The Sweet Sound of Student Success

IMG_3978

Another year, another Student Radio awards.

As I write this, I’m guessing most of the students are still on the dance floor of the IndigO2 enjoying the sound clash from Greg James, James Barr and others.

It’s hard to know where to start really. This was another fantastic night that celebrates all that is good about Student Radio. It’s a far cry from when I did student radio, but it would be wrong if things hadn’t moved on.

This was a room full of enthusiasm and excitement – and frankly a radio awards show that both the Sonys and possibly Arqivas could learn from. It was hosted by Radio 1 breakfast host Nick Grimshaw and Capital FM Breakfast host Dave Berry. They made a fantastic pairing and gave the whole event a real sense of fun. And it was great to see Global Radio fully involved with the awards again. Whilst its easy to sneer at Global as the bad guys of UK radio, they should be a company that people aspire to work for; they have some fantastic brands and they really know how to market them. Their video that played during the event showed a slick operation – and it’s those sort of values that they translate on air too.

Last year I wrote that the most important thing about student radio is that it allows you to fail. And you need to fail and be given the room to fail in order to succeed. Good bosses and producers know that they need to let their “talent” do this in order to succeed. Whilst its hard to always get the opportunity to do this on commercial radio, it’s important to remember that creativity comes in all aspects of a job. And just because the format of the station you end up working at requires quick links, you need to be able to think of new ways to be entertaining in those short spaces.

It was nice to see this thought repeated in a blog by a recent Student Radio graduate, Robin Murphy.

It was somewhat appropriate then that he picked up 2 awards tonight for his station URN. They won more, but I’m particularly interested in one – that for Best Marketing and Station Sound.

You can hear an example of what their entry sounded like here:

I hope that Robin and the team at URN will come and describe what made their marketing entry award winning on a future Earshot Creative Review Podcast – and hopefully some of the other finalists will be able to contribute too. The guys backstage caught up with Robin to find out his reaction on winning

When I was on the tube home from the awards, I was chatting to a student from Bristol Uni. She said “you won’t have heard of our station. We’re pretty small and don’t have huge funding – but we’re getting better”. She was really fired up after the awards – and that’s really what they are all about isn’t it? And it’s worth remembering that not everyone is a URN or Fly FM – there are loads of smaller stations that are just as enthusiastic and striving to produce output as good or better than these stations.

So, if you won, you impressed a lot of important people. If you just missed out – it was probably by the slimmest of margins. And if you didn’t win again – go back and think what you can do differently this year. It’s not necessarily the awards that count. It’s what you learn whilst trying to win them that counts.

How do you promote your best content?

5120290

I just saw this on Twitter from @dannywallace and think it needs sharing.

http://soundcloud.com/the-xfm-breakfast-show/behind-the-scenes-documentary

http://soundcloud.com/the-xfm-breakfast-show/behind-the-scenes-documentary

There’s a tendency, particularly in commercial radio, to run a breakfast show promo that contains a quick clip from the show. The normal reason for this is that the show is sponsored, and as part of the deal, the Sponsorship team have added in promo trails. The real reason it’s there is to get across a sponsor message. And the breakfast show clip is essentially the filling in the sponsorship sandwich.

Often, the promo is pretty rubbish. The reason; it’s pretty hard to distill the essence of a great breakfast show into a single, punchy clip.

So why do shows insist on doing it? Would it not be as effective to use the trail to give a tease of some great audio that’s actually worth listening to, and maybe direct listeners online to hear the whole section? And now that a significant number of your consumers are online, maybe there are new ways to promote the show too.

I like this “behind the scenes” “documentary” because:
It’s funny.
It’s irreverent.
It’s probably something extra that wouldn’t necessarily appear on air.
It’s really shareable too.

I’m constantly amazed why more stations don’t use clips of content from interviews in on air promos and imaging to drive the listeners online to hear more. If you’ve spent the time recording and editing a great interview with a guest, don’t assume your listeners were actually listening when you broadcast it. Why not use it to promote your show and then reward the listeners with more content online.

Getting Naked at Breakfast

Photo (C) Global Radio

This morning, Global Radio’s XFM did their Naked Breakfast

They took the Danny Wallace show and broadcast live from the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire. But what made this different is that they did everything live. This wasn’t simply a normal outside broadcast with some live links and special guests. Everything was be live – the music, the jingles, even the adverts.

There was a pretty impressive lineup too:

The Stereophonics were the House Band. Plus comedians Tim Minchin and Ross Noble and Paul Weller also featured.

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of anything being done in quite this way in the UK. It would have been fairly common back in the early days of Commercial Radio in the US in the 1940s and 50s when it was common for the announcers to voice live ads within live shows. But doing something like this on a very formatted station like XFM is quite a challenge.

I’m guessing they’ve had to carefully plan what airtime was sold within the show. Because they had to perform the ads live – they had to sell some brave creative to the advertisers too – so that  the ads became part of the performance.

Whilst it’s not something you’d want to hear every day – this is a great example of creative programming that gives the listener something to really interact with. You can listen again to it here:

Is syndication really killing the radio star?

So, according to a report in today’s Media Guardian syndication of radio services is killing the radio star.

In a way, it’s true. Fewer stations or on-air shifts mean it’s harder for new entrants to break in. But many (including Global Radio‘s Ashley Tabor) would argue that there were many mediocre presenters on air anyway, so at least the new wave of “syndication” is improving quality.

Image By AndyBee21 (CC) Flikr

This article set me thinking though about whether this trend by Global and others may have actually increased opportunities for people to get into the new era of radio?

Capital Fm now has a 24 hour team of producers turning around content and links to keep the national feed of the service on air. They (along with the Heart network) also have a fairly large team of imaging and promo producers turning around everything from contest promos to local sponsorship ads. Sure, it’s may not have exactly the same levels of creative freedom that existed years back when I joined the original Capital Radio group. But if I was a new producer, currently in student radio and wanting somewhere to aim, this is a huge opportunity. An opportunity to learn the mechanics of how huge brand scale radio works – skills which are transferable across the digital marketing spectrum.

It’s also a fact that the global (small g) marketplace is continually shrinking. When I wanted to get into presentation and production, my only hope was to send out a demo (cassette) to various programme controllers. Now, I can start up a blog, share audio with colleagues worldwide online and maybe come up with and produce stunning visuals and share them on YouTube. The ease with which content and talent can now be showcased makes the world your marketplace.

And since Radio 2.0 is now where we are at – it’s the web/marketing/digital skills that are (almost) more important than the DJs themselves. I started my career striving to be a DJ. When I finally got on air, I was relatively successful but quickly became bored with a (then very loose) format. Presenters would kill for that level of freedom now. But even then, I could see that to survive, you needed to be able to do far more than just play the hits. S ave for a precious few, this is still the case.

And new talent is definitely out there.  As Clive Dickens noted in the article; “Student radio has become the new hunting ground for new talent”.  Having judged the Student Radio Awards for a number of years, I can only agree.

When I was at Puretonic Media, we found a new temporary producer – Andy Jackson – who very quickly became full-time. He’d only worked on a very small station in The Wirral. But he had immersed himself in radio online, read loads of blogs/ sites/ articles. And had amazingly creative production skills. And, more importantly, was willing to learn.

And through this blog, I’m in contact with producers around the world who ate equally striving to make it.  One such producer is just 15 years old – Nik Kelly. Already creating imaging on a national night show in Australia. And gaining attention of the international imaging guys at Benztown Branding in the process.

So if syndication IS killing the radio star, it may also be providing many new opportunities in the process. But you have to be prepared to find them. And maybe adjust your skills accordingly.