Will Marathi content be a shot in the arm for FM in Mumbai?

13 Mar,2012

By Robin Thomas


What’s common between radio stations in Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Kolhapur, and Kochi? They give almost equal prominence to local music along with the Hindi or Bollywood songs. This is in direct contrast to the Mumbai market where FM stations mainly play Bollywood songs which are quite popular with the Mumbai listeners.


According to RAM’s (Radio Audience Measurement), Radio Establishment Survey 2011 findings, although the mother tongue of 51 per cent of FM device owners in the city is Marathi, an overwhelming 80 per cent of them prefer Hindi music and RJ talks on radio. Nevertheless, the survey also revealed that as compared to 2007, the preference for music and RJ Talk in Marathi has witnessed an increase in 2011.


It’s not that the all the FM stations in Mumbai have ignored the Marathi speaking audience. Big FM, Radio Mirchi and Radio City play Marathi songs, but only on Sundays and they are the only radio stations to do so.


Big FM, for instance, has been airing Masala Chaha every Sundays between 7am to 9am since 2009, much before Raj Thackeray’s diktat to the radio stations to play Marathi music. But even then, a Big FM spokesperson was of the view that although there is a market for Marathi music, Mumbai being a cosmopolitan city, most Mumbaikars prefer listening to Bollywood music. “There is surely a market for Marathi music, given the high population of Marathi speaking public. However, Mumbai is a cosmopolitan city with a wide audience base, and a mass channel has to play the music that appeals the most… which is Hindi, a lot of it being Bollywood. Phase III will unleash the true potential of radio and will allow for more differentiation in content, along with newer genres and radio stations that will cater to a more specific audience base.”


Radio Mirchi airs ‘Mumbai Dhol’ every Sunday, between 12 noon to 3pm, hosted by RJ Rohit. ‘Mumbai Dhol’ covers the culture of the city, the happenings and plays back to back Marathi music, contemporary and the classics.


Indira Rangarajan, VP, Programming, West & Central, Radio Mirchi stated: “The response to our Marathi show – ‘Mumbai Dhol’ has been very good. Following the resurgence of Marathi films and music, we had decided to experiment with a slot specifically for Marathi songs and it has worked well. I believe there is plenty of scope for Marathi music in Mumbai and over the years this popularity will increase further.”


RadioCitytoo plays Marathi retro songs every Sunday evening between 5pm to 6pm during ‘Sandhikali Aasha’, a radio programme hosted by RJ Vishaka.


After looking at the Marathi content being offered by these three stations, one wonders if there scope for more Marathi content on Mumbai radio stations? Or will the Marathi music lovers have to wait a little longer for a radio station that caters to their tastes?


Unlike the private radio stations, the government-owned FM stations, AIR FM2 Gold and AIR FM1 Rainbow, play a mix of Hindi and Marathi songs every day. The private radio stations would do well to take a lesson from these government-owned radio stations.


Naval Toshniwal, CEO, Tomato FM, a Kolhapur-based FM radio station, was also of the view that although the potential for Marathi music is huge, Mumbai being a cosmopolitan city will play more Hindi or Bollywood songs. “Yes, there is a huge scope for Marathi music in Mumbai. However, no private FM station would want to play only Marathi music, it will have to play Bollywood or Hindi songs too because of the cosmopolitan listenership. Looking at the current FM scenario where every station sounds the same, I believe that a radio station which plays a little more Marathi music will create some amount of differentiation in the market.”


FM stations in the city play Marathi hit songs during prime-time, especially on occasions like Maharashtra Day or Gudi Padwa. For instance, Big FM Mumbai will be playing Marathi songs during the breakfast show from March 19 to March 23, celebrating the occasion of Gudi Padwa.


According to Janardhan Pandey, Associate VP, Mudra Max: “Although the market may not be big, the potential for Marathi listenership is huge in Mumbai. The issue, however, is that there has not been any serious attempt by FM stations to woo the Marathi listeners. Awareness about Marathi programmes aired on radio stations seem to be non-existent, the Marathi programmes or music are played during mostly non-prime time. However unless a FM station does not aggressively promote its Marathi programmes, and plays Marathi songs more frequently, it will neither add new listeners nor will it attract new advertisers. There are a lot of retail advertisers in the city catering to the Marathi audience.” Ajay Rao, Vice President, Dentsu stated: “There is a huge scope for Marathi listenership in Mumbai as Marathi generates high level of passion.”


The good news is that increase in the frequency of Marathi music on radio stations could mean attracting new listeners to radio, and perhaps even new advertisers. Moreover, multiple frequencies may bring some good news to the Marathi music lovers as it will bring new genres of radio stations.


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