The state of the art: UK imaging in 2015
In this guest post, station sound producer, presenter and radio enthusiast Robin Blamires shares his personal perspective on the audio imaging he hears on air every day.
A year of transformation and expansion in radio.
In an increasing media landscape, radio has had to make its on air brands stand out in the face of competition not just from traditional platforms, but also from new audio services such as Apple’s Beats 1.
On air branding has never been more crucial, and this blog takes a look at the present state of UK radio, and a selection of sounds that have stood out for me in between the songs.
BBC Radio 1
I think it has been a challenging year for one of the BBC’s biggest networks, losing one of their biggest and most popular presenters to Apple and introducing the clever, if a little confusing, slogan “Where It Begins”.
On air the overall sound, whilst brilliantly produced, has to accommodate most of the shows and strands having their own bespoke imaging packages, of which quite a few got a reboot in 2015.
The IDs themselves on the other hand, were polished, with Newsbeat introducing a new theme package from ex-Radio 1 staffer Dan Mumford, and The Official Chart Show on it’s move to Fridays unveiling a new set of themes to coincide with the arrival of a new host.
And whilst Radio 1’s approach to visual work has been frowned upon by some, the station’s overall highlight was this brilliantly beat-matched promotional video for the station’s annual Big Weekend, which received a massive ovation when it was played at this year’s Imaging Days event in Holland.
UK Commercial Radio
I would say it has been a good year at Global with plenty of progression on their key brands.
Heart, under the guidance of imaging producer Matt Lomax has added further excitement to its on air sound following the launch of a Reelworld jingle package in 2014, with very tight playlist branding illustrated through the introduction of “Heart’s Happy Hour”.
A non-stop selection of tunes designed to “Turn Up The Feelgood” with slick segues and listener interaction, helping to illustrate the Heart brand at it’s fullest.
The most talked about radio event in commercial circles without question has to be the re-emergence of The Chris Moyles Show on the relaunched Radio X.
The station sound overall as produced by Dan Reido has seen little change from that of XFM, though the new breakfast show contains traces of the jingles that defined Moyles on Radio 1’s breakfast show courtesy of Sandy Beech and the team at Music 4.
Whilst the jingles themselves are sung, the singing plays second fiddle to the show, just singing the name of the show and the station, departing from the cleverly-written lyrics of the show’s past.
In spite of the show every morning starting with the opening crescendo from the “Cheesy Song” that was used on Radio 1, of which the surprise element doesn’t really work for me, still hearing it 10 weeks after the first show.
The musical direction of the IDs has fitted in with the new station, ditching the large orchestras for guitar-lead tracks. These are put to particularly good use in the opening of Moyles’s Friday morning “Platinum Hour”.
And when it comes to cross promotion within Global radio, well Moyles certainly hasn’t shied away, with his LBC parodies and this jingle from Heart name-checking all their breakfast presenters.
Other brands within Global have continued to define themselves with Smooth continuing to implement the model used by Classic FM of instrumental themes within a music lead format, also borrowing a cue from their sister station by using David Arnold to produce the IDs.
Branching away from Global, Sandy’s short songs can also be heard on the UTV network with their FM stations united by the slogan “I Love This Station”. A clever strategy, managing to get the station name sung, but with the emphasis on the slogan with the melody logo taking centre stage.
Elsewhere, at Bauer Chris Ward has had his work cut out, with the City 2 Network extending the use of their five-note logo from the FM stations to the former Magic stations on AM,
assuring a consistent sound on-air, if slightly softer in style in comparison to on FM, of which the logo has been used creatively in branded song intros.
The ongoing nature of audio production means there will be plenty of exciting bits in between the tunes throughout the new year. I wonder whether, in some cases,on-air branding is being focused on more than on-air content?
Over at the BBC, 5 Live has recently put the contract for it’s on-air identification out to tender. The station itself has received a fair bit of bad press, not helped by falling listening figures in the last year or so after the departure of some popular presenters. Will a new on-air imaging package help to bring back listeners?
As to who will win the contract, I would like to see Reelworld take on the challenge of producing a speech radio identity package for a UK station and it would also be exciting to see Wise Buddah branch into that territory.
From a personal point of view, branding appears to be a bigger priority than programme content in UK radio, especially within the commercial sector. Whether it’s me being a radio geek, or I want to hear more than just music, I find myself listening to a station just to hear the on-air identification and then switch the dial to another station.
Overall, if more stations could create ear-catching content to match the identification they pride themselves on, I forsee a promising future for radio beyond 2016.