If You Thought Video Killed the Radio Star, Read On…

I read an article yesterday which, on the face of it had nothing to do with live music.  Nor does it, but it may well have an effect on local musicians being heard and earing an income, however small.

The article by The Guardian’s media editor Jim Waterson introduced me to a company I’d knew little about – Bauer Media Group.  They are a German multimedia conglomerate based in Hamburg.  Their print titles include Q which claims to be “the world’s greatest music magazine” and Kerrang!, the metal, punk, hardcore and rock publication. 

Bauer Media Audio is Europe’s leading digital commercial broadcaster and audio operator.  They own many local radio stations across the UK.  In our region these include: The Beach (Gt Yarmouth & Lowestoft), KLFM (Kings Lynn), North Norfolk Radio and Radio Norwich.

On Wednesday Bauer announced its plans to create the largest commercial radio network in the UK by merging over fifty local radio stations into a national radio network under its brand Greatest Hits Radio.  The move is not surprising, the consolidation of local radio stations has been happening for some time.

The piece in Jim’s Guardian article that struck a chord was this:

Rather than producing their own shows, the stations will largely carry syndicated programmes made in London featuring national presenters playing classic pop music.

Jim Waterson, The GUardian

The fallout that concerns me is that there are now an ever-decreasing number of radio outlets for local musicians to have their music played on or from which to earn PRS royalties.

In truth I don’t know how much local bands rely on royalties from air play on local radio.  The holy grail for many is to end up on a BBC Radio 2 national playlist which could earn over £20 per minute – at least it could have in 2016, that number may have changed by now.

More importantly, to get to national radio you need to get your music heard in the first place and local radio is where many start.  Thankfully we have the excellent BBC Introducing across the region to champion local talent. Our own Stephen Foster does a sterling job promoting the local music scene on BBC Radio Suffolk.  At a community level we have Webby’s Mouthpiece show on ICR FM in Ipswich and Dave Hammond on Cambridge 105 with his wonderfully named Smelly Flowerpot Radio Show – and there are many more.

Bauer’s decision is based on the commercial reality of running a radio station business, with that I cannot argue.   According to their website Greatest Hits Radio offers “classic hits from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s”  How will today’s young musicians ever be heard if all we have to listen to are hits from fifty years ago? (Good and all as they may be!)

Do you crave local radio play?  Do you target local radio stations in your marketing?  Do you make a living wage from radio royalties?  What did you buy with your last PRS royalties’ cheque? Have you got a good local radio story you’d like to share?  Talk to me, I’m curious how this move to syndicated programming based in London will affect local music.