Tonight sees the Brit Awards in the UK. Unlike the Grammy Awards (with over 100 different awards), the Brits are a more manageable affair – celebrating mostly British artists and talent with a few overseas categories thrown in (to make it a bigger show).
For many radio stations, this is a huge deal – particularly for stations Capital FM and Radio 1.
There was a time when the whole of commercial radio got involved with helping choose the British Single (essentially the biggest songs played on commercial radio that year). Now, it’s purely the preserve of Capital FM listeners to have their say. And it’s surely one of the biggest days in Capital’s music calender – along with the Summertime Ball and Jingle Bell Ball.
Back when I worked at Capital, it was a pretty big deal. We’d run packages supporting the voting, have weekend giving away tickets and of course do a couple of shows from backstage too. But now, it’s way bigger than that. Take a look at their website and it’s nothing but Brits. Listen on air for the last couple of weeks and its been all about the tickets. And today, it’s everything Brits. And let’s face it – it’s all about the music that (on the most part) is at the heart if their playlist.
They are absolutely owning it online already – watch this great backstage video
But as well as being jammed full of relevant, relatable content for their listeners, it’s obviously a huge opportunity for Capital to shout about their brand to anyone who listens. It’s live on ITV, so expect to see their current TV advert at every opportunity as well.
As with any radio brand, it’s all about talking abou t the content that’s relevant for your listeners. There are still many sales people in particular who have a lack of understanding of what brands would work alongside their radio brand. I doubt it happens as much now, but there was a time when even the sales team at GCap bought us promotions briefs for a dog food winning weekend.
And whilst Capital will be getting its branding in everyone’s face tonight at the Brits, I doubt you’ll see any of these on the tables – which I actually think are their best piece of targeted visual marketing ever. Beans Means Hits..?
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.
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:
Loads of “suits” talking the same old stuff that pours out of “industry” gatherings? Great ideas that are all well and good if you have huge budgets and unending resources? Or something else?
It’s designed for people who like radio, who want to be inspired by new ideas, who recognise that technology will help it to change and adapt and for those who want to meet like minded people.
I’m hugely looking forward to this conference. And I’m really glad that James Cridland and Matt Deegan are putting it on. This promises to be a great place for discussing new ideas, looking at things in a new way, and making new contacts. If I was starting out, this would be the place I’d be heading; loads of people who actually “do” radio thinking about how we can make radio better.
And there is a future for radio.
Sure, there’s lots of doom-laden statistics floating around about how younger listeners are failing to engage with radio. But not all of them. And only if radio refuses to engage with them, interact with them on the platforms that they hang out on, and actually deliver them the content they want to hear.
And radio still is radio. But it can be enhanced in many different ways. And let’s face it, whilst some people may sneer at the many ways that stations like Radio 1 and others have used to “visualise” radio, what they are doing now is really just a natural extension of what has been done in the past. From meeting listeners at the County show or the Radio 1 Roadshow at Great Yarmouth Beach, to the BBC radio Solent magazine that I remember buying as a child – they are all ways of extending the reach of the radio station.
But the biggest positive I have taken from the last few months is that fact that my daughter (8) has now decided that she wants to be on the radio and maybe run her own radio station.
This interest was started when she came to visit me at work way back when I was at Capital FM. She was 3 – and recorded 3 links which we made into a radio show for her to play in the car. She was also fascinated last time that Radio 1 did their Access All Areas week – as can be heard in this recording as she describes watching Newsbeat going out online.
Now, she has taken it one step further. Over the last few weeks, she has been recording her own radio show. She brainstormed what sort of features she wanted to run, what music she wanted to play (mostly the Capital playlist) and even how she wanted to broadcast (she wants to be on Red Button and can’t understand why it’s a bit complicated to make that happen).
She’s now started to learn how to make a radio show – in basic form using Garage Band to drag in songs and record her links. She’s even recorded a report from her day out at Brands Hatch a few weeks ago. Now whilst this isn’t necessarily radio in its truest form, it’s no different from back when I was her age, where I recorded the ads and jingles off Radio Victory, and sat in my bedroom playing tunes off a battery powered record player, talking to no-one except my brother, and playing in ads from an old mono cassette recorder. The difference is, now, that I can record her and share a little of it with you.
So, it’s a bit rough around the edges. But she wrote the jingle, recorded the keyboard part, selected the samples and the instruments and the sound effects. And she loved it.
Maybe Next Radio or an event like it will inspire her in the future to do it for real. But only if we all help make it a reality for Megan and her Generation – and keep making radio a medium that is relevant to them as well as us.
You can follow all things nextrad.io on Twitter @thisisnextradio and the conference hashtag is #nextradio Radio Today are covering it live here. I’ll be there, doubtless tweeting interesting bits. If you’re coming, it’ll be nice to catch up – and if you’re not, hopefully you’ll learn something useful.
I spent the weekend in Cardiff, once home to another similar event when Red Dragon FM was around. Cardiff is now one of the cities that has Capital FM as its own radio station. And this weekend in Cardiff it was all about the Ball. And even though the event was over 2 hours away in London – it still sort of felt local. All the local shows talked about was the fact that they had last-minute tickets to give away. All the news bulletins led with the Ball – with a reporter backstage and loads of quick relevant scene setting. And on Sunday morning when Cardiff was being soaked in a torrential downpour, the local host had upbeat, excited callers on, getting ready for “South Wales’ road trip to the Ball”.
In fact, the weekend served as a warm up for Take That’s arrival in Cardiff – an event that it seems is so anticipated that one local fashion advertiser has themed their local campaign around the band’s arrival.
My personal road trip home from Cardiff joined coverage of the Ball at about 4, and it was good to hear Capital throwing everything at it – from backstage reporters to “live” interviews along with (somewhat surprisingly) live tracks too. Live performances are hardly ever as good as recorded ones , so this felt a bit of a brave move for Capital. But as a passive listener, it made me feel part if the show. They were also making much of the HD photos available online along with video interviews. And I’m sure they will be hammering home the amount of online content (both photos and video) available for listeners to check out in the next few days.
Little is made of the backstage effort made to make this sort of thing happen. I know there will have been a fairly small team of hugely dedicated people working long hours to make this happen from engineers to online editors to producers. Maybe Global should shout publicly about this a little more – they should be proud of the team.
But, the moment I heard Capital FM’s Greg Burns link to someone high above London in the Flying Eye describing the sight of the stadium and the bands arriving, it felt like Capital had really nailed it. I’m uncertain whether the Flying Eye is still even in existence on air on Capital. But it is radio shorthand to Capital’s past that still exists in the collective memory (certainly for the older part of the audience). It’s a simple device to paint pictures and create context. And it was a nice subtle link to Capital’s past heritage too.
Sony Music and Universal Music have announced that from next month they will be simultaneously releasing some singles from their acts to radio and for sale online.
This will probably lead to articles asking “is music radio dead” and “why radio has no place in the music business”.
The music business is a commodity based one, reliant on shifting units (tracks/albums/downloads). As such, they need to make their products available wherever there is a customer base and demand. This change is feeding in to the “on demand” “right now” culture that we now find ourselves in. It was tested out pretty comprehensively during last years X-Factor where performances were available to download almost immediately after the show aired.
But does this mean anything for radio?
Previously, radio would play a large (though not exclusive) role in hyping demand for many singles and albums. The plugging arms of the record companies put much effort in offering exclusives, spot plays and playlist additions. These happened weeks out from release and added in to the highly planned pre-release publicity schedule including interviews, contest winner gigs, live sessions and much more. This record company pre-release marketing effort also provided much programming and contest content for stations.
This is purely another way of marketing the product. It means that the record companies (like everyone else) will need to work harder and smarter to target their consumers. They will probably make preview clips available online beforehand, and build up social media buzz in a highly targeted way. And the result will hopefully mean higher sales in the long run. And I’m sure radio will still get content driven promotions via the record companies – they may just need to come up with bigger ideas.
For radio, it will be increasingly important to have links to technology that lets the listener “buy it now” – either through the station website, via mobile listening platforms, or directly from the radio via Apple or Pure Flow Songs. This technology already exists – but I guess it’s set to become all the more important – particularly for Commercial radio who can monetize their listeners.
And what if there were a station that could play the song you voted for – a sort of live jukebox service with an online presence on mobile devices? You could vote on the song, get it on air and buy it for your mobile device – all at the same time. Absolute Radio tried it with DABBL with new/live music.
This format exists now – to a degree – in the USA. It’s called Listener Driven Radio. How long before someone tries it again here?
According to a report on Bloomberg.com, MTV is going back to it’s roots and focusing more on music again.
I used to love MTV back in the 1990s – it used to play non stop on the TV screens and sound system of our student’s union building in Canterbury when C4 Radio (now CSR Canterbury) was off air – in fact the sound from MTV was our off air sustaining service. (Rights – what rights…?). High rotation of songs, lunchtime requests, Ray Cokes and Euro news.
Then they discovered Reality TV.
They have just launched the MTV Music Meter – which scans social media worldwide to find the new bands generating a buzz in the social media space.
Bloomberg quotes Dermot McCormack, who oversees digital operations:
“We want to re-associate and new-associate the MTV brand with music.” “This is aimed at finding those artists who are rising fast in the social-media conversation.”
You can find details of some of their projects here:
I’ve not yet delved into all of them yet, (writing this on the train on my non Flash-friendly iPhone). But there could be some interesting possibilities with one of these projects – Flared Music.
The site notes that “Flared music lets you visually research relationships between musicians and bands using the Musicbrainz database an online community resource that the BBC is working with to collate music information”. Enter the name of an artist or producer and let the app search out connections and collaborations.
I entered “Paul McCartney” and it listed collaborations from the obvious (Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and of course The Beatles) but also, bizarrely , a connection to Su Pollard. Ok – she was on Ferry Aid! But, it set me thinking – maybe it could be a starting point for a musical feature on the radio? Or the basis of a fun online game?
Take a look – try it for yourself – and see what strange connections it throws up.