It’s not often that I write a post and categorize it under “jazz” and “the pissed-off file” simultaneously, but I think I have to.
I think it’s no secret right now that the Oasis Contemporary Jazz Awards are canceled. It’s three days to the event. I was scheduled to co-present. I’ve designed an ad for the program. I’ve shelled out a very solid amount of money for flight, hotel, etc. and by no means am I wealthy.
Then the other shoe drops. One article here.
To say that I’m angry is an understatement, and not just because they have canceled the event so close to the wire. Generally, you don’t cancel shows this close in advance. Bad ticket sales are one thing, but if it’s obvious that the ticket sales are dismal – which, believe me, is not something that a promoter misses over an extended period of time – you let people know in advance. Because that way, they can plan on alternatives.
What really raised my hackles is the way that the advertising was – or in this case, wasn’t – done for this event, and the producers are pulling out the “smooth jazz radio is dead” card as the reason why ticket sales were bottomed. Similarly, it pisses me off that the article above suggests that the artists drop the “smooth” moniker and “start making real music.”
What part of this music isn’t real, I ask? Seriously. What part of this music isn’t real if the cruises are booked a year in advance to the gills, the festivals are a hit, new artists are voluntarily entering the genre, and the listeners have gotten involved in more than one grassroots petition to bring the stations back?
Look – it’s not a secret that terrestrial jazz radio has gone the way of antenna television. It’s also not a secret that there are alternatives to terrestrial radio and that those alternatives are multiplying exponentially. Internet radio is the new go-to for music, and I can attest that both Bruce Nazarian and Pandora Radio spike their punch with new blood on a regular basis. Independent promoters make it a point to back new artists as good openers for existing greats. And then there’s Smooth Wave Jazz, a very popular online station, owned by a teenager, which I heard and was shocked to find that it was comprised of the newest and latest releases a lot more than the tried-and-true, which is a very welcome first.
To say that smooth jazz artists should start making “real” music is a slap in the face. IT IS REAL MUSIC.
That and let’s not forget people like myself and Lynn Olson. Bloggers. Reviewers. People who go out of their way to attend a show, write all about it, and as a result, interest people into coming to the show. The independent reviewers/bloggers would have been only too happy to have written/placed pieces of advert into whatever mediums were at their disposal.
Why were these resources not utilized?!
Ticket sales may make or break the show, and I will not argue it, but poor advertising will invariably, always result in lousy sales. It’s basic logic. But the avenues for advertising are right there. They’re not the traditional method, but they’re there. They were clearly, clearly not utilized. I didn’t see or hear any adverts as interstitials with the Smooth Jazz station on Pandora. I am subscribed to a lot of people’s mailing lists – I can tell you, only the artists who were set at Oasis were advertising. And considering that I specialize in music events as a graphic designer/marketer, I would’ve been beyond happy to have done months’ worth of promo in advance.
I wasn’t approached.
Nor were a lot of people, I’m sure, because the marketing in cities other than San Diego was nonexistent.
Instead, we get a dropped ball on the event three days prior – which, in my opinion, is inexcusable – and a statement that they have “advertised generously.” Really? So why didn’t I see much advertising aside from what I have seen on the artists’ part? Why were the currently most popular mediums for jazz advertising – online radio, independent marketing, bloggers, local venues in other cities – ignored outright?
If the advertising was local – okay, but that’s only a part of the audience and, considering that San Diego still has a terrestrial station, a small part. Advertising in the non-station-endowed cities would’ve brought a windfall. There are so many people, such as myself, who were or would be willing to travel for an event like this. NYC has a huge jazz fan base, if the packed Spirit series and cruises are indication, and we saw no marketing. The only way I saw anything about it is because I’ve looked, and have worked on graphic design related to this.
So I don’t buy the “generous advertising” part, not for one moment. If you look at the Oasis site, it’s a very thinly veiled point of fingers towards the fans. It’s a ‘hey, you didn’t buy enough tickets, your fault it got canceled’.
Honestly? The fans, and the artists, would have happily shelled out for this had more of them actually seen the advertising. Where was it in NYC? We get Spirit selling out, we get Dave Koz’s at Best Buy being packed to capacity, we get the Blue Note sold out – why were New Yorkers not aware of the awards? We have a huge contingent of people who are willing to go.
Altogether, what this adds up to is a major insult to the fans. Considering that the fans are the driving force behind the online radio phenomenon, that theirs is the will that was behind the HD version of CD 101.9, I am insulted that this is the statement that the fans – who were eager for this! – received. Let me point out that American Smooth Jazz Awards last October were a hit. In a non-radio atmosphere, they still managed to surface and thrive. Why? They were marketed heavily, through the aforemenetioned mediums, and to the proper audience. Online radio. Facebook. The artists, even though some of them, as I gathered from later photos, didn’t make it despite their nominations, put their best foot forward, and the show went on.
It is not the fans’ fault that they were not advertised to. Just because our terrestrial stations are dead doesn’t mean we don’t find alternatives. This was what was overlooked.
So honestly, don’t blame the fans when the other shoe drops three days before all of this. If you knew it wasn’t going well, then why not quit while ahead and call off the show before people locked in their time and money? This isn’t our fault when we’re the ones who routinely pour money that we sometimes don’t have, and effort that we sometimes cannot spare, in keeping this style of music alive. We’re fans. We make these events happen. And when you pull the rug out like that, we get angry.