Blues airplay/Was: Letter from Double Trouble

Richard Flohil
Sun Mar 4 10:22:57 EST 2001

Wrote Chuck Nevitt, after reading the post from the Double Trouble boys:

>Can anyone tell me why an act would ask that you only request 2 songs off of
>a CD full of them? I would have thought that they were all recorded with the
>notion that they might (all) get airplay.

The answer, of course, is that the artist wants all the radio stations to
be playing the same song or songs, so that a recognition factor comes into
play with the listener.
        Right now, blues record sales are pitifully low in the United
States and Canada (although they are doing much better in Europe).  There
are a number of reasons for this:

1) Too many records - no, FAR too many records.
2) Too many merely *okay* records instead of very good ones.
3) Not enough airplay on the best records, so that awareness of them never
sinks into the mind of the consumer.

Most blues djs reach small audiences.  They are bombarded with new
releases.  They have, first of all, to play music by their local artists
(who are very often friends!), even though some of these records aren't
very good.  Then, many djs play the classic artists from the past.  There
are also a number of re-issues, re-releases, compilations, etc., but out by
the major labels, trawling through their vaults full of wonderful material.
Then there's a plethora of new releases from the established blues labels
with strong promotional smarts - Alligator, Blind Pig, Evidence, etc.
        What's a poor dj to do?  The reality is that most djs play one cut
from a new record, and rarely more than once.  They're swamped with music
(so much of it that they frequently use the industry term for music, which
is "product").  They play a cut, move on, and rarely come back to that
record again - and if they do, they'll probably play a different cut.
        None of this scattershot airplay, in my view, really helps
encourage listeners to buy the record; they just don't have the time to let
a strong song kick in to *force* them into the store to find the record -
where they will be flabbergasted by the number of new releases on offer,
and probably forget what they went to the store to get in the first place.
        Commercial radio knows that if they play a Britney Spears track
often enough, folks will go into the store and buy the whole record - or at
least whiz over to Napster and download it for free.  Fact is, of course,
that they'll probably be ripped off, but those are other topics for another
        What e-mail lists like this, and Blues-DJ, do is help build a
consensus about what the best releases are and hopefully what the best
tracks are, but I don't think this really works very well - given the
amount of new releases and the choice djs have.  The "Charts" that run in
Living Blues, for instance, could help with this process, but they are
really outdated because of the length of time it takes between compiling
the chart, and you and I reading it at the newstand (close to four weeks!)
        The major sales success of blues records come when airplay crosses
from college, community and other stations at the bottom end of the dial to
the big stations in the middle.
        So when the Double Trouble boys ask fans to ask radio people to
support specific songs from their new record, they trying to build a
consensus among different djs at different stations, so that potential
buyers will hear one or two songs a number of times, on different stations
- after the 10th or 11th, if they like it, they *may* go to the store to
buy it.
        Until the blues dj community learns what commercial radio learned
decades ago, blues record sales will remain minimal.  The Double Trouble
guys, in the real world, were merely stating the obvious.


Richard the Elder
(playing, of course, the wonderful new Stony Plain releases by The Holmes
Brothers (on   Alligator in the US), Maria Muldaur, and - coming soon -
Billy Boy Arnold produced by Duke Robillard),

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