Friday, 21 August 2009

V Festival - Live on Absolute Radio

Making the most of the content you have available to you is really key for all radio stations nowadays. Especially when it comes to coverage of live events.

I say this confident in the knowledge that Absolute Radio will be ensuring they use all the cleverest technology available to them to engage listeners with their coverage of the Virgin Media ‘V Festival’ taking place this weekend in the UK. They’ll no doubt be uploading videos, stack of photos, interviews and doing a who load of live shows from the festival, plus I hear they’re bringing the full Oasis and Snow Patrol sets live on the radio too. Pretty good stuff I'd say.

The festival line-up is impressive. The aforementioned Oasis and Snow Patrol, plus Razorlight, Lily Allen, Keane, Katy Perry, Fatboy Slim... the list goes on and on. Take your pick. It also features a return from the great band Ocean Colour Scene, who I was reminded played the first festival that the station really covered live (back when it was called Virgin Radio)... V2000.

Having attended the event the year previously (in 1999), I realised that there was a whole load of great bands and fantastic potential on-air content and we weren’t really doing anything live from the event. So the then S&P Director (Rob Ramsey) and I (Head of Music for Virgin Radio at the time) decided that if he could get the coverage of the event sponsored, I would work on putting together a massive Outside Broadcast from V2000.

He stuck to his side of the bargain and duly got Sky Sports to sponsor it, so I headed the team that put together the music and programming side of things. 12 months later, and cue... one big tent, one mobile radio studio and production facility, lines to all the main stages, mobile trucks to do broadcast mixes of live sets, an acoustic stage, and furious negotiations with record companies to get all the appropriate rights.

Sure enough, that year the radio stations coverage of the V Festival was born, and I’m delighted to say, 9 years later it still continues, allbeit under the stations new name of Absolute Radio . Ocean Colour Scene came to play for us on our acoustic stage that year, and I sure hope they’ll be making a return visit to the Absolute Radio area this weekend.

Back in 2000, we were joined by quite a new band that I thought were pretty good and deserved some exposure. They were called Coldplay.
Whatever happened to them then?

So tune in this weekend if you get the chance. I’m certain the team at Absolute will do a great job

More Success at Radio Expres

It’s time again to give a radio station the credit it deserves. Congratulations go to client station Radio Expres in Slovakia. The latest MML ratings have been released there, and once again, the station is head and shoulders above the competition and its equalled it all time record reach figure. Take a look the growth of audience (on the orange line) since 2002...

Impressive isn’t it! Particularly in 2005, when they overtook the public service station Radio Slovensko. It shows that heritage public service broadcasters can be overtaken by commercial rivals if the product is focused in all key areas.

The team under the guidance of PD Ivan Antala, also work closely with Jochen Lukas the guys at Brand Support, who regularly provide them with great research to work with. As we all know, this is a really important element of any station’s success.

I’m travelling out to Bratislava next week to work with the team at Radio Expres on some creative activity for the ‘new season’ and thought it might be good to do a little ‘Q and A’ with Ivan while I’m there and get him to share why he believes the station has shown consistent growth. I’ll post this piece in due course. I’m sure it will make interesting reading.

In the meantime, here’s a recent video from their ‘summer morning show’, where guest female co-hosts (who were drawn from listeners that successfully auditioned to be a co-host) tried to put-off the ‘weekly weather guy’. This never used to happen when I was on air!!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Radio 100FM at Smukfest 2009!

Here’s a short video showing you some ‘behind the scenes’ action of the Radio 100FM coverage of Smukfest 2009!

And here are a couple of Outside Broadcast tips that working on this event reminded me of...

Plan, plan and then do some more planning! You can never be too prepared.

Invest as much as you can in the technical setup. If everything works well technically, then producing great content is always a lot easier

Choose your location carefully. Too tucked away and you won’t get the visibility you need. But if you’re right in the centre of the action, it could be more difficult to control the environment

Make sure everyone knows exactly what their role is in pre-production, and on site. If everyone’s doing their assigned job, things should go smoothly

Brand Interaction
Have a reason for people to stop by and spend some time with your brand. At this event, we had an internet cafe where people were checking out their email and Facebook all day

It’s the small things that can make the difference and really make your brand look good. A fridge stocked full of cold beer for bands who drop by, or handing out branded umbrellas if it starts to rain

If you want to see some more videos and pictures from the event, you can visit the Radio 100FM Smukfest pages here

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Smukfest Update!

It’s Sunday morning. 15 hours of live coverage from Denmark’s Smukfest 2009 completed... and 7 hours still left to go.

The weather’s been great... the festival’s been great... and more importantly, I’m delighted to say that the coverage on Radio 100FM has been flawless.

The OB unit has really served its purpose well, both in terms of functionality and visibility.

And the content has been really engaging. You can see and hear a lot of it right now on the Radio 100FM website.

Interviews, live sessions and a fantastic array of ‘colour pieces’ have captured the unique spirit of this festival and communicated that to listeners right across the country.

The video camera has been in action and I’ll post some of the video I shot in due course and also share some of the ‘learnings’ that we’ve got out of the experience. Any major outside broadcast is always a challenge and it occasionally throws up the unexpected. Being flexible and being able to deal with issues as they arise is vital and I’ll provide you with some essential OB tips!

But for now, here’s a great way to ‘camp’ at a festival. In a Pig Pen!! They’re waterproof, equipped with electricity and camp beds and all the mod cons. What else would you expect from one of the major exporters of bacon in the world!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

It's Festival Time!

I’ve just arrived in Denmark where I’ll be spending most of the next 7 days in a field. Let me explain.

Smukfest is one of a plethora of great festivals that Europe has to offer over the summer. A place called Skanderborg on the island of Jutland (about 3 hours drive west from Copenhagen) will be transformed into a mini tented city as hundreds of thousands of lovely Danes enjoy one big party, entertained by the likes of Kylie Minogue, Fatboy Slim, The Streets, Editors and also the finest Danish bands currently on offer. And Aqua.

Radio 100FM (where I’m Consultant Programme Director) will be presenting over 22 hours of live coverage of the festival and bringing listeners across Denmark the music, action and vibe of Smukfest 2009. ‘Smuk’ means ‘beautiful’ in Danish, and the setting is precisely that... beautiful. Acres of gorgeous woodland topped off with an idyllic lake, opposite which our OB wagons are being set up.

And why are we going to such lengths? Why do radio stations cover music festivals?

It’s important for your brand to be seen, especially in the right places. A well planned and highly visible OB acts as a huge 3D billboard for you radio station if executed correctly

Music Image
All stations need to constantly reinforce their music image, and this can be effectively done by positioning the radio station alongside the right kind of event, both in attitudinally and musically. If you play a lot of Coldplay, being at a festival where they are appearing is probably a good idea. Your P1’s will see this as confirmation they’re with the right radio station for their tastes.

Music festivals provide hours of great content for both on-air and online. If you’ve tied up the rights correctly, you can have exclusive performances from core artists to your station recorded from the main stages, interviews with some big stars, acoustic sessions and live shows that offer a real point of difference

Listener Engagement
Radio stations are often guilty of ‘hiding’ in their industrial estates or beautiful media style offices in the cool part of town, and as a result, the staff don’t get to speak to listeners enough. Having an opportunity to talk to and ‘touch’ listeners is a very powerful tool

Sponsorship Opportunity
Commercial stations can create a unique opportunity for a sponsor to be associated with the on air-coverage of a really cool event. Build in ticket giveaways, ‘best of’ shows, online coverage etc, and the value of the package can be quite substantial and deliver a welcome boost to revenue

There are plenty of other reasons to be there, but these are some of the main motivating factors that drove me to plan this Outside Broadcast. I’ve got a fantastic team of around 18 people working on the production, so it’s a large piece of activity to stage, but I’m confident that we’ll produce some quality radio for our listeners.

As the event unfolds from Thursday onwards, I’ll try and blog some updates with from the OB, and share with you how my vision for the coverage for Smukfest 2009 is turning into a reality.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Buzz Off!

I’ve just visited client station KRONEHIT based in Vienna, who are just celebrating audience figures (from their measurement system in Austria called ‘Radio Test’) that put them well over the ½ Million listeners mark. Well done to all the hardworking team there. One of the fun initiatives that I heard about while I was there, is a fantastic idea that I had to share with you.

In summer, as we know, there are a lot of insects about... especially mosquitoes, which if you are near any water, can be particularly bad. So KRONEHIT are offering listeners a 'Mosquito Free Summer'! How? Well... with a little bit of technical trickery!

They are embedding a silent tone of 14,850 Hertz in the signal, which imitates the buzzing of female mosquitoes. Therefore other female mosquitoes who hear this tone, are apparently repelled by the sound, and don’t come near it! Brilliant!

Therefore, the message is simple. If you’re outdoors, get KRONEHIT playing on the radio and you’ll enjoy your first summer without mosquitoes!! Genius!

Now, there’s a lot of debate as to whether high frequencies actually repel mosquitoes or not.... but that’s not the point. The initiative is quirky enough for people to try and it and stands out as something really interesting when you hear it.

When I was told about this, I didn’t know if it was some sort of whacky radio stunt or not... but they are actually doing it for real, with a real frequency generator on the transmission chain. And I’m sure they’ll be lots of listeners who say how brilliantly it works too.

It’s an example of a fun idea that’s very different, and creates standout for a station in a highly competitive market. It’s ideas like this one that have no doubt helped the station grow every book for the last 2 ½ years.

Well – that and playing the most music!
If you have any doubt as to how it works, here’s a handy video from the morning show producer to explain all...

Monday, 3 August 2009

I read the news 2Day... Oh boy!

By now, you may have seen the story about ‘The Kyle and Jackie O Show’ on 2Day FM in Sydney. The crux of the story is that a 14 year old girl admitted being raped during a live ‘lie detector’ benchmark on their morning show.

The mechanic works like this. One person who has suspicions about the behaviour of another person can arrange for both appear on ‘The Lie Detector’ and awkward and embarrassing questions are then asked. The results are there for all to hear, as a producer or polygraph analyst is there to say if the person being grilled is lying or not. It could work for a husband and wife, boyfriend or girlfriend or even on this occasion, a parent and child.

You may want to hear the item in question so I've uploaded it onto my You Tube channel...

This story has highlighted a few issues.

There’s a very thin line between genuine entertainment derived from real life situations, and really uncomfortable listening. I think you’ll all agree that this was the latter. It’s quite good fun to use a ‘Lie Detector’ to see if your boyfriend has stuck to his commitment of not drinking beer for a month... or if your wife has ever bought a pair of shoes and not told you. This kind of stuff is light, fluffy and pretty harmless.

Where 2Day FM got it wrong was taking a morning show benchmark, which should be about fun and entertainment, and inserting some very difficult real life situations into it. Any decent radio station has a moral responsibility to not recklessly exploit people for the benefit of ratings, and frankly... this was a disaster waiting to happen.

The producer or presenters would have met with the participants before hand, and should have checked ‘which way’ this on air item was going. Alarms bells should have started ringing, and you can tell by the tone on-air of both the parent and daughter, that there was obviously quite a tense relationship anyway. The girl states the whole thing is unfair. They simply shouldn’t have been allowed on air if there was any suspicion that it may go wrong. The producer obviously made the call... which proved to be the wrong one.

Issues such as underage sex, drugs and drinking are legitimate issues that could make for very compelling radio. However, probably not on a morning show and certainly not dealt with in the way we’ve heard here. I’m all for radio dealing with awkward topics, and there are some fantastic examples of when radio does this, but not in the name of entertainment.

To her credit, Jackie (the female host) did her best to get out of the situation, whist Kyle’s “And was that the only experience you’ve had?” response to the child’s revelation has to go down as one of the worst attempts at a recovery... ever. It’s almost Alan Partridge-like in its crassness!

The GM of 2Day FM said in a statement "Kyle and Jackie and 2Day FM were saddened by the turn of events this morning. In the normal course of preparing the segment all due care and consideration was given to the family and clearly we didn’t know anything about the incident."

"The moment we became aware of it was live on air and we shut it down as soon as we possibly could. As is only appropriate, we are offering all the assistance we can to the family, including counselling, in what is of course an extraordinarily difficult situation.”
So – what can we all learn from this?

Vet participants carefully!
Make sure you have the ‘right kind of people’ on the air for any listener participation piece. The more potentially risky the item, the more checks should be done. Giving away a pair of Madonna tickets should not require too many checks!

If it goes wrong... stop right away!
Sometimes more damage is done trying to perform an immediate ‘on-air recovery’. If you can stop an item and play another record... do so. Then you can buy yourself some time to work out what to say, and perhaps apologise if necessary

Use Delay!
If you plan something on air that has the potential to go terribly wrong, at least run it in delay so you can bail out of the show buying you the 7-10 seconds that you need to lose the most offensive bit.

The story is still ongoing and Kyle Sandilands, who is a bit of hate figure in Australia anyway, is certainly “persona non grata” currently. He’s been ditched from the ‘Idol’ show on TV... there’s talk of the police investigating... and the show’s been suspended while an investigation has been launched. The press are having a field day.

Personally, I think it's actually the mother who had arranged for them to go on the air, that should be hung out to dry! What kind of parent would want to do that? Perhaps the same kind that appear on The Jeremy Kyle TV show in the UK. Hang on a minute... what is it about the name 'Kyle'?