands for in my eyes. Reach and acceptance are extremely high and this leads to increased revenue and exposure for artists that are featured prominently. A platform like which, jazz does not have... so why not aim to get the genre a platform on Radio 1?
Critics of this piece will suggest that I simply don't understand the 'purely musical' phenomenon that is jazz, and that my rather tenuous attempt to basically relay the same message that 'The genre is dying and needs refreshing' is a tired and frankly absurd one. Jazz is, and has been in decline since it's glory days, the commercial market moves on and jazz now burns with a diminished flame in the corner of a badly lit pub somewhere, surrounded by a handful of people who care enough about it to have made the trip out to see it, and that is fine! In fact with jazz festival tickets selling well for this summer, perhaps you may view my article as plain wrong!
But I come from a generation where jazz is not at the forefront of musical taste, perhaps adopting a number of commercially based characteristics may enhance the future of the genre such as collaborations between radio 1 based and jazz based artists. Who knows where jazz will be in 50 years if these premises are completely disregarded.