Okay. I’m angry.

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’.

What?!

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.

K.G.

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13 thoughts on “Okay. I’m angry.

    1. Thanks! I just get VERY tired of people using the same excuse. We know about the lack of terrestrial stations; this is why we go online! This is why the Spot is thriving! So I do not, do not take kindly to beating a dead horse and on top of that, insulting the fans through the blame game. The ball was dropped on this. Big-time. Someone has to say it.

  1. Kat…I am with you…as an independent smooth jazz artist, the internet radio dj, Lynn, Bridgette and you have increased our fan base exponetially…we are alive and well in our small northern Calif shows because of this and continue to thrive…I lost money on this too…this was a gathering of the clan for me…I was booked way back in August…as Euge said, it shames the artists and fans…thanks for the column to air the feeling…BTW…Utopian Dreams is performing in several shows in Northern California following the format you have talked about…small and fan based…more info on Facebook at Utopian-Dreams band…again thank you for airing my thoughts exactly…would have loved to hang with you in San Diego…another time maybe?…Pat

    1. Hi Patricia! Honored that you are reading this blog!

      This just amazes me, and not in a good way. I would love to come out and hang with everyone if another such event – a better organized, better marketed event! – cropped up. It’s just that so many people ignore that the Internet is the new favorite advert medium. Even your presence here shows that grassroots writers like myself can make it!

  2. I liked the Sign On San Diego’s article sorely for blaming the Promoter’s lack of trying and CJazz’s Michele’s Abrams comment that the promoter bit off more than she could chew, NOT because Smooth Jazz needs to change. It DOES NOT! I too am insulted by being blamed about lack of fan support. I STILL feel like someone kicked me in my stomach. But in support, I’m still going. I can’t leave my friends in a lurch, AND, I will go to support the CJazz concert, to show that support for Smooth Jazz IS alive and WELL!!

    1. That article is a joke. I love the backhanded insult on how smooth jazz artists need to make “real” music. That just completely infuriated me.

      I can’t go, unfortunately, because I almost went bankrupt booking everything on my budget. The ticket came by as a result of graphic design but the hotel, airline – none of them are cheap. My heart hurts for the artists, some of whom are VERY close friends of mine. They’re out there, and I doubt they’ll see a penny of reimbursement for this.

  3. Katherine…I just posted this on the offending article..starting to stack up the likes and comments…suggest others do this to…

    “This was not about smooth jazz or the so-called death of smooth jazz…this was poor promotion…the fans are no longer on terrestrial radio…huge on internet radio as evidenced by other sold out festivals and sold out cruises…I am getting tired of the out-of -date criticism of smooth jazz tunes that are now 15 years old!…this is what Clear Channel plays…not the independent internet radio jocks…so quit blaming the genre, the artists and the fans and lay blame at the promoter’s feet where it belongs… “

    1. Thanks, Pat!

      It’s time to actually look at everything realistically. Fans everywhere have grasped onto the alternatives to traditional radio and are thriving with proper online promo. New artists know it too, and are using it to their advantage. It’s not the fans. It’s the advertising. And if the advertising doesn’t cater to the fans, of course nothing will come of it. The fans and artists are the ones hungry and salivating for it.

      I design for various artists. My greatest successes were with online marketing.

  4. I agree totally with you here! Poor planning. And now lots of folks (including me and my artists are out of some $$).

    I agree the genre could use some great new music, but it gets it every day! Just look at the artistic growth and maturation of Mindi Abair, Fourplay, Marc Antoine, Chris Botti, and Jeff Lorber. These are folks who easily could rest on their laurels yet continue to push their own envelopes.

    Look at new artists like Cindy Bradley, Darren Rahn, and our own Drew Davidsen who are working hard to get quality new music on the scene at whatever cost.

    I’ve worked with artists for 20 years, and know the hard work they put in to craft and evolve their music.

    There are SO many talented folks in smooth/C-Jazz that something like this that affects so many of them is just ridiculous.

    And yes, how can you say Smooth Jazz is dead when you go to SeaBreeze??? Are you kidding me? That place was packed every day last year!

    Sorry I won’t get to see everyone in Sa Diego. Was looking forward to meeting more SJ folks.

    EC
    Creative Soul Jazz

    1. Welcome, Eric!!
      I met Drew Davidsen at Berks last year, matter of fact, and agree with you 100%
      The artists deserve better promo than what they’re getting. This is why I’m in smooth jazz to begin with. This music is my love, my heart, my home. For it, I’ll do what it takes. And if it takes marketing, then hell, I’m in gear for it.

  5. i won’t be shocked if there are a couple lawsuits that crop up as a result of what just happened. i’m a little pissed off about this, as i know a lot of people shelled out a LOT of money for this. perhaps they should’ve reduced the price of tickets, as well as advertised outside of San Diego, much like ASJA did. i really would love to go to ASJA as well as i wanted to go next year to Oasis, if it happens next year. as much as people got burned this time, i would think it’s doubtful there will be a next time.

    1. ASJA was advertised remarkably well, and if it won’t coincide with my cruise again, I’ll be honored to attend it.

      The possibility of lawsuits certainly is there.

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