WCLK Atlanta Revamps Its Jazz Playlist

Jazz 91.9 WCLK Atlanta Jamal Ahmad Smooth Jazz PlaylistClark Atlanta University’s 91.9 WCLK Atlanta has revamped its music mix as it attempts to expand its donator base.

Now positioning itself as “Classic. Cool. Contemporary.”, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the station has shrunk its daytime playlist from around 900 to 400 songs, while adding more modern artists and what would be classified as Smooth Jazz into the mix.

Claiming the station has only about 1900 members despite a Cume over 100,000, station GM Wendy Williams states that the station used a $60,000 donor grant to conduct a music research study to find holes to grow the audience and donor base.

Of course the changes are not sitting well with a small, vocal group of WCLK supporters. That includes afternoon host Jamal Ahmad, who has lost the ability to select the music played on his show.

INSTANT INSIGHT: As we’ve seen with the ongoing drama at Pacifica’s WBAI New York, personal motives and differing interests lead to the inability of a non-commercial station to make the sometimes difficult decisions needed to sustain the station. If Ahamd is going to undermine the efforts of the station to grow its audience, he’s part of the problem and not any future solution. Even as a non-comm, the station needs to make money somewhere to sustain itself. The status quo was obviously no longer sustainable. Either adapt or die.

8 Comments
  1. johndavis says


    I suspect that the internet commenters bemoaning the change aren’t actually listening to the station. In an hour’s sampling of the station, I heard only one cover song, no Kenny G, and no AC vocals, which is what commercial Smooth Jazz became before it died.

    The vocals I’m hearing are jazz vocals as opposed to Hall & Oates and Michael McDonald singing Motown.

    This is a pretty good mix of contemporary jazz – exactly what they should be doing.

    KTSU, the jazz station at Texas Southern University in Houston, went through a similar period where management began to assert more control over programming/operations and the hardcore volunteers had a fit. But it was absolutely necessary. One needs to only look at Pacifica to see what happens when nobody is in charge of a radio station.

  2. carlton1970 says


    Actually, the Internet bemoaning is from real WCLK listeners, station members, donors and longtime supporters. Add to that, many of the city’s, nation’s and world’s artists. People just don’t like the change. There was a commercial smooth jazz station in Atlanta that died a few years ago. People don’t want it. There are other ways to save the station — effective marketing and branding for one. The station didn’t even have a real presence at the annual Atlanta Jazz Festival, which attracts 100,000-plus people. Lastly, to say that Jamal is “part of the problem” is hilarious. This is a guy who has promoted the station and raised more funds than probably any jock on WCLK. He’s world-renowned and provides much of the fuel for Atlanta’s jazz/soul scene. He’s the guy who broke India.Arie, Anthony David, Donnie and more. In fact, check that tweet you posted, and you’ll notice it’s from Joi — former member of Lucy Pearl and acclaimed soul/rock pioneer in her own right. Jamal’s got the support of the people here in Atlanta and his love for the station is obvious. Fact is, he’s been incredibly measured through this whole ordeal. But to ask anyone to just suck it up while the ship is sinking is an incredibly cowardly thing to do.

    1. J Ahmad says


      Thank you Carlton.

      1. ricwas says


        I don’t know why anyone would question the S.O.U.L. of Jazz… Jamal Ahmed is the most progressive dj on radio… anywhere… don’t get it twisted. He keeps us schooled with really cool grooves that transcend genera’s of world music and comes back to SOUL… the root of it all. It’s ridiculous that the management would think they know more from some short-sighted anonymous “survey.” The problem w WCLK is that there is no diversity. The programming is mundane and repetitive… there is no real creative music being played… I’m glad to hear this news… I was beginning to dislike the dj’s… I don’t feel any love of our music anymore. The watered down “smooth” jazz is a pale, bland, boring mess. I’m disappointed that they’ve abandoned our only original art form… jazz. There used to be room for several forms of expression on the station. Hopefully it will come back under new leadership.. till then, they’ve lost their way. Gimme a break–

  3. super villian says


    Whoever wrote this blog is obviously on Crack. Bottom line, no one likes the idea of DJ’s not having the freedom to choose the music that’s played.

    1. Lance Venta says


      Fact of the matter is that the majority of listeners don’t know or don’t care who picks the music. They tune because they simply like the music being played. If there’s not enough of them, the station must do what it has to remain in business. In this case, WCLK has decided it needed adjust its programming strategy if it wants to stay in business at all. This isn’t charity work, a radio station even a non-commercial one needs to be financially solvent to stay on air.

      1. carlton1970 says


        That said, you are assuming that a smooth jazz format is a winning format … and the stats show it’s not. The format is dead in the water — across the nation. I’m all for moves to make more money, but let them be smart moves. How about actually marketing the station in an effective way?

  4. J Ahmad says


    I find this article appalling and malicious in it’s intent. To say that I’m part of the problem and not the solution is straight up slander. I have not done anything to undermine the efforts of WCLK to grow it’s audience. If anything, I have worked extremely hard to build an audience in a world where jazz radio is being marginalized everyday. I’m a 38 year old African-American man who has been a member of this radio station since I was a 17 year old freshman at Morehouse College and worked there since the age of 18. I have also worked tirelessly in too many pledge campaigns to mention and single-handedly raised too much money to mention, over these past twenty years. I have been in the trenches of trying to excel the presence and relevance of non-commercial public radio/jazz radio, so I don’t know why the author of this blog feels they can slander my name like this. I’m curious to know what the author of this blog has done for the world of non-commercial radio and in particular, jazz radio. I also have a strong feeling who fed you this information. It’s quite sad because I thought this person was a friend and it’s clear I was wrong. Finally, I would add that who ever authored this piece needs to be very careful about what they print because as I stated earlier, this is slander. P.S. It’s not donator based. It’s donor based. Donator is not a word.

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