Making matters worse, says station manager Molly Motherwell, "the average age of WEMU listeners is sixty and they have aged with the station. That's not unusual for a stable format and long-term staff. But it's not sustainable in the long term."
So five years ago, the station did a survey of its listeners. They discovered, Motherwell says, that the casual listeners "would tune in and out depending on what they heard. And they said they wanted us to talk less in the music shows."
"We had to take long, hard, painful looks at ourselves and really listen to ourselves," says music director Linda Yohn. "We've been known for presenting high-quality music forever, but the professionalism of the hosts, we really worked on that. For example, an announcer might repeat himself three or four times, and we worked hard on getting him to say it once. Less talk, same information."
And while the station still plays jazz, it's been updated to attract a younger audience. Instead of twenty-minute sets by Miles Davis or John Coltrane, its hosts now mix artists and play more young jazz musicians like Trombone Shorty and Marcus Miller.