Carol Archer Interview Carol
Archer developed her reputation for having "good ears" when she began
her career as a singles
buyer for a San Francisco record distributor in the mid-'60s. That distinction
along with divine intervention (according to Carol) earned her the
position of Music Director of CHR KFRC/San Francisco. She held that post for five
years before trekking to Los Angeles to assume Music Director duties at KIIS-AM.
She rose in the ranks to Program Director before exiting to start an independent
Adult Contemporary promotion and marketing firm.
After running that successful
endeavor, Carol took a leave of absence from the radio and music industries to
tackle an entirely different challenge: Assisting in the AIDS communities of Los
Angeles and Capetown, South Africa. Upon her return to the U.S., she joined Sin-Drome
Records, a seminal, independent NAC label, and worked on international business,
licensing, and promotion. In June of 1994, Carol became Radio & Records
NAC/Smooth Jazz Editor, a position she describes as, "like dying and going
to Heaven." Editors Update: March 2009 : Carol is no longer at R&R..click here for the story
John Beaudin - You're like the big flag waiver for this Smooth Jazz format.
Carol Archer - I don't know if that's the case but I take my role pretty seriously John. I think I'm kind of like the mirror and I just hold up a mirror to everyone else's enthusiasm and try to tell the truth.
John - I have a lot of connections in the U.S. for Smooth Jazz but you're really the person that keeps me up to date through your column in R&R magazine.
Carol - That's very nice to hear. You know the music is really the heart and the soul of the matter. Smooth Jazz music is so special I think it needs every champion it can get and I'm very happy to hear you're doing what you're doing.
John - Are you familiar with what's happening in Canada with Smooth Jazz?
Carol - Well with the new Calgary station I tell you that Bob Templeton (head of New-Cap Broadcasting who owns the future Smooth Jazz Radio station in Calgary) is a fabulous man and he gets it about Smooth Jazz. He loves it and he's a passionate broadcaster. Oh, I felt such an affinity with him. He came to L.A. to talk with Chris Brodie (Program Director at the Wave in L.A.) and I. I felt like I'd met my new best friend.
John - I hear good things about him. (Update by editor) John became the Program Director of this Canadian Smooth Jazz station (the Breeze 103.1). He was there until 2008 when the format flipped to Gold.
Carol - You know it's so interesting. Smooth Jazz is really taking off around the world, it's very big in Japan and south east Asia. There are some stations in the Caribbean and in central and south America and there are a number of stations in Europe and even on television. I also know there's a Smooth Jazz Capital FM in Milan. Anyways, I think what this is about is the music. It's primarily instrumental and because it's so soulful and it bursts through cultural boundaries maybe more than vocal music and it's kind of like a universal language.
John - When did you first started writing your column in R&R?
Carol - That was in June of 1994, so it's been almost eight years.
John - So in the beginning it was NAC New Adult Contemporary, in other words it was a Smooth Jazz/New Age format.
Carol - There was Smooth Jazz before this publication began before this publication made a commitment to it. The Wave is fifteen years old this week.
John - That's pretty cool.
Carol - Isn't it unbelievable. It's interesting to see the evolution from the very earliest days when it wasn't even called Smooth Jazz it blended New Age and format vocals and contemporary Jazz and to see how it mainstreamed and changed and it's developed a mass audience. The critics of Smooth Jazz say things like those vocals aren't Jazz. Well I think they are cool very smooth vocals those are sort of the point of entry (to the format) for the slightly more casual listener. Those are the songs that are really familiar and comfortable and identifiable and you know the next song is going to be fabulous, it's a Smooth Jazz song and it's great.
John - Every format have those, you know the songs that compliment the format, those bridge songs.
Carol - The very first audiences for this format were deeply passionate but a very small audience. People are still very passionate about Smooth Jazz but it's not so much deep as it is wide in it's appeal and that's really a good thing. You ask Lee Ritenour or Boney James or Jeff Lorber if they would rather have ten thousand really serious fans who don't listen to anything else or instead have fifteen million people hear their music, they of course would want the larger audience and so would broadcasters.
John - When you started writing there was New Age in the format.
Carol - A little bit but even at that point the New Age edges were beginning to fall away. To this day it's the very rare radio stations that retain any of those sounds, maybe it's Christoforis Dream (David Lanz) or a really classic track.
John - Or Yanni
Carol - Or Suzanne Ciani or some early Art of Noise. The really classic tracks but mostly they have fallen by the wayside because they really aren't well known enough outside of their small passionate fan base. It's really more of a lifestyle fit that old format was a very specific kind of a soundtrack for peoples lives. I maintain that it still is but now it's a different soundtrack.
John - How did you first get to R&R?
Carol - Well I'm a former broadcaster I was a music director in San Francisco for a number of years then I was the first female PD (Program Director) in Los Angeles I programmed Kiss FM.
John - Like 'the' Kiss in L.A? Now that's impressive!
Carol - Yes, but that was many, many years ago. I left the business entirely and worked in the aids community both here in California and in Cape Town South Africa and when I came back I worked for Sin-Drome Records.
John - Bobby Caldwell's label.
Carol - At the time they had Peter White, Keiko Matsui and any number of really wonderful Smooth Jazz artists. This is when Boney James was a sax player in Bobby Caldwell's band. I was already a fan of The Wave in L.A. where Smooth Jazz launched but working at Sin-Drome records which was really the independent Smooth Jazz label at the time nationally. So, in this country Sin-Drome was my first professional association with this format. To be a radio format editor at R&R we all need to have been Program Director's in the past.
John - It was a great step for the format to get a special section in the magazine.
Carol - Well, I'd heard that they were considering making a commitment to this format in print with weekly charts and weekly editorials and a full time editor. It was just one of those moments John when it felt like everything that I'd done in my life had led me to this moment to make this happen. So I called and asked for an interview with the publisher and CEO and we sat down and started talking and it was perfect. I got the job and when I first started I thought I know my short attention span, my need for continuing challenge and probably everything that can be said I would of said in a couple of years. But here it is almost eight years later and I'm more into my job now than I was when I started.
John - That's inspiring!
Carol - Well the music is so great it's never been better. The production value of the stations who are so successful is strong. It's a great place to be in, this job that I have.
John - From a writer's stand point do you get writer's block or does that column just slide out?
Carol - It just flows. It's the easiest thing I do in my job, I love it and I'm never at a loss for ideas. The people that I come in contact with, the artists, the radio executives, the programmers, the music industry professionals are extraordinary. Every conversation is so rich and it's a constant inspiration.
John - The people in this genre are very easy to work with aren't they?
Carol - I don't know why that is but I've certainly noticed that there's a level of maturity and humility that is just fabulous and I don't know what accounts for that.
John - Well, I've never had a Jennifer Lopez demanding a room completely in white in Smooth Jazz. Those rumors just don't start with these artists.
Carol - All these years I've only heard one story and really it was just a story not something out of my own experience about an artist who said, "there's no Dom Perignon in my limo."
John - (laughing) Yikes. Where do you think the format is going?
Carol - I think for the foreseeable future it's just going to be more and more successful. My own observation is and I think there's a lot of research that bares that out, is as people mature often their musical tastes and preferences begin to deepen too. I'm a rock'n roller and where at a certain point the old music wasn't interesting or complex enough to really be deeply satisfying to me. My taste began to range more deeply into Jazz and Contemporary Jazz and other genre's. I think that there's a tremendous youth market of people in their mid twenties and their lives are changing. Their beginning to settle and have serious careers, families and I think Smooth Jazz is a very welcome open door for them to walk through.
John - I sound like a broken record saying this but in 1986 we found in Edmonton that the folks who were just starting to look for something that suited their moods or age more were not going to be the old genre of beautiful music. Music choices change with age and Smooth Jazz just fit back then and it certainly does now. Actually, it's more in demand now with an aging audience.
Carol - It's a very good point that you make about an aging audience. It's a challenge I suppose on one hand Smooth Jazz faces but the difference between a format like Beautiful Music and Smooth Jazz is this is an artistically viable format, with real artists who really tour and make records with real music integrity. I think one of the unique benefits of Smooth Jazz is you can listen to it at work or in the background at home on the weekend and it can create a very nice ambience. It has enough sizzle and enough musical integrity that any time that you want to zero in on it you can and hear a great David Sanborn solo or hear Rick Braun playing his head off. Well, there it is in all it's complexity and integrity it's really viable instrumental pop music.
John - Tell me about Broadcast Architecture.
Carol - Really until the Broadcast Architecture model, stations were not playing so much new music. Literally, any tune might get played once or twice a week on a radio station. Broadcast Architecture started really focusing on current music hits, playing them a lot because it's much harder for a listener to identify an instrumental song because there isn't a lyric or the sound of a singer to latch on to. It's harder to impress instrumental songs in the listener's imagination. For an artist like Brian Hughes who has a top 5 or #1 record as he did in the last few years, under the new programming paradigm he'd get lots more airplay. So not only is it better for radio but it's better for artists too because the music is actually exposed.
John - Well, every station has to have their hits and in Smooth Jazz you create your hits through a lot of airplay.
Carol - You've got to play them that's true.
John - In Canada some of those hits will be from Brian Hughes, Carol Welsman, Mark Hasselbach and Eddie Bullen.
Carol - I know a great record it was not a hit, it's from Marc Jordan that was on Sin-Drome called 'Reckless Valentine' and it's fabulous!
John - It's one of my favorite CD's of all time. Marc came to visit us during the promo tour for the album, he's a really great guy.
Carol - He's a wonderful man. If I were in Canada I'd play that.
John - I love all of the Marc Jordan stuff but that's my favorite.
Carol - Mine too, it's in my lifetime top 20. He's a great writer and wonderful singer.
John - Just look at all his music that's been recorded by others like Manhattan Transfer, Rod Stewart, Joe Cocker and Chicago. He probably makes more from his songwriting.
Carol - How about the Rod Stewart," Rhythm of My Heart?"
John - Yes, Great tune. We have the CRTC here and though there has been a lot of deregulation in the last 5 years in comparison to the FCC in the U.S. it's still quite regulated.
Carol - I think in this country we are living in an era of extreme deregulation, basically there's never been any regulations on content.
John - KKJZ in Oregon just flipped to Adult Contemporary tell me about that?
Carol - They never achieved the ratings of their sister stations in L.A. or Dallas or Tampa or Detroit which are all very highly rated Infinity stations. They never broke the ratings bank.
John - Did they get it in Oregon? Did they get the format?
Carol - No, I don't think they did. I think they took a very generic approach. I know though that there's a place for that format in that market. In Los Angeles, a station like The Wave which has been top 5 twenty two out of the last twenty five books 12+ and 25-54. Usually, they are the number one english speaking radio station in the market. You know it's unduplicated, it's a prime demographic audience who wouldn't want that audience.
John - Sure, from an advertiser's point of view who wouldn't want this audience. They are adults, they are educated, they like nice things and they buy. Tell me about the 'Trip a Day' contest idea? It's been huge in the U.S. with Smooth Jazz stations.
Carol - Phenomenally successful! It's a great promotion. Part of why it's successful is because people listen to it vicariously and it's not even so much about winning as it is just being part of the vicarious thrill.
John - Sure, if I talk to you about a vacation all of a sudden, how do you feel? What are you thinking about? It's a win win feel good promotion. Do you have some personal favorite artists in Smooth Jazz?
Carol - I think our artists are so incredibly talented. I'm crazy about Jeff Golub, Brian Culbertson, Chris Botti, Chuck Loeb, Boney James and Rick Braun are all great. I'm as interested actually in the classic artists like Jeff Lorber who keeps reinventing himself. It's been really gratifying to see Chris Botti. I remember the first time he was playing in some subterranean little club, just one listen and I thought I hope I live long enough (laughing) to see the arc of this guy's career. If it all goes right, it's just going to be amazing. I also love Norman Brown, we have so many great artists.
John - Carol, thanks so much.
Carol - It's always a pleasure to talk about Smooth Jazz and I support your efforts and everything you've done with the format in Canada and I thank you for including me.
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