Brian Barlow has had a passion for radio since he was a child. The “magic box” introduced him to a broad range of artists and songs that would forge a life-long love of music. In 1986 Brian began a career in broadcasting as a jazz announcer on Worcester’s NPR affiliate, WICN. His morning drive gig was in addition to running his own business and raising a young family. Over the next 12 years he never tired of rising at 4:30 AM to host his show and play jazz music.
Brian sold his business in 1997 but continued his radio show, and was hired as the GM of WICN in 1998. The station had struggled for years financially, suffered from aging broadcast equipment and run by a demoralized staff. Additionally, WICN had the vague brand of Central Massachusetts Station for Jazz, NPR news and More. Brian created a new brand and new direction - New England’s Jazz Station.
Brian hired new staff and re-invigorated operating strategies. Under Barlow’s leadership WICN’s listening audience nearly doubled over the next two years, corporate support tripled and membership enjoyed significant increases. New digital broadcast equipment was installed and a webcast service was launched.
Rapid growth required a new studio and Brian created a plan and led fundraising efforts to build a new facility that would include a performance studio, a recording studio, a new broadcast tower and most importantly, diverse and engaging jazz programming on air. WICN was recognized as one of the top 4 small stations in the United States in 2005.
Under Brian’s leadership WICN also became a major jazz concert producer and a “must stop” for all touring jazz artists. The Jazz at Sunset series, Brown Bag Concerts at Mechanics Hall and many other concerts were hosted and produced by Barlow and the staff at WICN. Artists as diverse as Dave Brubeck, Pat Metheny, Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves along with rising regional talent have all been guests of WICN and performers in Worcester’s concert venues over the last 10 years.
Brian’s deepest interest in the business of jazz radio is the audience itself. Who are they? Why do they listen? What do they want? Brian has worked with program directors across the country and participated in numerous seminars to continue to understand the answers to these questions. This year Brian completed a feasibility study for WPI to understand what 21st century audiences want from audio broadcast vehicles and how to deeply engage new audiences.
Behind the microphone Brian often states that jazz musicians are the greatest musicians in the world! After 27 years he still feels extremely privileged to continue to share this music with the world.