“A huge disruptive monster is coming down the hill,” according to George Ergatoudis, head of music at the BBC’s Radio 1. Speaking at the Worldwide Radio Summit in Los Angeles, he was talking about Apple and its imminent relaunch of streaming service Beats Music.
“Apple has been totally revamping its iTunes store in preparation for the launch of its streaming service, and integrate it into the new iTunes ecosystem,” added Ergatoudis, noting that Apple’s plans include “a huge amount of learning from traditional radio” according to Music Week’s report.
This we know: in fact, it’s been the case since pre-Apple Beats Music was getting up and running by hiring an editorial team with plenty of experience in the traditional radio world.
More recently, of course, Apple has poached one of Radio 1’s flagship DJs Zane Lowe. And, it emerged yesterday, other staff too: Music Business Worldwide reported that Apple has since hired four producers from Radio 1, including Lowe’s former producer James Bursey and the driving force behind emerging-talent initiative BBC Introducing, Kieran Yeates.
In LA, Ergatoudis described streaming services as “the sharks taking our audience away”, although speaking at the same conference, Radio 1 and 1Xtra controller Ben Cooper had a specific streaming rival in mind. No, not Apple or Spotify.
Cooper said Radio 1 listeners spend three hours a week less with the station on average. “Where do they spend time? On YouTube.” Hence Radio 1 beefing up its YouTube presence, recruiting YouTubers as DJs, and launching a new video channel on the Beeb’s iPlayer service. “The answer is to visualise a lot of our content.”
2015 is a fascinating year for anyone working in radio for all these reasons. It’s becoming crystal-clear, if it wasn’t before, that the skills of the traditional radio industry – from DJs and their relationship with listeners to producers and playlist curators – are much needed in the digital music and video world.
And while some of those radio stations are trying to reinvent themselves as audio/visual/social brands, their challenge is that the talent required is either being hired away by technology firms, or is only on loan (like the YouTubers) from these online media.