Local Radio For Paisley

The first job I had was with Paisley’s local radio station in the late 1990s.

It no longer exists but I’m a firm believer that the return of such a channel would be good for the town and surrounding area, especially in today’s modern media environment and with all the possibilities that entails.

It’s disappointing that once again what appeared to me to be credible bids for community radio licences have not been successful in OFCOM’s latest round of community radio licence awards. I wasn’t involved in any of them but I had hoped one would have been successful. It has not at the time of writing (15/12/17) although it does appear that neither has been wholly rejected – they just have not been awarded in this latest round.

I’m not particularly a believer in the community radio route and it’s for that reason I’ve never been involved in any of the bids. I would be more in favour of a purely commercial operation and this of course carries with it far greater risk and barriers to entry which is why I haven’t been involved in that either!

The fact it that while various radio and media professionals see the value in a broadcast channel for the town, the general population does not and the business community would find it difficult to give its financial backing at least until the station had a proven track record of success.

And so my position is simply this: I’d like to see a dedicated radio station return to Paisley and Renfrewshire. I have no interest in directly becoming involved in any community licence bids but wish those that do well and would be happy to discuss or provide support on an informal basis to anyone who asks. I’m not in a position just now to commit to the pursuit of a full-time licence and in any event, have the view that for a Paisley radio station to have any chance of succeeding on air, it would first have to gain significant traction on-line.

That’s why we have created ‘Renfrewshire Weekend Radio‘ – a ‘holding’ station which would allow anyone with an interest to broadcast via the internet (and me when I can find the time) and which would immediately close upon the successful licence award to any group bringing a radio channel back to the area.

Anyone with an interest in working with us – follow the link and get in touch.

UPDATED to make clear that the 2017 community radio bids have not been flatly rejected by OFCOM but merely have not been awarded in this latest round. The same bids could, in theory, be awarded at a later date.

It’s All About The Experience

There’s irrefutable evidence that the unique ‘experience’ is what we all want these days.

A recent article about Barrhead Travel’s expansion highlighted the demand for customised holiday experiences, rather than simply cheap flights and hotels.

I’ve just spent a small fortune in the M+Ms store at Leicester Square, buying gifts for the family. I’d mentioned after my last trip to London that there was an amazing 4 storey building devoted to the tiny little sweets and mentioned some of the merchandise it sold. This turned into a full blown discussion about the madness of it all, but after I showed my Mum some YouTube clips from other visitors she was quickly won over and insisted I brought her something back from my next trip! And then there’s my kids…my nephews etc etc!

Round the corner in Covent Garden, ice cream giant Magnum has a pop up shop where you can ‘make your own Magnum’ and then eat it in the cafe area. At every stage in the process, there are opportunities to take and share pictures of you ‘experiencing’ Magnum on social media. It’s like the ‘Build A Bear’ workshop for adults!

Smart brands are going to great lengths to unlock there’s ‘experience’ opportunities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It could be expanding a range of merchandise, bringing products to life, turning them into characters, or letting people in on the creative process…how are these products made? Can customers ‘have a go’ at making their own?

Break down your customer journey and your manufacturing process and look for opportunities to let people in and turn it into an attraction.

Perhaps radio cou

ld turn weekly playlist meetings or music research into an event, which as well as gathering useful focus group, market research data, also serves as a powerful marketing activity.

Choose selected listeners who’ve downloaded your app, send them push notifications and invite them along to the ‘Playlist Night’. Put on some food and drink, show them round, explain how you choose what songs get played, let them hear the latest releases and canvas their views.

Many stations I listen to have white label ‘dating’ apps. Why not turn the ‘playlist night’ into a ‘music testing/speed dating’ event. You could charge a modest admission fee for that and you’d be giving a desirable audience a unique experience they’ll tell their friends about, thus marketing your station.

And if you think ‘nice idea but no-one will ever do it’ – think again. Some station already is because I’ve just overheard a woman raving about the whole experience to her friend on the tube. It’s the first time in years I’ve overheard someone talking enthusiastically about something involving a radio station.

Much is made of the digital revolution. But ‘digital’ alone is 1s and 0s and boring as hell. Digital that works is expressing the physical in a digital space. Enjoying a unique real life experience and keeping a permanent digital record that we carry with us everywhere we go and expressing how that physical experience has made us feel, in the digital realm.

Think about how you can unlock the unique experiences associated with your business.

Union Jack Radio Advert At Scotland Game

If the object of advertising is to raise awareness and get yourself talked about, then mission accomplished for the team at Union Jack Radio.

Their pitchside digital display ad during tonight’s Men’s World Cup Qualifier at Hampden has put a radio station few had heard of previously right at the heart of the conversation – look at this:

So what’s happened…don’t they understand?!

You might argue ‘Why the fuss?, Why shouldn’t Scotland embrace the Union Flag and enjoy a radio station that plays the best British music?’

A valid argument perhaps but it’s about context. And in the context of football, especially the Scotland national team, playing at home, at Hampden, the Union Flag doesn’t really figure. And for once, it’s not a debate about independence or remaining part of the union, the flag itself just doesn’t figure, regardless of political beliefs.

My personal belief (and that’s all – I’ve no knowledge of this particular situation) is that an advertising agency bought some space, probably part of a blanket campaign to involve promoting Union Jack Radio at ALL the home nations’ World Cup qualifiers. They haven’t thought, haven’t realised, just had an opportunity and threw their logo at it.

What they do next is the important bit.

Because cheeky advertising is bang on the brand values for Union Jack Radio (and its better known sister station Jack FM.) Tongue in cheek is what they do, and with this pitch side advertising at Hampden, they might have inadvertently stumbled into something that could truly connect and go viral.

So, if they’re smart, they’ll respond to some of these Tweets from incensed Scotland fans. Maybe reference the score. Some Scottish bands. Opt out of their jukebox for a bit and hire a well known Scottish personality to host some programmes for them. Or – and I believe the technology would allow for this – change their advert in the 2nd half to reference the slagging they’re currently taking on Twitter.

It’s easy to get reach and awareness these days. True engagement is harder, and to get Scottish football fans to scan their digital radios for a new station and actually give it a listen, is nigh impossible.

But if Union Jack follows up what many believe to be a mistake with something clever and utilise real-time, then they could still win some new fans before the final whistle blows.

The key is the follow up. Trolling Scotland fans and making them angry doesn’t constitute marketing ‘genius’ although I’ll bet some self-appointed PR ‘guru’ writes a blog in the morning suggesting it does. No, reach and getting talked about is the easy part. For this particular piece of advertising to have any value, Union Jack Radio needs us to listen.

Live Interviews Are Getting Tougher

What the usual pundits forgot to mention in their rush to slag off Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn for failing to remember the facts in those horrendous election campaign interviews they gave, was what this tells us about live interviews in the digital age.

Radio presenters and producers like the folk you’ll encounter at LBC, talkSport, BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Scotland and so on are now being judged on how they perform on social media.

It might not be a formal ‘more hits = more pay’ but it’s a metric that’s given serious consideration.

All those clips of James O’Brien on Facebook will have an influence on his ratings and his position at the station. He wants success on the radio and he also wants success on social media.

And so when programme teams are preparing for interviews, I believe they are now going looking for the social media ‘moment’.

It’s routine now that the majority of radio interviews will be filmed. The cameras will be recording as soon as you enter the studio and they’ll keep going during any breaks in the programme. Mics down and red light off? Everything you say as you begin to relax in the presenter’s company is still being recorded and can be used against you!

Live radio interviews now require you to contend with a presenter who has set out from the beginning to break you. To find the moment you’re going to fall apart. Where you’ll go off message (or fail to communicate ANY message) and deliver that viral social media sensation they want so much.

Of course, Abbott and Corbyn deserved all they got for failing to put forward even the basic numbers. The questions they were asked weren’t even challenging. But it’s important you understand that live radio presenters are going out looking for those moments.

Don’t become a victim. The best approach is to practice. Practice with someone who truly understands the modern media environment and if you are more experienced at giving broadcast interviews recognise that the environment has changed. ‘Busking it’ is a dangerous game these days.

As well as our media training workshops and on demand training videos, we offer private 1-1 interview practice sessions in person, on the phone or via Skype. We can go through the questions you’re likely to be asked, I’ll help you craft answers and show you where all the pitfalls are. To find out more call 0808 133 1353 or use the ‘Contact‘ page.

It’s easy to laugh when others mess up. It’s much smarter to learn from what’s happened to them.

 

Christine And The Queens

 

‘I want to be one with the desire, rather than simply being desired.’

The words of French singer songwriter Héloïse Letissier who you may have seen recently on Graham Norton’s TV show or perhaps the BBC coverage of Glastonbury.

Here’s the video for her track ‘Tilted’ which has got a lot of people noticing her.

Her recent TV exposure and live performances have led to all sorts of comparisons and labels (Michael Jackson, Madonna, ‘pansexual’) but most encouraging is the fact her UK tour sold out in less than a week. Here we have an artist that music fans up and down the country have been waiting for.

As a dancer Christine has few equals. The choreography is outstanding, there’s an energy and a quiet confidence to the whole thing and the production of the track, (which she wrote and produced…yes, the beats and bass you hear were laid down by Christine herself using actual software and her ears. Just as men and women can use Microsoft Word to type they can also use ProTools and FL Studio to make music…who’d have thought it?!) has propelled her album to No.1 in Belgium, 6 in the UK, 2 in France and 3 in Ireland.

That sell out UK tour will be preceded by what’s almost certainly going to be a sell out US tour boosted by a critically acclaimed performance at SXSW earlier this year.

So to Christine and what she stands for.

First and foremost, great tunes, smart lyrics, a world class performance and a deep love of pop music.

But there’s more.

In an age where feminism has never had a higher profile yet where women have never been more exploited it’s inevitable Christine will attract interest because she’s doing it differently.

Early interviews and commentary makes reference to the ‘queer’ movement, Wikipedia claims Héloïse identifies as ‘pansexual’ although my French isn’t what it was and I can’t translate this clip in its entirely I think what she’s saying is that she doesn’t believe in labels or reducing sexuality to a single word.

For me, Christine represents being yourself and going at it with passion.

She’s driven, talented and doing it all on her own terms.

I admire the fact she sings a proportion of her lyrics in French – it sounds brilliant, and the bursts of cover versions she uses in her performances (Chaka Khan ‘I Feel For You’, Technotronic ‘Pump Up The Jam’) tells me her love of pop music transcends what’s ‘cool’.

Any artist who defies categorisation will face challenges.

MTV wasn’t sure what to do with Michael Jackson at the release of ‘Thriller’, hence the guitar solo in ‘Beat It’.

Christine doesn’t have (yet) today’s slick band of super producers queuing up to write for her. That’s fine but it means there’s perhaps a slight lack of depth to her set and maybe some justifiable accusations of filler material. Although it’s still relatively early in Christine’s career so that will likely change.

And she’ll struggle to make the major radio station playlists. For reference, she received considerably fewer plays on UK radio in the last 30 days than Huey Lewis And The News although BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music are supportive and she’s had spot plays on various Capital network stations.

Social media then is her friend and it’s fuelling considerable interest. That sold out UK tour (which wraps up in my hometown of Glasgow in November!) will likely be followed by a return visit at larger venues, her physical performances will ensure healthy TV interest and magazines and blogs will dissect much of what she says and stands for.

All of that – along with her talent, confidence and individuality – will lead, as it always does to Christine receiving what she says she isn’t in this for, that is ‘to be desired’.

There will be interest, opportunities, pressure and inevitably criticism.

For me, there’s nothing worse than someone who doesn’t like labels being labelled as the person for people who don’t like labels.

Let’s just let her be and enjoy what she creates.

And I hope she keeps dancing.

Head of Music Mark II

The ‘Head of Music’ role disappeared at many local radio stations back in the late 90s when standardised playlists became common place among many of the major commercial radio groups.

There was little point employing someone to add songs to the Selector database and work out the most effective hourly clocks, or decide which new songs should make the playlist, when all the major decision making was happening centrally.

Some stations held on to some autonomy later than others and a few to this day maintain specialist shows and the ability to opt out of ‘central command’.

But consider the plight of the unsigned band or up and coming musician in every major city in the UK. All these people want is to be listened to. They’d love to make the playlist and have their song heard on the radio station, but more than that, I’d argue that what they really want is someone to take an interest in their work, and to give them honest feedback.

Credit them with some intelligence. They know how the game is played, and understand they won’t get played without a major record deal and marketing campaign.  Maybe there’s a way that we can work with them, and provide some value, without play listing their track.

‘Head of Music’ at a group level means analysing the music research, dealing with the labels, and organising the database and format clocks. Probably plenty of other things too.

At a local level, I see ‘Head of Music’ as very valid, but rather than impacting on songs making the playlist, it could be more of a local point of contact for up and coming talent.

Someone who takes an interest in the local music scene.
Listening to demos and giving feedback.
Highlighting, via the station’s website and social media platforms which local artists they admire.
Getting out to gigs, talking about it on air, and becoming known as the ‘go to’ person for the local music scene in that area.

It makes perfect sense to me that if there’s only 300 songs in rotation at any one time and a highly competitive environment, and we’re trying to build a recognise ‘brand’, then of course we can’t have the drive-time presenter for the local station for Leeds taking a punt and sticking a self produced demo on for a young bunch of part-time musicians no-one has ever heard of.

But there could be a page on the website, or a regular feature on Facebook where that same presenter, with their ‘Head of Music’ hat on gives a rundown of what they’re enjoying at the moment.

Very rarely, in extreme cases, it might mean new talent rises all the way up the food chain and ends up with airplay and nationwide attention. Highly unlikely, but it might.

But more often, it would give the radio station more credibility in its local area. And it would give the section of the audience that wants it, some content that they appreciate, without screwing up the station’s on-air identity.

If I called your local radio station right now, told them I was new to the area and asked who the up and coming bands were, what night the best live music was on and where I could find it, could you give me an answer?

If you can, you should shout about this.

And if you can’t, then it’s really easy to put right. One person, taking on some additional responsibility to keep in touch with the local music scene and talk about it online, sometimes maybe the odd mention on their show.

It’s about being seen to listen, and understanding that while the broadcast version of your station has limited airtime, there’s infinite space online. So why not use it?

It strikes me as an easy win. Appoint a ‘Head of Music’ today and stick their contact details on your station website.

Trust that the benefits will come.

 

 

Radio At Its Best

See my previous blog about Ellie Harrison’s ‘The Glasgow Effect‘ arts project.

The whole thing reminded me of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty as ‘The K Foundation’ burning a million quid in 1994.

‘At least they used their own money’, I thought.

But my cynicism quickly gave way to interest and I had an enjoyable internal debate with myself about ‘what is art?’ and all that stuff.

Then I got bored and remembered that the K Foundation took a video of themselves burning a million quid to Belgrade during the break up of Yugoslavia, and that reminded me of this wonderful song they produced, which featured the voice of DJ Fleka, and THAT led me to this brilliant article about the radio station he worked at, B92.

If you’ve any interest in what radio can be – then give it a read. And if you’re jaded with radio in this country, thinking it’s not exciting enough, then read the article and be inspired and do something about it this year.

The Worst Corporate Christmas Card Ever

Was sent by the now defunct radio station Scot FM during Christmas 1998.

It was an entirely plain, dark blue card on the front, with a slightly raised outline of an ear, also in dark blue.

‘What the hell is this shit?’ recipients must have thought, before opening it and reading the message ‘Happy New Ear!’ and signatures of all the team (electronically written and printed on the card).

I can’t begin to think about who might have come up with that idea and what they might be doing now. And I’d stress that this card was sent in the run up to Christmas – it’s not as if they couriered it round everyone on Hogmanay where it might have won a fraction of a point for timely relevance.

To anyone (there’s always one) who’s reading this and thinking ‘ah-hah’ – but that was 17 years ago and you still remember the card, it worked, it’s marketing genius!

I remember it because I worked there and the time and was mortified that we were sending out such pish. It didn’t get the radio station any goodwill or interest in the marketplace that I’m aware of and 3 years later is ceased to exist altogether.

I’d say this crappy corporate Christmas card was at least partly responsible.

So that’s my candidate for the worst corporate Christmas card of all time, but maybe you’ve seen one that’s even worse?

What Everyone’s Missed About Chris Moyles

Some great analysis the last few days of his new show on Radio X and of course it’s great to have him back on air every day.

He loves radio and is in the Champions League of performers.

Much of the discussion so far has been around his ‘rule breaking’; mentioning all those things radio presenters aren’t supposed to, and ‘invading’ studios representing other brands under Global Radio’s roof.

All of this is true and of course there are many many facets to Chris Moyles success and his talents. I just want to focus on one aspect which I feel has been missing from much of the analysis so far.

Here’s the thing. For all the apparent spontaneity, and the ‘renegade’ nature of the programme, what we have here is a talented professional working closely with excellent management to create a winning product.

The ‘invasion’ of the other studios, for example, was meticulously planned.

How do we know this? Because they’d built a branded up spinning wheel to help them decide which studio to gatecrash. They had the whole thing filmed. Someone’s had an idea, which became a plan, which probably got refined, then approved and then finally executed.

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my time in radio, and then my time out of it, it’s that you cannot come close to achieving your potential and delivering truly great radio if you work in isolation.

One difference between an average radio presenter and a brilliant presenter will be what they do off-air. The – sometimes tricky – conversations they have. It’s about convincing management that the normal rules shouldn’t apply, and then working with them to do something different instead.

Think about Moyles on Day 1 when he used the imaging to make Dominic Byrne do things at his command. Those ‘More Weather’, ‘Even More Sport’ and ‘Say Something In French’ stings would have been produced far in advance of the programme.

They were planned, and approved, and then delivered.

Because of his success, Moyles has earned the licence to be listened to – not just on-air – but off it too. He has been able to convince management to work with him on ideas that break the format, and this approach has been so successful the management have been able to build a brand around him.

This means he is able to go on air with complete and utter confidence in himself. He knows he has the full backing of his team and his bosses, and – this is his great art – concentrates on delivering it with a verve and spontaneity that listeners love.

Radio like this has similarities with the way live television is produced. You cannot take it upon yourself to ‘go off on one’ on live television because there’d be no camera there to see it. It has to be planned and practiced, so that everyone is standing in the right place and the product looks good on screen.

It’s a true team effort.

Much of commercial radio isn’t. It’s one or two people sitting in a room, doing their best for 4 hours at a time.

And that’s only going to get you so far, as Chris Moyles is demonstrating.

What’s interesting is that in the 3 years he’s been away, no-one has been able to take his place. It’s easy to blame big brands and management for that. But part of the responsibility has to lie with the presenters themselves.

What I’m saying is; if you want to stand out on radio, don’t get frustrated and quit, don’t go off on one and get fired, take 5 minutes and have an honest chat with your boss about the kind of broadcaster you want to be.