Atlanta Jazz station WCLK 91.9 FM has switched formats, going from a traditional jazz station and adopting a more "smoother" sound. By smoother, we mean adding tracks from such artists as Gerald Albright, Candy Dulfer, Anita Baker, Incognito, Bob James, Sade, Jeff Lorber, Wayman Tisdale, Kirk Whalum, Marc Antoice, Walter Beasley, Marcus Johnson, Euge Groove, The Crusaders - you get the picture.
Since flipping formats on Monday (8/27), the station has garnered alot of negative feedback with avid listeners demanding that the station revert back to the music that they admired in the first place. As a matter of fact listeners have voiced their opinions on WCLK's Facebook page and have even started an online petition asking that the station switch back.
So why the sudden change you may ask? In an effort to boost its audience and garner more membership dollars, the non-commercial radio station attached to Clark Atlanta University has started pre-programming its playlist and narrowed it down from about 900 songs to 400 songs Monday-Friday, according to Atlanta Journal-Constitution radio reporter Rodney Ho, who spoke to WCLK's general manager of the last 20 years, Wendy Williams.
In addition to severely cutting back on the number of songs being played, the radio DJ's are no longer allowed to program their own music. A major focus is WCLK DJ and on-air personality Jamal Ahmad, who's S.O.U.L. of Jazz show has been a longtime listener favorite, recognized locally and internationally for its groundbreaking programming. "Jamal Ahmad's show is one of the last bastion's on noncommercial music in the city of Atlanta," reads the first line of the petition, started by Creative Loafing contributor and publisher of Slo Momagazine, Carlton Hargro.
Personally speaking, these are my thoughts...
I've always loved the sound of smooth jazz; however, the format has gotten tired over the last few years and I think that a hybrid playlist is more realistic as a formula for success. The format needs to be less sugary and less background music-ish - and please no more of the tired same old songs being played over and over again.
The format needs to be revitalized - more soul, more advant gardish, more diversion. Ever here of Jazz FM in the UK? Check them out for ideas.
WCLK walks a fine by making the switch to a tired format and needs to be careful that they don't fallback into the same old tired niche. I suggest that they add the diversity to their playlist; open it up to much more than 400 songs; become edgier with their sound; and let Jamal Ahmad select his playlist. Think about it - if his show has garnered awards and recognition then why not expand on that sound in the first place?
I look forward to any thoughts or comments - so please pass them on...