Friday, 25 July 2008

RAJAR Qtr 2 2008; "Now That's Magic!"

I‘ve spent quite a lot of time recently talking to radio stations about ‘doing the basics really well’. My belief is that getting these ‘basics’ right accounts for at least two thirds of the total ‘job’ a station must do in order to perform well. Take a listen up and down the dial in any market in the world, and you’ll find some stations that do the basics really well, plus a whole of other good stuff that set them aside from the competition. But there are also stations that haven’t quite mastered those basics yet, which is always frustrating to listen to, as they could be so much better than they are.

The latest listening figures to come out in the UK yesterday from Rajar, reinforces the point in spectacular fashion. In London, Magic 105.4 is the undisputed number one commercial radio station whichever way you want to slice it. It’s got the top spot in reach / cume, listening hours, market share, and it also has the number one breakfast programme with Neil Fox and his ‘More Music Breakfast Show’. The station has now topped 2 Million listeners a week and sits on a 7.4% share. Well done to all the guys at Magic on this brilliant result.

So how have they pulled this off then? Take a listen and you’ll soon realise that it’s a fantastic radio station, not because they throw lots of bells and whistles at the audience… quite the opposite. It’s because they get the basics right, all of the time. And what are these ‘magical’ basics then, and if it’s so easy, why aren’t more stations doing them? Well, the good news if that lots of stations are… but I think it’s always useful to revisit them. Let’s use Magic 105.4 as our example:

Clear Branding and Positioning
Magic 105.4 own the powerful position of ‘More Music, Less Talk’. It’s been that way for quite some time now! You can’t listen to Magic for any length of time without having this reinforced by very clear and concise branding and a strong jingle package that fits superbly with the sound of the station. They don’t confuse the position with too many different ways of saying what they do. And more importantly, the really deliver on their promise. They do seem to play more music, and certainly have less talk than other stations on the dial.

Well Researched Music
There is no doubt that Magic’s active database is very well researched with exactly the right sample makeup helping to shape the list. Magic is glued together by a very federating sound where artist and song are more important than era, and where compatibility and fit are the driving factors. Every single song is a winner. You don’t hear a bum song on Magic… ever. How many stations can claim that? Sure, they run a tight database and songs roll around quite often, but that doesn’t matter… coz they’re playing great songs. Take a look at their Top 25 most played artists:

Take That
Michael Bublé
Elton John
Leona Lewis
James Blunt
Phil Collins
Robbie Williams
Bryan Adams
Whitney Houston
Will Young
Cyndi Lauper
Bee Gees
Richard Marx
Snow Patrol
Righteous Brothers
Carly Simon
Lionel Richie
Savage Garden

Interesting list huh? Era-wise, there’s 60’s right the way through to currents. But again, the songs selected from these artists all fit together really well. Compatibility of sound is one of the most overlooked areas of music research, but an absolute necessity and Magic demonstrate how to make it work and look effortless at the same time!

Neil Fox completely reinvented himself when he moved from Capital to Magic. He’s a warm and genuine presenter who’s really connected to his audience. He doesn’t try and be funny, (but occasionally can be) and understands who’s listening, the type of life they lead, and what kind of show they need from him in the morning. It’s a very different show to the other ‘personality’ shows that are available, but perhaps that’s its secret… it sounds like it’s not trying too hard.

Understanding the Audience
Magic really know who they’re aiming for and who listens to the station, and the type of life they lead. Everything from the music selection and the type of content they do, right through to the commercial partners they work with are expertly targeted. Just look at some of their current key feature / show sponsors: Dove Cream Oil Body Wash, Galaxy Chocolate, The Science Museum; Any chance this is a station aimed at women with kids?!!

All good stations have some strong programming sub-brands. Magic is no exception. Mellow Magic (relaxing songs from 8pm every evening), The Test of Time (10 songs from one year each morning at 9am) are two of the strongest, but there are others. They all give excellent hooks into the station and reasons to tune in again and again.

Strong Style Guide
All the presenters on Magic sound like they have been cast from the same mould, but still with some of their own personality allowed to cut through. Remember, this is the more music, less talk station… so we’re not looking for guys and girls who can talk the hind legs off the proverbial donkey. However, they all understand the style guide of the station, and stick to it religiously, and the result is a clear and consistent sound.

Magic 105.4 currently defines consistency in UK radio. Every time I hit the button, I get what I expect… a soft and relaxing AC sound, seamlessly blending artists and eras with little interruption. Consistency is one of the most fundamental of basics. Define what you’re going to do, and do it… repeatedly. Ensuring you’re delivering on your listeners expectations at all times is essential to long term growth and long term success.

Magic have got the basics right… really right. And their patience and persistence have been rewarded with a fantastic set of audience figures. Suddenly, doing the basics well seems like a pretty good idea, doesn't it!

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