Week two of Radio Days Africa 2021 kicked off in style with two sessions that had panelists buzzing to share their insights and ideas, and attendees lighting up the chat box with their questions and feedback.
The morning session saw Neil Johnson at the helm of a gripping discussion under the umbrella topic of Music Scheduling in the Streaming Era. It featured Kenzy Mohapi (music compiler at Jacaranda FM), Sot Moldovanos (music editor for Africa at Deezer), Zanda Mthembu (music compiler at Ukhozi FM) and Manqoba Khubeka (general manager of licensing for SAMRO).
The afternoon session broke with conference convention, as Claire Mawisa moderated an epicspeed brainstorming session titled 60 Ideas in 60 Minutes. The conversation brought about multiple fresh ideas across the different segments of broadcasting, thanks to input from from Zane Derbyshire (programme manager at East Coast Radio), Gary Stroebel (CEO at Future Media Namibia), Paulo Dias (head of creative at Ultimate Media) & Ravi Naidoo (chief creative officer at Primedia).
Excited readers should note that all of these ideas will be shared in the second half of this article.
That morning, when Johnson asked one of two female music compilers on the panel about what a typical working day in the role looked like, Mthembu was first to offer a detailed account. She explained that it is generally “all about loading music and making sure the schedule for the day ahead is in order”.
She spoke about a monumental backlog of 40 000 music submissions on their system; a load that hasn’t been made easy to tackle thanks to Section 189 procedures at the SABC, where remaining employees have had to absorb additional responsibilities from colleagues that were given their marching orders.
Mohapi’s day is somewhat similar to Mthembu’s. “The ‘sexy’ stuff that you hear on the radio is an important outcome,” she began. “But the day-to-day grind involves a lot of admin”. According to her it’s worth the trouble, as 60 to 80% of what a listener hears on radio is the actual music. “[For this reason], it’s very important in terms of the overall strategy of any station”, she added.
Formerly a compiler for commercial radio but now working for streaming platform Deezer, Moldovanos recognised the value of music and spoke about the similarities between radio and streaming. “The big difference lies in that with streaming, you have so much more music to go through,” he said. This is because local editors typically look after all genres of music.
Keeping the earlier mentioned music submissions backlog in mind, surely the load is significantly lighter for digital streaming platform curators? Not quite, as a staggering 80 000 new songs are added to these services every day.
“Overall, we’re now looking at 73 million songs available on Deezer,” Moldovanos added “So there is a lot to choose from”.
With so many songs available, how do local songwriters get paid royalties for streams and public broadcasts? Khubeka is in charge of this and licensing in general at SAMRO, so he could shed some light on the process. He mentioned that different tariffs are assigned based on how music enhances the experience of a person in a particular setting. “In a restaurant, music enhances your experience but it isn’t the main reason you are there,” he said. “So we use the audible area (square metres) — or the number of people exposed — to determine tariffs”.
This is different for a music venue where commercial revenue is generated as a result of the music itself.
The latter stages of the session saw the panel discussing the huge gains streaming music is making across the continent. Increased exposure, better access to reliable internet and lower data costs have truly started to change the game. “Everyone wants a piece of Africa,” Moldovanos told the group. “The music is busy crossing borders, and it’s pretty exciting”.
Not wanting to be overly enthusiastic on a cold winter morning in South Africa, or just aware that he was talking to a room full of radio enthusiasts, he backpedalled gently. “It’s slowly happening,” he added. “But it’s definitely happening”.
Those 60 ideas…
If you blinked you may have missed the jam-packed afternoon session, which saw a renowned group of panelists from different corners of the industry brainstorming 60 ideas in 60 minutes. As promised, here is the full list, in all its glory:
- Ideas and creative solutions should come from anyone in an organisation, not just management
- Don’t worry about the sales rate card. Concentrate on a smart discount policy instead.
- Don’t sell radio with a Word doc. Give potential clients a chance to hear what they want.
- Organise a (COVID responsible) client open day and turn on the charm.
- The tip jar campaign idea for East Coast Radio — taking a successful campaign nationwide.
- Play more music on the radio.
- Get to the adult market on radio through a campaign targeting their kids.
- A big giant spinning wheel in the studio.
- A 72-hour activation at a shopping mall with a quiz aspect.
- Give listeners and presenters versatile ideas to play with, to create organic content.
- Car stickers campaign: listeners write down their phone number on stickers stuck to a car, and only one is in permanent marker. Wipe all stickers down at the end, and the winner is the only number left.
- Sponsored DIY competition: can you make the sound of a power tool on air?
- More experiential campaigns with simplicity across digital platforms.
- Skill sharing within both community and commercial stations. Even if just a week-long exchange program to fill knowledge gaps.
- Give all your sales reps name tags, as clients don’t remember names.
- Give clients two or three options on one of the elements (‘co-creation’ leads to client ownership, and they think they came up with the idea).
- Train your sales team on ‘leave behinds’.
- Uplifting anthem idea: two feel good songs played every hour along with messaging.
- Greatest year in music: you get your listeners to vote to find the best decade, then year, then you play all the songs from the winning year across a full day of programming.
- Give listeners more radio station “swag”.
- A virtual cook-off (especially during lockdown).
- Stations should set up a makeshift gig or sports bar to give people “what they had been missing” during the pandemic.
- Staged “lockdown house party” events with an online live stream.
- A campaign making the presenter(s) come across more authentic i.e. cancer awareness from a presenter who is connected to the issue.
- International campaign: listeners to “live in a coffin” for 60 minutes on Halloween, sponsored by a funeral parlour.
- Ronan Keating’s Life is a Rollercoaster campaign where he sings the song on a rollercoaster.
- Less celebrity interviews: more innovative collaborations owned by the station.
- Organise a pet promotion day with an inoculation tent.
- Set up blood drives.
- Car park car wash: Invite people selling their cars to bring them along too.
- Olympic games: bring more presenter competitions to radio.
- How many balloons can people blow up in a minute to see how strong their lungs are?
- What if a car (or piece of tech) could co-host a radio show?
- Telling the story of a radio drama through WhatsApp.
- Doing a live read from Space (using new technologies to plug it into radio).
- Use your listeners to generate content for you.
- Have a naked wedding.
- Writing a client logo in water repellent paint for an activation during the rainy season.
- Ask newbies in the industry what their ‘big radio dream’ is and connect what they are doing now to that.
- Bowls days: invite you clients for networking and sponsor a corporate league.
- Create a radio segment called Titans of Business.
- Youth formats should invite the schools in the area to ‘make radio’.
- The ten year old dresser: get kids to go with Breakfast presenters to a mall to choose their outfits for a social media photoshoot.
- Putting your hosts ‘head to head’, especially with a twist where the winner can tweet from the loser’s account for a day.
- Sell the breakfast show online (auction to the highest bidder and money goes to a CSI initiative).
- Incorporate music streaming into campaigns i.e. Shazam into a competition mechanic.
- Integration of trending technologies into radio campaigns.
- ‘Last night the DJ stole my Spotify playlist’: let people build up their own playlists, and then play them on air.
- Create a bespoke online stream covering topical events.
- SPCA promotion: using dog audio and driving awareness to the community.
- Little reporters: kids on radio for LEGO and other youth activations.
- Have we ever pitted radio stations against each other for a rivalry or competition?
- Get talent from an educational institution or campus radio.
- Create a digital station for all the songs that are big on TikTok and let influencers host them.
- Campaign: If you have an old TV or want a new TV, “let us get rid of the former for you” (driving over it, dropping it from a tall building) and you get a new one.
- ‘Everyday is shoes-day’: give women or men their Cinderella moment and if the shoe fits, they win it.
- We should think again about radio time channels and how these drive engagement.
- Fund and sell more research.
- A Presenter search through social media with the finale streamed live on Facebook.
- Classic promotions reinvented for digital channels, that are edgy, “don’t hide anything” and aren’t sold perfectly on air.
Take a minute to let those sink in, and see you soon for another round of action from Radio Days Africa 2021.
Conrad Schwellnus is a freelance writer specialising in content, ghost and fiction projects.
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