Two more feeds syndicate jazz to public radio

By Mike Janssen

Public radio stations shopping for a plug-and-play jazz stream now have double the options to consider, with two newcomers to the field offering mainstream jazz services.

Last month KPLU in Seattle/Tacoma announced that it will soon offer its Jazz24 stream, which it now broadcasts online and locally on an HD channel, to stations around the country. KPLU says the channel now draws a monthly web audience of 100,000 listeners, 90 percent outside the Seattle area.

Meanwhile, some former hosts and creators of JazzWorks, a service that changed hands in May along with Pittsburgh’s WDUQ-FM, are now offering a jazz service under the name of Pubradio Network, competing with their old channel.

Add those to the incumbents — JazzWorks, now operated by WDUQ’s buyer, Essential Public Media, and the Jazz Satellite Network from Chicago’s WFMT.

These services  give stations an easier way to deliver hours of jazz on their main FM channels, on HD Radio digital multicasts or on web streams. As of last spring, 95 public radio stations aired at least some jazz. Four offer jazz on digital multicast channels.

KPLU launched Jazz24 about five years ago as a backup for its primary broadcast, says Paul Stankavich, g.m. The station then enhanced the stream about a year ago to use as a multicast channel and to offer online.

Jazz24’s music mix is based on KPLU’s research into jazz preferences among NPR News listeners. Its three hosts try to avoid an “insider” tone, says Nick Francis, KPLU’s director of music content. Comedy bits sprinkled between cuts relate to the music, and some poke fun at jazz.

The stream will be available in November via the Public Radio Satellite Service. After announcing Jazz24 just a few weeks ago, KPLU has yet to sign up subscribers, but stations are expressing interest, Stankavich says. Stations will be charged for the service at a rate scaled to their size.

The other new jazz stream provider is based on the other side of the country. Founded July 1 by Chuck Leavens, former chief engineer at WDUQ and designer of JazzWorks’ technical setup, the Pittsburgh-based Pubradio Network offers a jazz channel, is developing a blues stream and may also start a Triple A service, says Joan Swanson, v.p. of station relations.

JAZZ FEED PURVEYORS

Jazz24, KPLU: www.jazz24.org

Pubradio Network: www.pubradio.net

JazzWorks: www.jazzworks.net

Jazz Satellite Network, WFMT:
www.wfmt.com/main.taf?p=12,11,35

Pubradio Network host Tony Mowad was previously a flagship host on JazzWorks and WDUQ, as well as the station’s e.p. of jazz. Mowad declined to continue with WDUQ after it was sold to a group with plans to specialize in news. Former WDUQ General Manager Scott Hanley is also a host on the Pubradio Network’s jazz stream.

The network also programs the Pittsburgh Jazz Channel, an online-only jazz channel tailored to the local audience, at pghjazzchannel.net.

Like Jazz24, the Pubradio Network’s jazz stream aims to attract listeners who also listen to news, Swanson says, with a mainstream mix of vocal and instrumental pieces. Stations will be able to offer it on any and all platforms, and it will be fed via Internet, which will help hold down delivery costs.

Essential Public Media continues to operate JazzWorks, which 30 stations use on various platforms. The broadcaster describes JazzWorks as “post-bop mainstream straight-ahead jazz.”

Essential now distributes JazzWorks via satellite but plans to move to Internet distribution as well. The change will allow Essential to provide higher audio quality and to quickly customize feeds for occasions such as station fundraisers, says Russ Lloyd, engineer for EPM and JazzWorks.

Rounding out the catalog of jazz streams is WFMT’s Jazz Satellite Network, which started in 1997 and airs on 71 stations. Hosted by Bob Parlocha, the service also sticks with mainstream jazz, sometimes dipping farther into the past for tunes from the likes of Charlie Parker and Lester Young.

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