Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Rock Radio and Real XS

Some time ago, I wrote a post about the Rock Radio Playlist. I always meant to go back to the data and do a bit more analysis but somehow I never got around to it. A lot has happened since April 2011, not least the transmogrification of Rock Radio into Real XS.

Moving at the speed of rock! by DavidDMuir
Moving at the speed of rock!,
a photo by DavidDMuir on Flickr.
Had Rock Radio continued on, the data was so old that  it would not have been worth digging it up but, with the changes, it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to poke the data a bit more and then compare it with an analysis of data from the current Real XS output. So, over the next couple of posts, I'll look again at the old Rock Radio data and over the next couple of weeks I'll collect data from the Real XS breakfast and drive time shows to see how it compares.

First though, four observations I should have made at the time of the switchover:
  1. I understand the station had to save money but cutting DJs may be a false economy. I don't tune into radio to hear uninterrupted music - I use my iPod for that. The DJs are the glue that keeps me stuck to a show; them and the community of listeners that grows around a show. For example, Billy Rankin used to regularly get hundreds of comments on his facebook page and I am still in contact with a number of people that I only know because of their contributions to his programme. You don't get that loyalty and community with an uninterrupted rock block!
  2. Rock Radio had the Metal Hammer show and the Classic Rock Magazine show both of which have now gone. I don't know how much money the sponsorship of these shows brought in but I wouldn't have a problem with more sponsorship if it allowed the station to hang on to more DJs. (Poor Tom Russell seems to be given no time off. Are there no employment laws about exploiting national treasures?) Perhaps the Classic Rock Presents Prog magazine would have sponsored a show, or a Blues/Guitar magazine. Or, the station seemed to have a good relationship with Roadrunner Records - would a company like that not have been willing to sponsor a show? (I'm aware here that I may be trying to teach my rock radio management grandmother how to suck eggs but thought it was worth saying.)
  3. I became increasingly uneasy about the Real XS trails that were supposed to reassure us. They kept telling me not to worry because they would be playing Kylie. It never occurred to me that they would not be playing Kylie! Why did they feel they had to keep telling me they wouldn't? In fact the more I thought about it, the more annoyed it made me because if Kylie ever produces an out and out belter of a rock track, I hope they would play it! For example, look at the people that collaborated with Slash on his recent album - would you have anticipated hearing someone from the Black Eyed Peas or Nicole Scherzinger on rock radio? Yet, the Slash tracks fit perfectly with a rock radio playlist. So, bitten from both ends: if they are a rock station it should go without saying that they wont play pop; but if a pop artists starts producing great rock songs, of course they should be played!
  4. I've kept the one that annoyed me most to last. At the time of the changeover, the people in charge appeared to treat their listeners with contempt. (Thought long and hard about that, but I think "contempt" is not too strong a word.) This seems odd since up to that point, they were a station that knew how to connect with their listeners with (as mentioned already) the DJs facebook pages; a great website; and regular events such as the birthday bashes, curry-oke nights and secret sessions. Yet when the rumours about the changes started circling, the management kept a stony silence. Now, there may be commercial reasons why they could say nothing but when the news broke "officially" on another website there was still nothing from Rock Radio management. It was Father Ted who understood the listeners and broke the news a couple of days later - against (I suspect) the wishes of management. And it was Father Ted (of blessed memory) who caught the mood of the listeners and when he thought: Rock Radio's going down the tubes, so let's party! Meanwhile, Rock Radio management's response was too little and too late when they finally put a corporate-speak announcement on the website and tried to pretend that it was business and usual: "Nothing to see here, just move along and keep listening." Bah!
That was then, but where are we now with Real XS? A while down the line, it's fair to say that it is not exactly business as usual (the complete destruction of the evening schedule is particularly upsetting) but it is also fair to say that the popocalypse feared by some has not taken place either. There is a feeling abroad though that the playlist has changed somewhat. I hope the next few posts will shed some light on that...

1 comment:

Mosher said...

I recall one of the pre-change adverts stating that they would "continue to play the same classic rock you've come to expect" or similar. The key words there are "classic rock".

Gone are the days when I would flip on the station mid-afternoon and hear Machine Head, Slipknot or whatever. As you also pointed out, the Metal Hammer show has gone and with it seems to be any chance of hearing a track that you'd not also have a chance of hearing on Radio 2.

While rock is a *huge* field of music, they've definitely narrowed it down. The week after the change, I recall hearing the new Alice Cooper track three times in a 5 hour window one afternoon. On the rare occasions I tune in now (usually when I don't have my phone in the car, or am driving my other half's so the bluetooth doesn't tie up) I'm hearing the same songs/artists all the time.

It's not *bad* music - it's just bland and repetitive. There's very little new stuff as well. There are no risk-takers. Billy and Ted really pushed the boundaries - overstepped them, in fairness - but as you say they created a great community as a result.

That's gone and the life just seems to be disappearing from the station. It's just got no personality any more.

Pre-change I listened to it for maybe 10-20 hours a week. Now, it's nearer 10-20 minutes. If that.