Embrace the radio anorak says David Harber
In this personal post from a guest contributor, David Harber reviews his recent event in Portsmouth for lovers of the radio jingle and argues that creating deep fans of radio could help the medium build new audiences.
The buoys of Portsmouth Harbour.
The Jingle Day
To many people working in the radio industry the idea of a room full of greasy, spotty, bright orange anorak-wearing individuals enthusing in squeaky monotones about the merits of JAM’s “Breakthru” jingle package and its various UK resings might seem like Dante’s second circle of hell. However Saturday’s Jinglemad Jingle Day in the sunshine on Portsmouth’s historic waterfront was far from the stereotype. Twenty five jingle fans from all over the UK gathered to discuss their hobby, but the attendees may surprise. The mix of people attending the event included the owner of Radio Today, the former Deputy Group Programme Director of Real Radio as well as a host of others with more than a passing interest in the radio industry. Additionally, the event was broadcast live on southdown.tv where it had a surprising 180 unique viewers, although we may never know who they were.
Southdown TV streamed the event live online.
The stars who love jingles
When you appreciate that some of the UK’s biggest names in commercial radio, from Tony Blackburn to Simon Hirst and Howard Hughes to Chris Moyles are all avid collectors of those little ‘seven seconds of musical magic’ and for many decades jingles had radio listeners subconsciously buying into the brand sound of their radio station of choice, it shouldn’t be too difficult to understand why an appreciation for a radio station’s brand identity is so alluring to so many.
Heart’s most played artist
Radio by its nature breeds fans. It is – or rather, it should be – engaging, personal and intimate. For many years, the personalities on radio were more famous than the artists whose records they were playing. In a similar vein, the Seattle-based singers of the lyric “This is Heart” are the most frequently heard artists on the UK’s largest radio brand. Collecting jingles has been a staple past-time of a great many UK radio fans since the offshore ‘pirate’ stations of the mid-1960s, when the perfect harmony audio identities of stations like Wonderful Radio London and Swinging Radio England would easily and melodically differentiate each station from another. With so many stations playing so many jingles over so many years, it should hardly be a surprise that there is plenty to talk about among a mix of people who range from Interior Designers to former Programme Directors. Newcomers to the radio industry may be excused from thinking that these nostalgic attendees can be simply cast asunder as ‘anoraks’, but as the day’s first guest speaker pointed out: radio has changed.
Chris Stevens. Chris Stevens.
Chris Stevens’ young looks belie his fulsome career in radio (from Sun FM, through BBC Radio 2 to Programme Director of Real Radio), but he has a genuine appreciation for radio stations as brands and why it’s important to not to lose sight of what works in a world clamoring for constant change to compete. Chris highlighted that in the US, some stations place such importance on the power of the jingle that they regularly buy entire packages simply to prevent their competitors from being able to use them on-air. He also explained the sheer versatility of jingles and shared his experience with the BBC’s tendering process for its local radio brand. Today, Chris who has had the pleasure of working with some of the world’s most talented songwriters, musicians and singers is confident in a robust radio industry which understands its product as a brand and is committed to producing jingles under his Ignite Jingles brand.
Simon and Rob
Rob Wills and Simon Prentice
Chris’s experience was echoed by Rob Wills and Simon Prentice from Audio Sweets and S2Blue, both radio identification producers. Their presentation showed that there are a significant amount of challenges facing jingle production companies – and they almost all amount to radio stations’ lack of understanding of the importance of brand to the listener, or even the listener themselves. It was clear that both Rob (who also runs the KMFM network of radio stations in Kent) and Simon are experts in radio branding, saw their job as trying to overcome the most ludicrous of objections to ensuring a clear audio brand for radio stations.
Unless you are the originator of the comment, I rather hope you’ll laugh at some of Rob and Simon’s experience with radio stations who want a jingle package where “Z100 meets Magic”, two radio stations at opposing ends of the format range. The desires of the station owner, rather than the business benefits from audience engagement, were also an objection to overcome. Some knowing glances were thrown across the room when such comments were made.
During the 80s and early 90s, one UK company dominated the UK jingle scene. Alfasound was co-founded by former Piccadilly Commercial Producer, Steve England. Over this time, his Alfasound jingles have been heard on more than half of the UK’s independent radio licences. Steve’s presentation via Skype had attendees enthralled and ultimately filled with questions. One question directly asked Steve whether he thought that the radio anorak was more of a nuisance than anything else, he politely answered that his entire career was built on an appreciation for radio jingles and alluded to the great many people in our industry that are successful because they understand the importance of every-tiny-second of their station’s output. Jingles have multiple purposes that achieve one aim: more listeners. Jingles create an audio brand; jingles reinforce a station name in a way that a disembodied voice never can; jingles are functional; jingles differentiate your station from everything else in the market and jingles assist with unaided recall of your station name in a relevant, engaging and memorable way.
Is better brand management the key to young audiences?
Today, RAJAR audience research suggests that radio is going to have an increasingly difficult time as fewer and fewer 15-24 year olds listen to ‘radio’; this diminishing demographic will very soon become commercial radio’s core audience as they grow to be purchase decision making consumers. Younger people are latching onto the ‘new’, so how does ‘old radio’ compete in a technologically challenging market? Radio stations will increasingly need to differentiate themselves from other digital music services by their content and individual stations need to differentiate themselves from competitors by creating and enhancing their brand. Whatever your personal views, Ashley Tabor understands this intimately.
Can radio create more fans?
Programme Directors want more prospective audience to listen more often and listen longer and that means creating fans. I currently have the pleasure of presenting on Global Radio in Spain and am frequently filled with pride when a listener responds; they emote with what I have played, what I have said or how I have said it. I see these listeners as fans of the medium and any Programme Director should feel proud that his or her station creates fans. The deeper their feeling for the station, the better the Programme Director is at their job and if that means that their scheduling skills (and the rest) create anoraks from their audience, they should feel extremely proud of their achievement. Radio has been creating ‘fans’ for many decades and if that means that a group of unrelated people who gather in a room in Portsmouth are able to discuss in intricate detail the development of a radio station’s audio brand, maybe, just maybe, these jingle-collecting anoraks who by day are interior designers, classroom assistants and call centre managers understand the importance of radio as brand better than many who are running stations today.
You can see video from the Jingle Day at Southdown TV.
John Myers on anoraks
John questions whether anoraks could be killing radio.
And the jingles keep on coming…
Get ready for The Imaging Days in September. Earshot Creative is a media partner of the event and we’d be thrilled to see you there in Amsterdam. Not as pretty as Portsmouth of course, but full of imaging and a perfect weekend away whatever your interest in radio identification and branding.