20 years in 2 minutes

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What would you include if that next job asked you for a current showreel? Your latest ID? The latest weekend promo? Or something to show the range of what you’ve done and what you can do?

The longer you’ve been doing this job, the harder it is to choose what to include. Do you include the beatmatched promo that at the time took you a day to lovingly craft? Or that clever promo featuring that cool artist?  Continue reading “20 years in 2 minutes”

Why I’d Rather JACK

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I’m pretty lucky. The job I have now probably allows me to be more creative in the stuff I create than any job I’ve previously done.

This is slightly disappointing.

Surely every person who works in the creative industries should be able to be creative all the time. But often rules prevent this happening.

When I worked in marketing at the BBC, the rules were often down to suitability of radio trail for   “network fit”.  Or limited by the visual TV campaign creative that didn’t contain an easily transferable radio creative. As a team, we’d normally find a way to make the creative work well on radio, and many times created a radio campaign that worked in really surprising ways. But I sometimes wish that I  had pushed harder on my campaigns. This was probably sometimes my fault – but also sometimes simply down to the nature that each radio network was very particular about the network sound.

This is one of the reasons why I moved back into working in a radio station, where I could directly help shape the sound of the station, contribute creative ideas, and ultimately, actually get the things I wanted to create on air without (many) barriers.

With JACK fm, everything I do is born out of the rules and rigours of the previous formats I’ve  worked on throughout my career.  I twist an idea, break a rule, or  try a different slant on things.

Because doing things the same way every time is predictable, and that is boring.

Many PDs at radio stations are pretty set in the way they want things to be done. In many formats, there’s a good deal of evidence why things should be done that way. But I truly believe that in almost every format, rules can be broken. Of course, it depends on the format, the market and the audience. But everyone likes to be surprised sometimes, so why not surprise them now and again?

Here’s a few examples of how we’ve done things a bit differently recently at JACK.

JACK PACK at COWES WEEK

Promos for station events can be a bit dull. There’s often very little reason to promote what you’ll be doing on air. Sometimes it’s part of a contra deal commitment. Or in order to get on site branding, the sales team have managed to squeeze in some on air promotion. This is fine if there is a genuine reason to promote something, but sometimes is little more than filling airtime to get in a sponsor or event name. We started using these 2 anchorman inspired characters to promote events where the JACK Pack were going to be at. Sometimes Chuck McGutsup would throw to a real JACK Pack reporter who’d add in event details, and sometimes, he’d throw to his friend Huw Jarse. It’s all a bit Simpsons in terms of stupid names, but for our audience, it’s suitably irreverent.

DON’T BE DAFT, PUNK

JACK plays what we want. We don’t often play new stuff. This annoyed me a bit as last summer, this song was huge. When I was driving through France on holiday, it played almost non stop on NRJ, and I kept singing “We Play What We Want” to hook of the song. On my return, I’d read a blog post by my friend Andreas on the Benztown Branding blog about how they’d been recreating the Daft Punk sound. So I gave him a shout and got him to record the vocals for this piece. Having made it,we forgot to load it on air and then started running it well after the song was a hit. That made it work just as well, as on JACK, music is pretty timeless so it didn’t matter that by then , most music stations had long forgotten it.

BAM BAM at BREAKFAST

There’s nothing remotely original about most of this. But it’s got a bit of a JACK twist. Many of these IDs take a hook or a line of a classic rock song that I  play with a sound clip or recreated BAM BAM voice sample added in. We have the additional resource of Marc Silk as a VO , so sometimes, we just make up voices and phrases at the end of the session. Most of these out takes and ad-libs are what make these IDs work.

Radio is such an easy medium to be creative in. You simply need an idea, a voice and some imagination to create almost anything. So if you are a producer and are about to create something this week – why not ask yourself which rules you can break. They don’t necessarily need to be big rules, and certainly don’t need to break your brand sound. But they might make for a slightly more interesting listen.

We’ve just added a musical theme to BAM BAM’s show too. Steve Martin has blogged about it (and has a premier of the “video”) on the Earshot Creative Review .

RADIODAYS EUROPE

I’m taking part in a panel discussion at Radiodays Europe in March, where we’ll discuss this subject in more detail. You can find more details here.

Breaking the Creative Rules of Imaging and Branding

James Stodd (UK), Goran Kurjak (Croatia), Andreas Sannemann (Germany)

The thing with radio formats is that all imaging and production has to sound the same… right? Wrong.

This session aims to break the myths of radio production – and show that whilst formatted radio is here to stay, there are many ways where you can surprise your listeners.

Join some of Europe’s most creative imaging experts who’ll show you how to break the creative rules of imaging and branding.

Speakers: James Stodd (Senior Producer at Celador Radio in the UK),  Andreas Sannemann (CEO, Benztown, Germany) and Goran Kurjak (Creative Director, Otvoreni Radio, Croatia).

You can find more details here.

“That sounds a bit complicated…”

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A listener called today. She was mid 60s, with a name like Maureen or similar. She listens to JACK fm..as do many of her friends.

“Hi there. I’m trying to listening to your station and I can’t hear it today..”

“Where are you listening?”

“I live in Midhurst..”

“Well, that’s on the very edge of our area so our signal may not reach that far”

“Well, I can normally hear you, but some days I lose reception, so I switch to Smooth Radio. Can I get you on Digital Radio – I have a digital set but haven’t really used it..”

We are on digital radio. Have you looked for us”

She looks and lists the stations she can see..

“I can see Absolute, BBC stations, Premiere radio. No, I can’t see you..”

“I’’m sorry. Have you tried listening online – or maybe tried our mobile apps”.

“Sorry dear – I’m a bit old fashioned – I just want to listen in the kitchen – that sounds far too complicated”

“Ok – we’ll hopefully you’ll get the signal back soon”

“I’ll do that. I love your station. Do you know why I listen?”

“Tell me..”

“I found your station and started listening because you have the same name as my son. He’s called JACK too”.

I’ve heard many reasons why people listen – but never because the station is named after a family member.. but what are the real reasons people choose to listen to stations? The fact that she liked the name hooked this listener (someone who is out of our target). She likes the music (though I’m not sure what our overlap would be with Smooth Radio).

But the thing that struck me the most was her comment :

“Sorry dear – I’m a bit old fashioned – I just want to listen in the kitchen – that sounds far too complicated”

She’s an older listener.

She’s open to listening on Digital.

She can’t be bothered about how she gets the stations she wants.

She just wants them in one place in one box – and she doesn’t need to think about how to find them.

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We’re not making things easy for people like “Maureen”. They are getting the digital message. They  are starting to understand the range of choice. They want to listen to the content. But some of them just don’t understand how to get hold of it or can’t be bothered with the hassle.

The sooner someone cracks the connected box that has a menu that lists the stations and tunes to the station whether its via FM, DAB, online stream the better. It’s great that the team at UK Radioplayer (with others from Global Radio and Absolute Radio) are doing just that. This is the sort of radio I want..

As for us, we’ll just home the wind is in the right direction for Maureen to listen on FM. Or maybe I’ll record some output and post it to her on a cassette…

UPDATE:

Matt Deegan posted a blog today that included a presentation from James Cridland – all about the need for user experience to be better in all digital radio. It’s certainly worth a watch.

Nothing Beats an Award Nomination

JACK fm studio

It’s really easy to get tied up in the day-to-day grind of working in radio.

Deadlines.

Difficult clients.

Presenter egos.

And it’s sometimes easy to forget that radio is about being creative.

Tonight I’m really proud that the team at JACK fm South Coast are nominated for a coveted SONY Radio Award.

I’ve been nominated before – in other categories, and at other stations. I’ve won a Bronze, and been involved in a couple of events that won Gold Awards too. But I’ve never had a nomination  for the Best Station Imaging category. So this is really special for me – and for everyone here at the station.

Some of our team have been nominated before – for other awards – and at other stations. And it’s easy, particularly if you are part of a huge group, or the BBC, to treat this type of event as something that is deserved – or expected. For a lot of smaller stations, this is a really big deal.

And it doesn’t actually matter if we win a Gold, a Silver, a Bronze or even are just finalists. The fact is, we’ve been recognised as being good enough to be nominated.

I’m proud to say that I’ve also worked alongside or with most of the other people or teams that are nominated in this category tonight. And that makes it a bit more special too – as if we don’t win the biggie, we can cheer on other people who deserve the win as much as we do. The Earshot Creative guys have written a nice blog about it too. And you can see all the nominations here.

Sometime’s it’s not the monetary reward that motivates people (though it helps). Sometimes a little recognition or a thank you is all that is needed.

Good luck if you are nominated in any category tonight.

And if you fancy taking a listen at our entry – it’s here