Have you noticed how a lot of Jazz DJs just recycle the same old tunes again and again. In my mind that’s just plain lazy. Part of the job of a good DJ is to search out new material and rediscover old tracks. There’s an old saying: “familiarity breed contempt”. Well, I have news, that’s just plain wrong. The reason DJs play the same tunes is that people love familiarity. The same with bands really – they get into a rut, playing their hits to appease their audience. No one wants to deviate from their established template.
In psychological terms this phenomenon is called: the mere-exposure effect. It has been shown that people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them. Building up a preference for certain types of music is a learned behaviour. I remember reading a few years back that as an experiment a psychologist played “free-jazz” to a group of toddlers. Guess what, they loved it. I guarantee that if you played that same music to an average group of adults, the majority would hate it. The fact of the matter is those toddlers hadn’t had time to build up their prejudices.
Picasso said: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” To a certain extent its all about ‘unlearning’, opening up your mind to new art forms, new sounds, new visual images. In my virtual DJ role I have been trying to do just that. But guest what? The more unfamiliar music I play – the less popular I become. I know for a fact, if I play Miles or Coltrane, that I will get listeners. But, I’m a stubborn didactic fool – I feel the need to educate people in something different. I don’t mean that in an arrogant elitist way. There are a lot of talented people out there beavering away under the radar. They need to be listened to, they need to sell their music – to make a living. Hell! I like Miles and Coltrane, as much as anyone, I’m not going to stop listening to their music any time soon. But, I’m definitely going to keep digging to find old and new artists that are producing great music. So please join me in my quest, my latest mix of under-played musicians “Unusual Suspects” can be found at: http://www.mixcloud.com/tony-todd/unusual-suspects/ Please give it a listen and if you like any of the tracks, go to your independent record shop and buy the albums.