Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Promoting Jazz: Listener-Supported Radio Needs YOU







© Andrea Canter

Recently I had my first tour of jazz radio station KBEM, housed at North High School in Minneapolis. Aside from feeling that, after listening for nearly 40 years and as a member for about 20, it was time to visit, I was also gathering information and insights for an article I’ll soon post about KBEM’s 40th anniversary. I recommend a station visit to any fans of KBEM—it’s a great way to gain perspective on the other side of the microphone. Part of that perspective is the realization that jazz radio reaches so many listeners with so little return in the way of financial support. Perhaps the most startling revelation was from Kevin Barnes, the guy behind KBEM’s corporate fundraising and grant writing efforts as well as host of String Theory, Bluesville and the REEL Jazz film series. Said Kevin, “We're the "first choice" radio station for roughly 30,000 of these listeners. Currently we have roughly 7,000 listener donors.” My basic math tells me that there is a discrepancy of 27,000 donors among these first-choice listeners. How many hours of jazz radio could be underwritten if all regular listeners sent in as little as $10 per year?

Odds are that many of my readers, my jazz-club cohorts, my colleagues in various jazz-related media are among those 27,000 who enjoy this unique public service without making even a small contribution. In recognition of the hours you have spent listening to new jazz recordings, broadcasts of public radio favorites like Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz or Jim Cullum’s River Walk, regular shows highlighting jazz legends and big bands, and Maryann Sullivan's interviews with local and national artists on Corner Jazz; in thanks for programs like REEL Jazz, Restaurant Tour, Gallery Grooves and the new community education classes; in appreciation for sponsoring the Twin Cities Jazz Festival and jazz performances in our area parks…. How about a contribution, no matter how small, to one of the few surviving full-time jazz radio outlets in the country? To one of the few (or maybe the only) jazz radio station dedicated to public education, offering high school students the opportunity to learn about radio broadcasting as well as jazz?

And the next time you hear a student announcer massacre a name like “Thelonious,” remember that this student likely never heard Monk before coming to KBEM. And maybe next year this student will be a broadcast journalism major; maybe in ten years, this student will be sitting next to you enjoying a set at the Artists Quarter or Dakota, featuring an artist you just heard interviewed on radio. Thanks to KBEM. Thanks to those “listerner donors” who keep jazz radio alive and well.

Happy Birthday, KBEM. Many more.

You can still get tickets for the October 23rd birthday bash (and there may be a few tickets left for the gala on October 24th). And it is never too late to send in a donation! Visit http://www.jazz88fm.com/

Photos: (Top to bottom) Student broadcaster Emmanual Perry on the air; Station Manager Michele Jansen with the extensive CD collection at KBEM studios; fund raiser, string man, and perennial event host Kevin Barnes; Maryann Sullivan interviewed Steve Heckler live during the 2009 Twin Cities Jazz Festival (photos by Andrea Canter)