Smooth Jazz

Smooth Jazz

A case study in the relationships between commercial radio formats, audience research and music production

This article examines the relationships between three areas of activity within the music and media industries: the construction of music formats for commercial radio programming, audience research and music production. With specific reference to two companies located in the United States, this research explores some of the ways in which these practices affect one another and help to develop the organisation of music genres into discrete, strictly controlled, radio formats.

In order to illustrate the relationship between music formatting and audience research, this work makes a case study of Broadcast Architecture, a Los Angeles-based research and consultancy firm. Prominent in the radio industry since 1988, Broadcast Architecture is the primary exponent of the smooth jazz format and a leader in audience research technologies. To examine the relationships between Broadcast Architecture and the production of music used in smooth jazz radio programming, the case study considers the work of GRP Records, a popular jazz label established in 1982.

The findings of this research are used as a basis for asking questions about the relationships between musical creativity, radio programming and audience tastes. The case of GRP Records, which has existed as both an independent jazz label and a subsidiary of major labels, illustrates how record companies can cater to the needs of radio formats, and, therefore, the ways in which radio formats can exert influence upon the music available in the record market. The primary research presented herein draws upon a series of interviews with the founders and senior executives of Broadcast Architecture plus the founders, staff and artists affiliated with GRP Records.

This article was published in The Radio Journal: International Studies in Broadcast and Audio Media, Vol. 8/1, pp: 57-70, 2010.