@johnco online

the internet home of John Collins

Doing Old Right

I’m ‘properly’ middle aged. I turned 50 back in April. Therefore, I’m well out of range of any number of young brands. The models in the Boden catalogue that wear the shirts I love to buy are lucky if they’re half my age. The Music, video and TV channels tend to avoid the likes of me in their big mainstream offerings.

Despite being in the demographic at the peak of it’s financial powers, commercial broadcasters aren’t particularly interested in me.

When they do – particularly in radio – I’m treated like I’m either a reheated 20 year old or already clutching my bus pass.

The stations aimed older seem to have ‘nice’ presenters saying not very much and tunes that are chosen not to excite me. It’s safe, sensible and probably wearing a beige cardigan.

I was in my mid-teens when glam and prog gave way to punk. Sure, Top of the Pops was sanitised but there was a real surge of excitement as the new bands came through. The 80s certainly has a lot of gloss, but the gender-bending of the New Romantics changed everything that followed.

The same can be applied to the intervening 30 years. Music presenters were personalities, who cut through the incredibly regulated 90s adding personality and relevance to their music. At Radio 1 there was a lot of cheese (it was on the ILR stations too) but I grew up with DJs that talked between the tunes. Stations sounded exciting – and listeners wanted to be part of it.

It wasn’t by any means perfect. Listening back a lot of it is toe-curlingly awful with under-prepped jocks doing little more than hit the post in an American accent. And the same can be said for the scattergun, unfocussed recreations of old stations

If the radio industry has learned one thing, it’s that you can capture the excitement of the stations folk like me grew up listening to and rework it in a modern way. The broadcasters are there and they’ve had a big enough fright to understand the need to be focussed and economical. They can even be trained to keep off the music.

Do that and they’ll bring the thing that others can’t: a sense of entertainment & event. Listen to John Morgan or Robin Galloway or many others work an audience on air. Building suspense or involvement, just through great communication and not being afraid to open their mic to engage with listeners.

Oldies radio in the UK as almost uniformly bland and beige. The creativity and excitement are lavished on the up-to 45s.

Surely it’s time to pay the same attention to the people o the Digital/ AM stations and increase the energy? WCBS-FM or KRTH in the US demonstrate that done right, it really can win.

Getting into the audience’s head (or even face) won’t make the 45+ demo switch off. It’ll frame the content the way they grew up listening to it – in fact transporting them to a better time. It’ll cost almost nothing to do. Just a little effort, creativity and a willingness to try something new old.

Author: johnco

Born in 1963, been involved in radio since 1977.

%d bloggers like this: