Radio presenters used to have pretty simple jobs.
Tell people what songs are coming up. Tell people what time it is. Tell people the weather. Do the same thing tomorrow.
Sometimes you would hear them doing voice work and the more charismatic ones would get a TV gig here and there but for the most part they were very good radio people doing very good radio.
Round about the turn of the decade though when station’s decided they needed new blood, potential candidates were being evaluated with equal attention being paid to how they were on air to what sort of social profile they had, how they looked on the small i.e. mobile phone screen.
Stations began hiring with audio, video and public appearances in mind. A dj needed to be far more multi-faceted.
Today it’s quite common for radio personalities, or personalities who just happen to have a radio platform, to have more followers online than they have listeners and in some cases more followers than their entire station.
We all know that multi-talented individuals like this don’t grow on trees. Which is why those that do make it are in high demand. That alone gives them a power they never had before.
Presenters now come with an on-tap audiences and fan base that the radio station ‘’loans’’ while the presenter is with them so who owns the audience; the presenter or the station?
One person who understands this more than most and is demonstrating it every day is Gareth Cliff. His departure from 5fm not only started a shift in the way we consume audio but also showed the lengths an audience would go to get content from their favourite ‘’’radio’’ personality. Listening to audio online is not the easiest thing to do and has numerous barriers – price included – Cliff Central showed the power of a presenter and their ability to move audience across platforms in pursuit of his content.
I don’t foresee copy-cat Cliff Central’s starting to pop up but I do see a new wave of radio presenters who don’t need radio stations as much as radio stations need them.
Pre-social media if you wanted to be on air you used to send demo after unheard demo to radio stations in the hope that you may get a graveyard shift and after 5 years of doing that you may get a weekend fill in show.
Social media and social audio platforms like Soundcloud and Youtube allows an aspirant jock to start his own radio show, produce his own podcast and build his own audience.
If that person were ever to end up on terrestrial radio and brought their carefully and strategically built audience with them – who has the power over that audience? Who truly understands the audience and who are they loyal to?
Does the station really hold sway over such a presenter? Or can they call the shots knowing that the bulk of their audience will go with them wherever they go.
Like most things what is stopping this scenario from happening en masse is money. There is still not a tangible case locally of a person making enough money from such a venture for them to risk their cushy 3 hour gig in pursuit of the creative freedom to say, play and do what they want on air.
However once advertisers see the value of this loyal and highly influenced audience, we’ll start seeing a shift toward DJ’s managing their own brands and content, or contracting independent management companies to do so.
I’m not talking about a booking agent here. I’m talking about dj’s starting to see themselves as content brands in themselves and then employing experts to maximise their brand content managers, salespeople, pr manager etc.
Radio stations tend to boast about the size of their audience but the next wave of radio will see that audience more fluid and more loyal to one person opposed to the whole station.
By Paulo Dias.
Creative Director at Ultimate Media