Nick Pitts is the content director of Jazz FM – one of the largest and most influential jazz stations in the world.
From jazz to soul and blues, global hitmakers to emerging talent, the station’s remit spans the breadth and depth of the diverse genre.
And, as UK jazz in particular continues its upward trajectory, Nick and his team are committed to supporting talent from across the British Isles at all stages of their careers.
Here, he explains how the station works and who to contact to get your sounds heard across the network…
How do you source most of the music you play at the station?
We have various sources of music on Jazz FM through the traditional route for label to brand, but also via artists direct. There are various artists in the UK (and further afield) who’ve had massive support from Jazz FM over the years – from that very early nurturing stage to becoming superstars in their fields today, including Jamie Cullum and Gregory Porter. Much of our output is curated and broadcast by these experts in their field, and often music is sent directly to them. We call them our discovery presenters.
Having said that, the overall musical direction of Jazz FM falls to Chris Philips, our head of music. He was on station from on day one so has much heritage with the brand and stands by himself in the jazz community. Sometimes the discovery presenters will forward music to him they think works in our broader daytime output. He curates the main daytime playlist so sources most of the material via all methods.
Where are the biggest opportunities for new artists and composers to get airplay?
I would say Jazz FM has probably more opportunity for music exposure than any other sizeable specialist brand anywhere in the UK. A few years ago, a lady sent Chris a CD. The lady was gone retirement age and had always wanted to sing jazz. She was a budding writer but had never done anything about it. Once the boredom of retirement set in, she decided to get writing and pay for musicians and studio time. She called the station to ask if there was anything we could do with it – we told her to send it to Chris and he loved it. He presented it to the playlist committee and it went on our A List!
Which lyrics, styles and tempos work best on Jazz FM at the moment?
At Jazz FM, we understand our chosen genre comes in all forms, so there is not really any specific style of music that works best for us. We judge it on quality. We won’t playlist something in the daytime that doesn’t work for us from a perspective of ‘Is this jazz, soul or blues?’ but beyond that, it’s sort of anything goes, so long as the curators think it’s a great piece of music. But I would say, if you are going to pitch music, choose the right curator.
How good do the recordings have to be?
They should be the best possible quality if you want to stand a chance of getting on air exposure. Recording is so accessible these days it’s not a big ask.
Who should artists get in touch with at the station to pitch their music?
Chris Philips is your number one contact. He is directly responsible for something like 85 percent of our weekly musical output with the playlist and database that we draw from.
But also, listen to Jazz FM, get to know those specialist programmes and work out which ones your music would suit. If you have a hint of world music, then send to Sarah Ward, but if you are avantgarde, then Jez Nelson is your man.
There is an element of crossover between them, of course, but target wisely. At the end of the day, it’s worth noting that Chris Philips listens to EVERYTHING he is sent and makes suggestions to his colleagues within those programmes.
Do you have any tips for artists keen to secure radio airplay at Jazz FM?
For specialist airplay, you need to stand out as per above. Send your music direct – we do not dictate to our discovery presenters at all, so it’s down to pure personal taste.
However, if you want daytime exposure, I would suggest that you need to be realistic. This is not to say, don’t be creative, but listen to Jazz FM during the day and hear how we sound. Anything too long and noodly is less likely to get exposure than something creative, awe-inspiring and has an accessible length and sonic structure.
Also, daytime is for ‘the masses’. Yes, we push the boundaries more than most do, but we still need to have a line and if music spends too much time in a difficult place that could mean the difference between getting on or not.
Be clever with your compositions – do push the envelope, but don’t expect to get something heavy and difficult (to the average listener) on Jazz FM during daytime.