When Kaya FM was handed the award for best commercial radio station at the 2013 MTN Radio Awards, it represented far more than a well-deserved honour for the years of hard work of a committed team. It was also an indicator of a fundamental change in the South African radio market, as it broke the hold of long established players in the South African radio industry.
The win has inserted energy and life into a market that had become a bit staid and predictable.
For way too long, black commercial broadcasters were viewed as the third cousin of the of the radio industry. Independent black radio was always seen to be on a never ending learning curve, classed as ‘emerging’ and never regarded as having the same standard as their competitors who had been in the game longer.
The evidence is clearly born in the different income levels of the respective stations, when compared to its traditional, mainly white counterparts, who received the bulk of advertising revenue, despite the audience levels being on par or quite often less than their black counterparts. The argument was quite simply that these broadcasters tend to draw listeners with far higher LSMs.
I can safely say that all that has fundamentally changed. The research done by the Unilever Institute of Marketing based at UCT clearly shows that the black middle class has more spending power than whites, which class themselves in the same realm.
All too often the term synonymous with the rise of the black middle class was ‘black diamond’. We at Kaya FM rejected that term believing our listeners are not inanimate objects or so rare that they have to be unearthed, mined and refined to be of any value.
We prefer to call them ‘Afropolitan’. Urban Africans, who are very middle class in lifestyle, but with a distinctly African flavour. We contend that the black middle class is no longer emerging, but has fully emerged. This is borne out not by wishful thinking on our part, but by the clear evidence of what our listeners presented to us through our events.
Last year we took our listeners on a cruise from Durban to Inhmbane in Mozambique. While radio station cruises are far from unique, the Kaya FM cruise was different. We did not book a few decks and label it the Kaya Cruise. We booked the entire ship with over 2000 of our listeners who paid a minimum of R4000 for privilege of partying with Jonathan Butler and Louis Vega.
This year we flew 120 of our listeners to Cape Town for the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. It was for a four-night package of R11 000 per person sharing, which included accommodation at the five-star Table Bay Hotel. We have done this for four years in a row. These events do not include the Kaya Bizz SMME workshops or the Investment Club.
This point was further emphasised by an interview on Kaya FM with Adcorp’s Loane Sharpe who said that income levels have changed since 1994. His research indicates that in 1994 only 250 000 black people earned more than the median income for the average white person. Today the number stands at 1.25 million, with the transformation of income levels only set to accelerate.
The nature of the black middle class audience, however, is different from that of their white counterparts in that, for the most part, they are first. The demands placed on them are immense, as their financial responsibilities extend far beyond their immediate family unit. They have undergone a tremendous amount of change in their lifetime.
This is the space we look to inhabit as a broadcaster. We are more than a vessel for entertainment, but a friend, companion and mentor in the change that they are experiencing; this informs our content, events and interactions with our audience.
The relationships with listeners have to be real and tangible and more than Facebook ‘likes’ or retweets.
This is what we at Kaya FM are particularly proud of, to be agents of transformation in the industry and in the lives of our listeners.
Lance Claasen is head of news and talk at Kaya FM.
PHOTO: KayaFM’s recent Wine and Malt Whisky Affair.