RAJAR, music radio and stuff

Here's my take on a couple of things RAJAR.

Music radio. I'm convinced that "music radio" falls into two main styles, but hasn't previously been examined properly to identify the needs of the potential listener.

So, there's music radio that people want on in the background and there's music radio that people want on in the foreground. With me so far?

Radio 1, for example, is not designed to be on in the background. It is playing music that has an immediate and current following and is 'loved' by enthusiasts of the bands or artists being played, and its listeners are people who passionately want to know more about what's being played.

Heart (or Smooth or Magic), for another example, is designed to be on in the background. It is playing music that doesn't have that immediacy of interest about it. People already know the music, they've heard it a thousand times before. It's heritage music (a polite way of saying bland). Therefore they don't need to know more about it in the way people want to know more about fresh new music.

So a format of presenters not saying much apart from an occasional piece sounding like a railway station platform change announcement along with 300 tracks rotating around back to back, will become popular when those 300 tracks are heritage tracks. We, as radio anoraks, can see to our horror examples of these bland wallpaper stations scoring good RAJAR.

On the other hand, we see stations like XFM that aren't playing all the bland stuff plummet in RAJAR. At first this really doesn't make sense. Can it really be true that the only radio working in the UK (outside of the untouchable BBC) is bland?

No. I put it to you that the type of modern up front music being played on XFM is the type of music that requires lively informed presentation as part of its hook. However, what GCap did was the complete opposite. They removed all daytime presenters just leaving XFM to burble away in the style of a bland jukebox station.

No, no, no, no. Wrong move. Like Radio 1, XFM is not designed to be on in the background. Its music is foreground music, so it needs to be presented, not just segued. Radio 1 shows this to be true.

And what do we now see as the master-plan to try to save XFM? That's right, they're going to bring the presenters back! They might even be allowed to show a tiny bit of personality too. But, sadly they are going to remove any localness in the music by networking these newly formed presented shows across all of the XFMs in the UK. Where XFM (done properly) may have had an edge over Radio 1 would have been on 'localness'. However, this is now not to be.

Commercial radio's real danger is from these thick programmers who are in charge of these stations yet just don't get it, despite it being their job to. Rather than fix the stations they are breaking because they really don't understand the music radio listener, they dream up some next wild madcap scheme to further alienate the listener. Why oh why are these mad people still employed, still there to further break things, when in any other type of business they'd have been chucked out the back door as quickly as possible?

Foreground radio is so damn simple to programme. Employ up front presenters who know the audience (and not just because they've been on the telly. Telly presenters don't automatically make good radio presenters - GCap should have learnt this by now from the disaster that is their Capital breakfast show), share the audience's love of the particular style of music, and can communicate with them. Like the old days of commercial radio. Like the now days of Radios 1 and 2. Then you've grown yourself a radio station people want to listen to. Full stop.

* Christopher England just said that *