Ritu Midha: Winning listeners and loyalty by going Big on retro music

22 Aug,2013

By Ritu Midha


My choice for what radio station to listen to largely depends on the RJ on the show. More so in the morning primetime (drivetime) when music is no differentiator. If I am on the road in the other parts of the day, and am on the driver’s seat, the focus shifts completely to song of the moment with continuous station-juggling. Or so it was till recently. If I am not on the back seat, the phone is the chosen companion. And on those long drive days: Dilbert or Colvin & Hobbes.


And then 92.7 Big FM happened in its new avatar. Created disruption and managed to change user (listener) behaviour. To whatever extent is debatable though. A set of media professionals believe that the step was taken to improve on cost-efficiencies by paying lower PPL charges for old music. Whatever be the reason, I love the songs it plays… blame it on my age, if you please!


I am not sure of the listenership numbers and how many people it has glued in, but I am sure a definite kind of audiences who want their mornings to be zingy and zangy with a peppy RJ raking up issues, and listening to Fire Brigade Mangwa De Tu-type hits, settle down to soothing numbers of yesteryears as the day passes.


With Anu Kapoor giving RJs of other channels a run for their money, post-10 o’clock has become an interesting time for FM radio in Mumbai. A smart move that too, not pitting him against the hyperactive jockeys on other stations. Anu Kapoor at 10pm can also be seen as an attempt at extending primetime. An analogy here can be with the Hindi GECs which extended the primetime from 7 to 11pm!


The objective of this piece, however, is not to present the case for Big FM, but to bring forth a few observations. One, radio is still measured via diary method and people listen to radio on the move largely. How many people really remember what station they were listening for how many hours, if they are not hooked on to an RJ. Their association to a very large extent is impacted by the signature music of the station, its frequency, creative etc.


Second, all the music devices that we tend to use (barring radio) have a large younger skew (from 15 to 35-40). It is the 40-plus folks who are more loyal to radio, if not to radio stations! Most of those in this strata do not attach their iPods or USBs to the music system.


Next, most of the 40-plus listeners have deeper pockets, and unlike previous generations, believe in consumerism. So, is it not a smart move to focus on this specific TG – on the move, with money and ready to spend. Perhaps not all brands would want to ride the retro music wave, but the one targeting this TG? A higher end television set? Mid-segment automobiles? Anti-ageing creams?


Time, perhaps, for other radio stations to look at niche audiences or at broad segments which do not encompass the entire universe. For, the songs are the same, the RJs (especially the women) sound the same and even the ads are the same.


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