Gotta love those digi-packs, you know the ones… the environmentally-friendly CD packages that are generally 3-fold cardboard packs with a plastic housing to hold the disc; still others of the more… ahem… low-budget (skimpy) mode are akin to miniature Lp covers, with a simple front & back and a slot for the CD. The problem with digi-packs is they seem to encourage artists and companies to skip a lot of essential information, and do away with the CD booklet as some sorta unnecessary luxury. This disparity goes back to my observation of the habits of an increasing number of jazz radio programmers.
The greatest majority of jazz broadcasting today is done from public, college/university, community or otherwise independent stations which generally lack substantive music libraries; those for whom maintaining a healthy library of archival and new releases is laborious, time-intensive, and not for the space-conscious or space-challenged. As a result, even such all-music stations as New Orleans’ legendary WWOZ that do maintain an in-studio library, encourage its programmers to bring in their own weekly playlist of recordings to spin on their programs. Such is even more the case at the station I program from, WPFW (Pacifica Radio in Washington, DC), where there’s never really been a music library of any consequence. To be perfectly honest many such stations are plagued by theft of recordings.
At WPFW all of the music programmers bring in their own stock recordings to program their shows. What happens increasingly is that in an effort to lighten their load many programmers (like yours truly) simply slip CDs and booklets into those CD/DVD zip-up cases or some other similar carrying case. Who needs to lug all that plastic and casing material? But unfortunately with those aforementioned digi-packs they come more often than not sans booklet, so one winds up slipping a naked CD into a sleeve. And heaven help you if you’ve forgotten to write down the pertinent info (preferred track number(s) & title(s), perhaps the personnel, etc.); and if you’re required to log in your playlist online or otherwise, having the label name is helpful as well. That’s another gripe entirely, far too many DIY artists fail to provide a label name! Isn’t that still a handy retail identifier for your potential consumer? But I digress. The fact is artists and companies need to be sensitive to such matters. And how do they close those info gaps? Very simple, just imprint the tracks and personnel, along with the artist/band and album title, right on the disc.. and not in a 4-point font that requires corrective lenses either. It’s that simple!
Purely as a means of surveying some recent releases I otherwise found quite worthy of airplay, including DIY’ers and company releases, here’s what I found from several recent releases I tucked into my carrier to facilitate my program, including a handy-dandy grading system.
(Please note, these grades are NOT for the music; in each case the music is exceptional enough to garner significant airplay on the Ancient Future radio program; these grades are purely in reference to the packaging information issues discussed in this post.)
Moutin Reunion Quartet, Soul Dancers, (can’t tell the label from the disc): (Grade: C), at least the personnel is listed on the disc; but not the tracks.
Clayton Brothers, The New Song and Dance, ArtistShare: (Grade: D) no tracks, no personnel listed on the disc.
Bobby Watson featuring the UMKC Conservatory Concert Jazz Orchestra, The Gates BBQ Suite (Grade: C) accompanying band listed (by design big bands get a pass on that individual names tip), label listed, but not the track titles.
Sonny Simmons, Staying On The Watch (reissue), Esp Disk (Grade: D) no personnel, no track titles.
Jay Hoggard, Soular Power, JHVM (Grade: B) tracks & label listed but no personnel.
Sunny Jain, Taboo, bju (Grade D+) the plus is for the listing of his web site and the label on the disc, where one might conceivably consult his site for the missing info, providing there’s an in-studio computer; otherwise no personnel, no tracks (and that’s particularly deadly for artists trying to establish themselves).
Kurt Rosenwinkel and OJM, Our Secret World (Grade: D) no personnel — who is OJM? — or tracks listed on the disc; one needs corrective lenses to see the label name.
Harold O’Neal, Whirling Mantis, Smalls (Grade: A) personnel listed, tracks listed, label clearly listed; all are particularly important in his case because Mr. O’Neal is a fairly “new” artist on the recording scene.
El Movimiento, The Movement, Nuevo Note (Grade D) no tracks listed, no personnel, and no sense from the disc of whether The Movement is actually the album title or simply a translation of El Moviemiento (which it is!); bad news again because this is these are young artists.
Charnett Moffett, Treasure, Motema (Grade D) no tracks, no personnel listed on disc.
Hilario Duran Trio, Motion, Alma (Grade C-) no tracks, no personnel, though the label is listed and there’s a decent image of the leader on the disc (thus the +), though that’s space that could have been better utilized to list personnel — or at least superimose it over Hilario’s face.
The Afro-Semitic Experience, The Road That Heals The Spintered Soul, Reckless DC (Grade: D); here again another band which is not widely known which eschews listing tracks or personnel on the disc; also one could easily mistake the real name of the album for the “Oy Yo” with appears sans explanation.
Helen Sung, Going Express, Sunnyside (Grade: D) no track titles or personnel provided on the disc.
Dr. Lonnie Smith, Spiral, Palmetto (Grade B) tracks and track times (a definite plus) are provided, but no personnel — and the good doctor is piloting a spare trio, so don’t cry space limitations.
And you do want us to get it right when we spin your records on-air, right? Help us out people, help us out…