Popular Chicago Smooth Jazz Radio Station Signing Off at End of 2015

SmoothJazzChicago.net shutting down due to rising royalty fees, manager’s new job

By Phillip Martin

First posted on Dec. 30, 2015 at 5:50 pm.

Longtime radio station Smooth Jazz Chicago has existed in several capacities over its lifespan, but it may now be on its final lifeline.

On Monday, legendary DJ Rick O’Dell broke the news to loyal listeners. The online station’s programming director cited a rise in copyright royalty fees and his new full-time job with a terrestrial radio station as reasons for SJC‘s shutdown.

O’Dell shared his disappointment about his decision on his site and with Chicago media. “Sadly, when you combine the two factors, the diminishing amount of available time to maintain the quality of SJC at a level I feel our listeners deserve and the increasing expenses related to performance royalties, there is no longer any uncertainty about the decision I have to make.  I cannot continue to operate SmoothJazzChicago.  With a heavy heart, I have decided to shut down the station on December 31, 2015,” he said.

Smooth Jazz Chicago's official Facebook page announces its upcoming shutdown. Screen capture by Phillip Martin.
Smooth Jazz Chicago’s official Facebook page announces its upcoming shutdown. Screen capture by Phillip Martin.

For the first time in nearly 30 years, the Chicago-metro area will not feature the smooth jazz and adult contemporary format over its radio airwaves.

Smooth Jazz Chicago first aired in the Windy City as WNUA 95.5 FM in 1988. After earning roughly half a million loyal listeners, WNUA switched to Latin programming in 2009. Other stations later that featured SJC eventually forced the smooth jazz format out of the terrestrial airwaves in Chicago.

Rick O’Dell reintroduced the popular format when he launched SmoothJazzChicago.net in November of 2012. The website had become a haven for fans of smooth jazz and adult contemporary music in the Windy City and across other parts of the nation. SJC, in its online capacity, gained momentum with its loyal fan base and popular programming, such as the Smooth Jazz Sunday Brunch, hosted by O’Dell, Dinner Party with Bill Cochran, and The Sounds of Brazil, hosted by Scott Adams.

Listenership had climbed since SJC‘s inception, but ultimately the rising royalty fees and O’Dell’s career progression were the determining factors in his decision.

“I realize this is a major disappointment to all of us, and I regret having to do this.  We’ve grown more than 300% since we launched back in November of 2012, and the arrow was still pointing up.  The support we’ve gotten from listeners and artists has been extremely gratifying.  We proved the audience for Smooth Jazz music is still large and vibrant.  SmoothJazzChicago.net has been a lot of fun—I only wish it could’ve gone on longer,” said O’Dell.

A full-screen view capture, by Phillip Martin, shows how SmoothJazzChicago.net appeared on this evening.
A full-screen view capture, by Phillip Martin, shows how SmoothJazzChicago.net appeared on this evening.
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