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WWOZ Kicks off Pledge Drive with New Swag, Studio Appearances
by Ryan Sparks
Whether it’s caught on a car stereo, an app on a smartphone, streamed through a computer, or bumping on the boombox in the corner of a barbershop, WWOZ is the soundtrack of choice for citizens citywide as well as aficionados around the world. The freeform station frequents 90.7 in airspace and handful of colorful rooms overlooking the French Market on your map, but without the support of listeners they’d be nowhere.
Since no one else in town dips into the deep tracks of R&B, Indian chants, funk, soul, and jazz 24 hours a day or bothers to tell you where to see your favorite acts at the top of each odd hour, the station thinks it might be time to consider doing your part to keep the mikes hot.
WWOZ’s Spring Pledge Drive is one of the semi-annual revenue roundup for the station. While all music programming is done by volunteer DJs, a small but dedicated paid staff work year round to keep the station running smoothly, as well as devise and execute new ways to bring the voices of the city on the air. For instance, in the past few months a special segment called “Cuttin’ Class” has invited student bands from area schools to come into the studio and perform, highlighting a different side of school music programs.
The online side of WWOZ has been growing steadily as well. In addition to the Livewire concert calendar and live streaming of the radio, the website features cultural blogs, music news, and Takin’ it to the Streets, which provides second line routes and info. Takin’ it to the Streets now has its own OZ-produced podcast as well, offering interviews with Mardi Gras Indians and other facilitators of the funk.
WWOZ offers two options for membership: a one-time pledge with an annual renewal option, or a monthly deduction from your bank account. The more you donate, the more swag gets delivered to your door as a thank you from OZ. This year a donation of $70 earns you a WWOZ baseball cap featuring their new logo. Cross the $120 threshold and you also get a choice between volume 38 of the limited WWOZ compilation CD, featuring tunes recorded live in the studio by local and national acts or a Guardians of the Groove poster featuring Irma Thomas. Commit $240 or more, and you get all three.
Crystal Gross, the station’s Development Director, said that people have long been suggesting that WWOZ start their own poster series. The inaugural poster was photographed by Michael Terranova at the French 75 bar.
Musicians offer more than their smiling faces to the effort, though. For so many local bands, WWOZ is often an early adopter, providing a wide and varied audience to albums both new and out of print. Over the next ten days living Louisiana legends will drop into the French Market studios to play special live sets, swap stories, and encourage giving in a kind of reverse payola scheme. Early confirmed acts include Walter Wolfman Washington, the Honey Island Swamp Band, Helen Gillet, and Eric Lindell. The Soul Queen of New Orleans may make a royal visit.
As Gross says, “It’s always a rumor up until she shows up.” The same goes for Dr. John, who may or may not arrive to make sure your pledge gets locked down by one of the dozens of phone bank volunteers.
In addition to the day-to-day operations of the station, WWOZ is also raising funds for a powerful new transmitter to place atop the Tidewater Marine building on Canal Street from which all the beautiful blues and bebop is broadcast. The transmitter will boost the station’s wattage from 4,000 to 100k, allowing listeners in St. Tammany, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines parishes to shake with DJ Soul Sister or spend slow Sundays with Hazel the Delta Rambler.
Prefer active participation to passive payment? This year WWOZ is teaming up with the Crescent City Classic. Runners, walkers, and two-steppers can recruit sponsors for their running of the route with the proceeds going directly towards the transmitter capital project.
Finally, there’s an incentive to get your donation in early. All pledges made by midnight on Tuesday, March 5th, will be entered into a random drawing for a 2013 Brass Pass, the transferable golden ticket of Jazz Fest that provides seven day admission and access to the ‘OZ tent.
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