Good Listening

May 1, 2018

Over the past several years, I’ve written extensively in this space about collaborations that have been developing among public radio stations and NPR which are creating better and more efficient news coverage for public radio listeners. The idea is pretty simple—local stations and NPR can accomplish more with fewer resources if we work together, share content and create an organizational framework to coordinate and leverage the work of our journalists and reporters.

Recently, a similar collaborative effort has been launched to coordinate the work of stations that offer music as a central part of their mission so that they can better serve their communities. The initiative is called the noncom MUSIC Alliance and its goal is to organize public radio stations, audiences, musicians and supporters into an effective force that can deepen awareness of public radio’s unique place in America’s music industry and collectively address policy issues to advance our work. JPR is one of over 60 stations that has joined the Alliance.

Public radio has been and remains an essential element of America’s music ecosystem. Each week 14.7 million listeners in the U.S. enjoy music curated by public radio stations around the country. Like JPR, these stations celebrate music heritage, innovation and discovery—classical, jazz, blues, indie, folk, bluegrass, roots/Americana, alt-country, Celtic, and other diverse genres. Not driven by commercial forces, public radio stations take a unique approach to programming music, focusing on underappreciated and new musical artists and genres. We also continue to believe that music is best curated by humans and not algorithms—humans with diverse musical backgrounds and a genuine passion for the music we present.

Music on Public Radio

• More than 9 million Americans listen weekly to classical music

• More than 14 million Americans listen weekly to eclectic music formats (including jazz, blues, indie, folk, bluegrass and roots/Americana)

Public Radio Music Collaborations

• Tiny Desk Concert Contest – A fun contest that seeks the most creative performance done behind a desk. The contest showcases the diverse regional flavor of musicians around the country in stripped down performances. Local music stations promote the contest which is judged by a panel assembled by NPR.

• Slingshot 2018 -- A collective effort among NPR and 16 music stations to introduce exceptional up-and-coming artists. Each month during the year the project will introduce three new artists whose music is worth exploring on nprmusic.org.

Public radio stations do more than just play tunes, we build community around music—presenting live concerts, promoting live music events and producing live recording sessions and interviews with local and visiting musicians. These events connect musicians and artists with the audiences who enjoy and support their music, boosting local music economies and helping create a healthy environment for live music in the communities we serve.

Establishing the noncom MUSIC Alliance is a step in the right direction for public radio stations dedicated to presenting music as part of their programming. It will sharpen our focus on the common goals of stations and NPR in serving our music audiences and provide a venue to connect stations which have similar music programming philosophies. Over time, it may even help provide a framework that succeeds in creating new innovative programming.

JPR remains committed to programming music as part of our public service mission. We believe that by actively fostering music discovery and preserving and promoting underappreciated musical genres, we inspire the life-long enjoyment of music and ensure access to music that creates a richer, more diverse culture in our region.

Paul Westhelle is JPR’s Executive Director.