Monday, 15 June 2009

Athens Radio

When I’m on holiday, one of my guilty pleasures is getting out my portable ‘World Band’ Travel Radio and having a little trip up and down the FM dial to see ‘what’s what’ in the world of radio in my particular destination.

First stop on my (slightly early) summer holiday was Crete, where there was lots of radio available. Unfortunately, most of it was just terrible! The worst thing I heard was something that started off like a standard music image promo with short hooks of songs one after the other, but then they proceeded to play me about 8 minutes of hooks!! I felt like I was listening to an AMT broadcast live!!

Sorry residents of Crete, but all your stations seem to interrupt the listening experience far too much, and are way too commercial. The programming wasn’t ever allowed to breathe. There wasn’t a station I could find that was well put together and understood the basics. I hope there is one... it’s just I couldn’t find it!

And then, on to Athens...

Now that’s more like it! I sat on the obligatory sun-lounger by the pool with my headphones on. What started out as a little scan up and down with a few notes jotted on a napkin, turned into a couple of hours really interesting radio listening. It helps when you have absolutely no real pre-conceptions of the stations or their image. You can really listen to the output without being swayed by external factors. So, there are a few things worthy of mention;

Greek music is alive and well on the radio dial in Athens
There were many stations either offering what an untrained ear may call ‘Traditional’ Greek music, or ‘Contemporary’ Greek hits (and about every possible mix of the two in varying degrees, plus all the variants... like ‘rhythmic contemporary Greek’, soft AC Greek etc, etc) So it’s fair to say, the domestic music scene is very healthy and supported admirably by Greek radio.

Some of the commercial blocks are very long
Several of the stations offering a contemporary mix of Modern Greek hits and English language hits had commercials breaks which were in excess of 6 or 7 minutes each. They were just far too long. I felt sorry for the advertiser who was placed 13th in the ad break! In these cases both advertisers and listeners lose.

Sweeps of music work
For music stations, regardless of format, well programmed sweeps of music across the day just work. This is nothing new, but it’s interesting that some stations just ‘get it’ and put together really well programmed music sweeps with a great flow and musical treats, and some stations just interrupt you far too often. Guess which ones are more appealing to listen to? Not too difficult is it?

Standout Stations
A few stations broadcasting to Athens are worthy of mention:

Red FM - 96.3
These guys offer a really listenable mix of Modern Rock, Indie and Cool Classics. It’s a male skewed station, seemingly aimed at 25-39 year old blokes with a real focus on credible music and a well defined sound. Songs I heard over a couple of hours included:

Blur – Song 2
Athlete – Wires
U2 – With Or Without You
Rasmus – In The Shadows
Bryan Adams – Can’t Stop This Thing We’ve Started
Semisonic – Secret Smile
Blondie - Heart of Glass
Bob Marley – Is This Love?

96.6 (That seems to be its name)
Again, another male skewed station, but aimed a little younger than Red FM, probably more 15-24. The nearest comparison I can draw is with XFM in London. The running order is dominated by a stack of very cool and credible bands ranging from Foo Fighters to Razorlight, and the station has a really nice feel to it, with minimal interruption from DJ’s, who only really stop to tell you what band you were just listening to. They’ve just dropped a musical treat too... AC/DC – ‘Highway to Hell’! Nice production sound too. Songs I heard over a few hours included:

Muse – Starlight
Florence and the Machine – Kiss with a Fist
Verve – Sonnet
Moby – Natural Blues
Arctic Monkeys – I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor
Alanis Morrisette - You Oughta Know
Razorlight – America

Lampsi 92.3
If you want a decent AC station, you’d be hard pushed to find a better one in Athens than Lampsi 92.3. It blends the biggest international hits with the best in current and contemporary Greek music. The format is clear to follow and the production sound is straightforward yet effective. News, weather, traffic bulletins... the whole nine yards are there for you to enjoy. It’s not the most exciting station on the dial, but it’s probably the least offensive, and many stations reach number 1 in the marketplace by being just like that. The adbreaks are a little on the long side, but they’re not alone on the dial in Athens for that! The lovely team at Radio Intelligence have done a good job in positioning Lampsi. Nice work. Songs I heard over several hours included:

Katy Perry – I Kissed A Girl
Lady Gaga – Poker Face
Duffy – Stepping Stone
Amy Winehouse - Valerie
Katy Perry – Hot N Cold
Enrique Iglesias – Taking Back My Love

So, as I wave goodbye to Athens in a few days, I’m pleased to report it has a vibrant and exciting radio market with loads on offer for listeners... both domestic and foreign!

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