Embrace the Hyphen
The one question we’ve probably been asked the most in interviews over the years is, “How would you classify your music?”. And in all this time, we’ve never managed to come up with a consistent, coherent answer. “Groove-Jazz”? “Electro-Jazz”? “Nu-Jazz”? “Trance-Jazz”? “Cinematic-Funk-Fusion-Chill-Jazz”? It’s all close, but nothing really seems to nail it.
I remember years ago when the term “acid-jazz” was still being used, we submitted some music to JazzFM in Toronto; they are pretty much a Traditional Jazz station. The response we got back from Ted O’Reilly was delightfully succinct: “We don’t play hyphenated Jazz”. That phrase has really stuck with me. It’s a sad comment on the narrow-mindedness of some radio programmers, and indeed, on the limitations of radio formatting in general.
Smooth Jazz radio is having a bit of an identity crisis at the moment; actually, it has been for quite some time now. Some people embrace the term, most people hate it. When we were down at XM Radio a few years ago for an in-studio performance, we were forbidden to use it. The problem is, there doesn’t seem to be an alternative that everyone can agree on. Some want to lose the “smooth”, some the “jazz”. The Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards is now The Wave Awards. For a while, radio folks tried “New Adult Contemporary”… that didn’t stick. It pains me to see so many stations flipping formats; I know that there are many factors at play here, but I can’t help feeling that as much as programming issues, etc., a big part of the problem is this schism over THE NAME.
So where does that leave us?
Well, as far as I’m concerned, I just want to make music; I don’t care what it’s called. I know the same goes for many other artists. I’m going to let the suits decide how to format radio stations; they’ve been doing it for a long time, for better or worse, and most of us have been along for the ride. Good music music will find its audience, whether it’s through commercial radio, internet radio, podcasts, social networking, or just friends making copies for friends. And frankly, there are bigger issues to deal with, like keeping the music business viable as a whole! It doesn’t matter how much radio play you get if people aren’t actually buying your music. Formats are only helpful to a point, then they can become divisive. Me, I’ve never been particularly attached to the “smooth” OR the “jazz”, or any of the other pigeonholes for that matter… I’m going to continue to embrace the hyphen. That’s where the interesting stuff happens.