And this is a success story. I’ve been working as a consultant with a lovely and thoroughly listenable radio station in Southampton. They’re called Coast 106, and I’ve been visiting them on and off since late 2008. In this quarter’s Rajar audience survey, they posted all time high figures. In fact it’s been a pretty solid story of growth from an admittedly low start point, when they took the franchise over from the previous owners.
It’s pretty hard to rebrand a station, and then relaunch it in the teeth of a howling recession at any time. Harder still to post consistent growth figures - doubling reach and nearly trebling market share over an 18 month period. So what’s their secret?.
Lot of things, actually. Their format is different from your run of the mill commercial station: they are centred on soft rock. Classic album tracks, that have found their place with the audience without any help from radio, are liable to pop up in the mix, as opposed to the more predictable stuff most programmers consider as hits. That alone makes them pretty different, and gives them a crack at a slightly different audience.
It’s a large library by UK standards. So you get to hear different songs, but which still 'fit', and that keeps the mix fresh. They have pretty much stuck to their guns since they launched, which allows the listeners to come to them and get comfortable with what’s on offer – no panicky format flips every six months. And they’ve got a solid line up of djs, who don’t insult your intelligence with screeching or banal links.
So it’s all a pretty sensible way to go about things, as far as I’m concerned. Now, I wonder who else does this sort of thing? Oh, yes... the national market leader, Radio 2. I can't think of anyone else right now, but maybe you know better. Maybe there's a lesson to be learned somewhere. Can't quite put my finger on it.
And what have I been doing down there? Oh, my usual consult stuff: troubleshooting deeply geeky issues in their Selector database, working to recast routines to let the station use its best stuff in the best way, encouraging the concepts of owning your music, which is astonishingly and sadly absent in many stations, preaching the virtues of a well-organised database, and working out the best ways to keep it that way.
Oiling the wheels, basically, and sometimes in a very precise way. This is something I’ve done for yonks, and which I happen to love doing. This time, I also threw in some lists of music suggestions, using Spotify – a great tool for this kind of thing, but only available in Europe - leaning on my own repertoire, which was seriously good fun. Bottom line here is that there’s no point in having a great library if you don’t use it right.
So all power to you, Coast 106! I'm really pleased you've taken it this far; it's richly deserved.