As the longtime manager of (and business owner/partner with) guitarist Nick Colionne, Carol Ray is in a position to give us an overview of the Smooth Jazz industry based on years of active participation. I’ve always found her to be honest and forthcoming and, above all, very fair in her dealings with others.
RO: What’s your quick take on where we stand right now?
CR: I believe a major enemy of success is conventional wisdom/customary practices. The reality of changes now endemic in the business has a lot of people wondering what to do to survive. It has served me (and Nick's career) well over the years to deal with what I believe matters and to dare to trust my instincts.
What do you expect when you deal with concert promoters and venues?
CR: What I expect and what I want aren't always
the same thing so I will answer as to what I would like to see. From promoters, a fair offer commensurate with
the ability of the artist to actually sell tickets and treatment of the artist
that respects the difficulty of doing their job on the road as well as the
terms of the contract. From venues,
proper sound and lighting equipment and competent techs and stage managers,
clean dressing rooms and decent security.
Don't forget plenty of bathrooms for the audience, either.
What would you like to see from radio?
What would you want radio to do differently? What do you think is radio doing right?
CR: I would like to see radio being programmed with the same passion for the music as those who create it. I don't distinguish between terrestrial and internet radio in this regard. Radio programmers with great "ears”--and there are plenty--free of the dictates of focus groups and accounting departments, can create a compelling listening experience that will inevitably draw listeners to them. Specific pet peeves of mine:
- Stop trying to make jazz into pop, urban AC or R&B. Being all things to all audiences dilutes everything. That music already has plenty of stations playing it anyway.
- Limit vocals to one or two an hour and make sure they are jazz vocals when you play them.
is so much great new music being created. Twenty-five year old chestnuts can be
retired to specialty programming only. Don't
turn this into an oldies format!
Can you name the one thing that would improve the industry the most?
CR: If I could wave a magic wand and have
promoters and radio programmers recognize that the past is history and
repeating the decisions from the past will not bring the new results and
audiences needed to keep the format vital and vibrant, I would. Book and play the exciting artists who are
constantly evolving their music and performances, and find a way to inject new
talent and sounds into the mix or we are doomed to be the next Big Band format,
frozen in time.
What would you like to see in the world of Smooth/Contemporary jazz in
CR: Fans are key and their ongoing and increased support of the music is imperative. Promoters and radio folks, introduce your audiences to new artists in ways that make sense in your markets. Artists who are building their following by developing a local audience into a regional audience, etc., can make themselves desirable as cost effective opening acts.
Radio can focus on local and regional talent via specialty show programming. The major artists of tomorrow are out there. Radio can do artist interviews for live or later date broadcasting, bringing established and newer artists one on one to their audiences.
RO: Your final thoughts?
Everyone needs to accept change. Concert promoters need to recognize the acts that have nothing new to say and hire someone else. Radio needs to stop playing 25 year old tunes. Audiences need to embrace new music from established stars and good music from up and coming artists. Contemporary jazz terrestrial radio is no longer top ten status, and internet radio is rising. If everyone involved, from fans to artists to programmers to promoters, accepts the new reality of jazz and stops trying to recreate what can no longer be, we'll be just fine, and who knows where we can go from here?!
A few years ago Carol was interviewed for Smooth Views by Shannon West.
I’ve excerpted a portion of the interview below, because it gives us an
additional glimpse into how she approaches her job.
CR: I love what I do and I love creating an environment for Nick Colionne to do what he loves to do. It makes him happy, it makes me happy, it makes the fans happy. It's pleasurable. It's fun and nobody said it was easy. I work harder at this than I have ever worked at anything in my life. It's rare that I take a day off, then I work twice as hard the next day. I take phone calls at any time. I answer e-mails at 3 a.m. I am completely dedicated to this because I believe in it. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction to know that I have relationships with people that other people don't even know.
Monday - Part 3: The Artist
Tuesday - Part 4: Radio Programmers (I'll be handling this one, and you get to ask the questions. Send them to me at the email address below.)
~Rick O'Dell (FmAm1@aol.com)
Our Smooth Video of the Day: Nick Colionne gives us a preview of his February 16 date at the Montrose Room.