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The rise of genre radio stations

05 Apr 2019  |  Michaela Jefferson 
The rise of genre radio stations

The audio landscape has evolved dramatically over the past few years, and the growing popularity of online music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music - which offer users control over the music they listen to - continues to loom as a black cloud on commercial radio's horizon.

However, the media channel's efforts to digitise has seen it return to strong growth - in 2018, the commercial broadcasters collectively reached record revenues of £700 million.

According to Radiocentre, commercial radio's marketing body, 2017 Neilsen data revealing that 49% of music listeners discover new music via radio shows that listeners want those in the know to curate their music for them - which streaming services cannot currently offer in the way radio can.

As a result, the last year has seen a number of new radio stations launch - covering genres of music not previously focused upon.

"It makes sense for radio companies to meet consumer demand for different music genres at all relevant times," Lucy Barrett, client director of Radiocentre, told Mediatel - particularly as new tech has made it possible for a "surge" of new station launches.

"There is more capacity on DAB, plus we have seen the success of Radioplayer (which brings together commercial stations and the BBC) letting listeners access stations through their mobile and laptops," she said, also adding the rise of voice activated smart speakers.

Since the start of the year, Bauer Media UK has launched three new radio stations: country music station Country Hits, classical station Scala Radio, and 70's, 80's and 90's music station Greatest Hits.

"Changes to consumer behaviour and growth in IP listening means we are constantly evolving our business to remain competitive - and creating new genre-specific brands is one way of being where our audiences are and connecting them with content they love," the commercial broadcaster's chief revenue officer for radio, Simon Kilby, said.

For example, Country Hits Radio is the nation's first national country music station, and was launched in response to a growing interest in the genre. There are reportedly 8.7 million country music listeners in the UK.

According to Kilby, the station is aimed at a "unique and valuable" 25-44 year old audience, and there is a "wealth of opportunity" around a station that is the first of its kind.

"[Radio is in] the midst of huge reinvention and revolution, and with audio hours overall growing, there's no better time to launch national radio stations that will cater to this demand," he said.

However, Bauer has no immediate plans to launch any more stations this year, though the company is "constantly reviewing potential areas for growth."

Kilby's comments follow those of Paul Keenan, the former CEO of Bauer Media UK (who has since been promoted to a group-wide position) earlier this week. In a speech to an audience at Radiodays Europe, Keenan said that for radio to secure a "sustainable" position in this new audio world, it has to be prepared to be "brave, bold and focused".

"Invest in brand management. As connected devices multiply opportunities to listen, we can no longer rely on easy discovery in our walled, FM garden. Listeners must see our brands and our offer as a beacon of quality so that when they go to voice search, we are on their lips as first choice for entertainment, music and companionship," he said.

"The key to endurance will be understanding future consumer trends and capitalising in a highly digital, fragmented and personalised landscape."

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ChrisBrooks, Program director, Radio Essex on 8 Apr 2019
“I think branded radio will grow from this. Brands that want to serve their target market with tunes and content that match. Also just to point out as everyone seems to have forgotten - Chris Country Radio have been running on DAB and in RAJAR for a while now. So Bauer are the second not first...”