13 May 2016

South African radio content – 90% missing the point

South African radio stations are now playing

13 May 2016

South African radio stations are now playing 90% local music, but who will still be listening?

The South African state broadcaster, the SABC,  announced yesterday in a somewhat radical decision to carry 90% local content across all 18 of it’s radio stations, with immediate effect.

Taking this decision after extensive consultation with music industry representatives is frankly noble in intent, yet clearly misguided in execution.

Interestingly the report stated that majority of the focus would be on kwaito, jazz, reggae, and gospel.

Some South African musicians say the decision to prioritise local music on all SABC radio stations will not only give local artists more exposure and royalties but could also promote local entrepreneurs and record labels. 

While it doesn’t take an MBA to realise this is clearly motivated by a healthy dollop of political grandstanding in a conveniently close election year, a larger concern is the  lack of understanding of how the modern consumer has evolved.

To be clear I really get and empathise entirely with the local pool of musical talent, trying in vein to squabble for airplay against Adele, but I cant help but think everyone has missed the point here.

Simply put the days of genre specific content serving a loyal audience are fast dying, alongside the ageing listener that still believes in this old habitual single streamed or mono-genre entertainment offering.

We simply don’t crowd around our wireless in the evening waiting for “Squad Cars” to come on!  We as the consumer, and Radio as the medium have both matured and evolved.

Research recently completed in Europe showed an average of 14 different music genres on modern youths mp3 players, up from an average of 3 when the portable music revolution first came of age. Digital music streaming, widely accessible content platform and social media have all made music a compelling and largely interactive form of entertainment.

In South Africa a larger portion of the population are self proclaimed “fans” of music (97%) than of “sport” (92%).

As a result whilst the noble political gesture may well move the 18 government owned SABC radio stations closer to a Public Broadcaster mandate, there is bound to be commercial carnage as carefully planned media strategies will be torn up and thrown in the bin, alongside advertising contracts booked on a listenership that will frankly, follow Beyonce in a heartbeat to more commercially cool stations.

The modern consumer is needy, wants to feel involved and most importantly cares greatly about passion points that matter, with music being a massive part of this process.

In my opinion, unless this wacky knee-jerk content strategy is revisited, and quickly, the real commercial players in the radio space, as well as the new kids on the block such as CliffCentral will be laughing all the way to RAMS.

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