Radio & Music Forum 2009 Coverage

Posted By Tim @ 1Radio.org on Mar 27 2009 04:05 PM
The good and the great of the radio and music industries came face to face today at The Radio & Music Forum 2009. Hosted and organised by the Radio Academy in London UK, the forum was a one-day conference for everyone interested in how music and radio work to support one another, particularly in these credit-crunched times.

The audience came from a variety of backgrounds including the BBC, commercial and student radio, production companies and consultants, promoters as well as industry biggies such as Sony Music, Polydor records and Warner. BW regular James from Wavestreaming was also present and I wore two hats - one for BroadcastingWorld and the other for 1Radio.

First to present was ageny Frukt who reviewed how digital technology is changing the way consumers interact with music and radio. They confirmed the news we all want to hear that more music is being consumed, and in more variety of ways than at any other time in history. Other research mentioned was the somewhat surprising fact that many young people consider their music collection to be their single most valuable possession! Going forward, Frukt suggested that mobile access to music would become increasingly important as well as the ability to share playlists and collaborate with friends in discovering and recommending music. Also mentioned were spotify.com and www.diesel-u-music.com.

Next was an interview with BBC exec Andy Parfitt, controller of outlets Radio 1, 1Xtra, the Asian Network and Switch and, more recently, Head of Popular Music within the BBC. The interview, conducted by MusicWeek's Paul Williams, revealed Parfitt grew up in a home bathed in music but without a TV! It charted his rise through the ranks of the BBC, Radio4 producer and BFBS to become Matthew Bannister's deputy during the major repositioning of Radio 1 in the mid 90s. Parfitt paid tribute to his hero DJs - Stuart Henry and John Peel - and mentioned his future “joined up” plans for music events such as The Electric Proms. He even fielded a question about “Top of the Pops”, which he said wouldn't be coming back for good any time soon - though there may be more specials the like recent one for Comic Relief.

Ben Dowell from the Guardian was clearly looking for an exclusive and questioned Parfitt over Chris Moyles' recent reprimand by OFCOM. Parfitt confirmed Moyles had been personally warned about his comments but stressed his position was safe.

Parfitt also touched on initiatives by the BBC to share their iPlayer technologies with the commercial sector as well as development of a new internet radio console that will provide real time streaming of the studio video feed, tweets, now playing artist info and events.

An interesting question from Williams towards the end of the interview was that with the average Radio 1 listener getting older (as well as some of the presenters), is Radio 1 returning to a pre-Bannister era? Parfitt denied it stating that Radio 1 remains focussed on the 15-24 demographic. The topic surfaced again in a later session.

Next was a joint presentation from Arbitron and RCS on how their respective technologies are providing greater insight into the real time activities of listeners. Arbitron gave a quick tour of their Portable People Meter (PPM) - a device for monitoring what people are listening to on their radios, mp3 players or through streaming media outlets. The RCS CEO offered further insight by combining PPM data with synchronised information about playlists to determine which artists were attracting and keeping listeners and those which were causing listeners to tune away. Having developed a comprehensive broadcast system for 1Radio.org, the Arbitron/RCS data, although insightful, doesn't seem a great leap beyond what internet streaming systems are already capable of delivering.

Next was a panel discussion on how the traditional plugger/playlist relationship works today. Speakers from the BPI (British music body and organisers of the Brit Awards), Sony Music, RightsMan and 14th Floor records discussed the increasing importance the web plays in exposing new artists and music, the role of the social networking sites and the new business models that are emerging. Everyone agreed that nothing compares to radio for breaking new artists and in the current economic climate, there is increased need for cooperation between the artist and radio.

From the performers’ side, it was stressed how artists need the support of and feedback from radio presenters to not just promote their music but to understand how the listener receives and rates their art. It was agreed that the BBC is still the most important outlet for new music. Commercial stations are playing safe and sticking with established artists, relying on listener research and building playlists on comfortable, recognisable music. There was some concern about how the industry sources new presenters and how new music will remain discoverable particularly with increasing networked shows and less regional/local output.

The final session of the morning was an interview with Trevor Nelson. From pirate radio and Kiss FM to gigs on BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra and Radio 2, Trevor has spent a long time with feet in both the music and radio camps. He spoke at length about his time hanging around (and indeed owning) record shops - looking for new music and the all-important imports followed by years working in promotion and A&R. Trevor was and is clearly excited by the wealth of British talent that’s around and continues to expose it through his 1Xtra shows. Trevor also spoke about how he is constantly approached by those wanting to break into the big time, asking him to review their music. His advice to talent was to find people who believe in you, don't sign your life away to the first organisation wanting you on their books and don’t expect payment for everything you produce. He added that if a product is good, “it will find me and I won’t need to find it”.

The afternoon session began with awards recognising the best national and regional pluggers as well as technical achievements in concert and studio session recording.

Next was the second big exec interview of the day with Paul Jackson, head of Global Radio - the UK’s biggest commercial radio operator with iconic brands such as Heart, Classic, Capital, Galaxy and XFM.

Jackson is son of Richard Park (popularly known as the headmaster from the BBC's Fame Academy) and interviewer Trevor Dann got some mileage from it - even suggesting a SMS sent to Jackson at one point during the interview was dad questioning some aspect of radio policy.

The start of the interview saw Jackson seizing on Parfitt’s comments from earlier - bemoaning for example how the BBC has cornered live events such as Leeds and Reading, that Radio 1 and 2 audiences now overlap and that both stations increasingly target the commercial stations. He also condemned the recent BBC support of U2 across many of its outlets and of course, the whole funding philosophy of the BBC by licence payers. Jackson also described how Global's stations are moving away from the deep listener research of former times and are now much more focussed on the artist-listener relationships, and of course, the struggle to monetise these. A fun but pertinent question from Dann was that given the big success of Capital in the 90s compared to its standing today, “how did they piss it all away". Jackson offered no answer.

The penultimate session was a presentation from the Music Managers Forum. The highlight was a couple of Youtube videos…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zTPDVkVFOs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpEnFwiqdx8

The final session of the day was the PPL Lifetime Achievement Award to famed music producer and musician Trevor Horn. Horn was then interviewed by David "Kid" Jensen. Horn, who himself had chart success with bands The Buggles, Yes and Art of Noise, revealed he was a big pirate radio fan in the 60s. After his smash hit “Video killed the radio star”, Horn worked with Dollar, Malcolm Mclaren, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Grace Jones and Seal. Some interesting tidbits were revealed; it was Tina Charles who funded the Buggles’ first song (Horn was her MD) and that he thought he'd be in big trouble with the drug reference "too much of that snow white" at the end of Bufallo gals.

The event ended with a quick Q&A session followed by some obligatory networking in the bar.

All in all, it was an interesting look at the state of play in the radio and music industries in the UK, their symbiotic relationship, how the web and technology is changing the landscape and how both sectors are dealing with the economic downturn.

It was also a great opportunity to meet with some influential people in the BBC and commercial sectors and make some useful contacts.

Thanks to BroadcastingWorld for the opportunity to attend.

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