Capital – (Hot Rockin’) at Last?

It’s been over 12 months since I left Capital FM.

When I left, I had mixed feelings. Here was a station which I’d put loads of time and effort into as part of a dedicated production team who had been passionate about making it succeed, despite many changes in direction, format and leadership. We’d had to face being judged day in day out by media obeservers, the press and at many points, by the City.  Yet, throughout it all, there was a core team of people who really did want it to get better.

So you can maybe understand that I was a little cynical about the sound being created by the new owners in the months after I left.

Well, for the record, I think they were probably right. To make a wholesale change, you really do need to be brutal – strip stuff down and get back to basics. As an imaging producer, for me the sound was too simple, too basic. But it has probably done the job it was intended to do. Strip it back, let  the music talk, and then start building on a few core things; big events, the biggest hits and the big stars. And that’s what they’ve done.

And I think it’s an important point to be aware of. You can’t just produce the type of radio you want to hear as a producer. It has to be attuned to how the listener hears it, and relate to them in the right ways. What I find now in my current job, working for Pure Tonic Media, is that there’s a real need to be able to switch your ways of thinking depending on the particular project you’re working on. In one week, I can be making material for CHR format stations, a rock format and then, like last week, BBC Radio 3 and 4

But there has to be room in station imaging for touches of humour or topicality.  And there are odd moments of that in Capital’s current production used for the Jingle Bell Ball. In fact this morning I heard a brilliantly simple piece featuring Sir Michael Caine uttering the line “even I can’t get tickets; the only way I’ll be able to get in is to blow the bloomin’ doors off”. Simple, creative and fun. I hope they’ll start doing this more on occasion – otherwise it can all begin to sound a little one dimensional.

In fact, events like the Summertime Ball and currently the Jingle Bell Ball now show how much Capital is heading back on track.

Nik Goodman mentioned recently how he thought the current TV ad for the event had pretty poor production values for such a big brand. I do agree it doesn’t look a million dollars and doesn’t sound that creative. However, it is in your face and has a pretty simple message: we’ve got the biggest stars, you want to come ,and the only way you can is to listen to us. Yes it’s big, bragging and boastful – but good or bad, that’s what Capital does well. You don’t go to them for insightful analysis. You go there for Johnny Vaughan having a laugh with the punters, the latest Black Eyed Peas song and concert tickets. And if they can win with that in a crowded market, they should keep doing it.

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