Radio: Further Thoughts About KJAZZ

By Norton Wright

Some final words about the KJazz benefit concert at Disney Hall providing much needed financial funding for KJazz Radio, the station which in various incarnations has been serving the southern California listenership for over 30 years.

Here are ten, perhaps little known facts about the station provided by Station Manager, Stephanie Levine –

1. The KJazz annual operating budget is just under $2 million and is judged to be a very efficient operation given its 24/7 programming and its live DJ staff of 10… Jazz radio stations in NYC and other areas have higher operating budgets.

2. As a listener supported station, KJazz raises about 85% to 90% of its annual operating budget from its audience donors via three pledge drives per year, primarily in Southern California but also around the nation and world.

3. But even with that strong listener support and some modest grants, the station often runs at an annual shortfall of $200,000 to $300,000 — that shortfall being covered by the generous financial contributions of Saul Levine, the station’s General Manager…Incidentally, Mr. Levine takes no salary from KJazz.

4 In the year 2007, Mr. Levine stepped in to reorganize the station and brought it back from the financial straits that threatened its closure, all on behalf of the licensee of KKJZ -= the California State University, Long Beach Foundation, for whom the station is operated.

5. In any given week, the station’s Arbitron Cumulative Audience is over 458,000 listeners making KJazz the most listened to full-time jazz station in the nation. The station also has a large number of listeners on the Internet – approximately 100,000 listeners in any given month.

6. A typical KJazz listener listens to the station’s programming, off and on each day, for about 1 hour.

7. KJazz daily play lists of tunes are particularly organized to provide a satisfying jazz experience for that listener who switches between radio news, traffic & weather reports, and other programs and tunes in to KJazz for that 1 hour each day. The reason that the station often repeats the same tune in the course of a week’s programming is to increase the chances that its typical listener will catch some of his/her favorite jazz tunes in the course of a day’s or week’s listening.

8. KJazz DJs make suggestions about the play lists for their shows, but the playlists for the weekday DJ’s shows are organized under the direction of General Manager Saul Levine. The music in specialty programs is determined by the programs’ hosts, e.g. John Pizzarelli’s Radio Deluxe, Ramsey Lewis’ Legends of Jazz, Bob Parlocha, et al.

9. Last Saturday night’s First Ever KJazz Summer Benefit Concert raised substantial funding, and the station has already received considerable positive feedback from donors asking that the event be made an annual one.

10. Whenever you are interested in making a tax-deductible contribution to KJazz, the station’s telephone pledge line is (800) 767-3688.

* * * * * * * *

As noted above, sometimes KJazz Radio is criticized for what a steady, all-day listener considers too many repeats of the same tune in the course of a day’s or a week’s programming. But it’s helpful to remember that the station’s daily play lists are designed to please that listener who gets to listen to the station for only 1 hour a day and wants a chance to hear some of his/her favorite tunes during that one hour. For the steady, all-day listener, it may be an occasional drag to hear the same tune several times a week on KJazz, but do all-day listeners really object to hearing some jazz classics played two or three times in the course of a seven-day week?

Sometimes criticism arises regarding KJazz’s play lists that emphasize modern jazz standards rather than the new work of up-and-coming artists or those newcomers pushing the jazz envelope. Yup, I personally would like to hear  KJazz play more of today’s new and super talented artists (e.g. Jason Moran, Halie Loren, Jenny Scheinman, Graham Dechter, Nik Bartsch, et al.) — and KJazz may already be leaning in that direction. Given that the station chose to open last Saturday night’s Benefit Concert with Harvey Mason’s new, fusion sextet, “Chameleon,” much to the delight of the audience, maybe those kinds of successful experiments will prompt the station to schedule a weekly hour or two focusing on new jazz talents — or at least infuse its weekly playlists with more of the jazz scene’s promising newcomers. Wasn’t it Dizzy who said, “With the eating, comes the appetite.” Or was it, “If you play it, they will come.”

All of which is to suggest that, in today’s America, there is occasionally the tendency to make perfection the enemy of the good. KJazz may not be perfect, but it is very good station, and in return for a contribution of modest dollars a year, we get some very heavy and satisfying jazz programming.

Congratulations and thanks are due to General Manager Saul Levine and his lean, hard-working KJazz staff who are keeping the jazz torch burning in southern California, across America, and around the world.

To read more posts by and about Norton Wright click HERE.

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