Hello folks far and wide,
I wanted to start out by saying thank you to everyone for reading these blogs of mine, I am thankful that so many of you find our story interesting and I've received some great feedback, and questions, about the last couple of posts. I will delve into the ideas I had to start the station schedule off with content, as some have asked me to do. As I have said previously we started off with four shows on the station, two of which were syndicated to quite a few other stations so it left me to build from the ground up with the intent, as with all radio stations, to attract as many listeners as possible. It was quite a daunting prospect and we knew it would be a long tough process.
In the early stages every show that was syndicated anywhere wanted to be on the schedule as I suppose it was another opportunity to air their show to an audience that was as yet undiscovered, and who can blame anyone for that. We did have a couple of exceptions that set the mark for the future programming of shows and the mix of music I wanted to blend as a Blues and Roots radio station.
One of the very first shows that was not syndicated to join the schedule was a show from England called Roots and Fusion, the hosts name was Rick Stuart. I loved the mix of music and genres, it was so eclectic and introduced me to so many artists that I had never heard of, Rick I am proud to say is still an integral part of the Blues & Roots Radio schedule.
He introduced me to artists in England like John Ainsworth
and Katie Ware who is better known as Little Sparrow
not to mention Ali Farka Toure
One of the shows that was hugely influential on me was one from Scotland called Folkal Point, the host was Colin MacDonald who had been in the radio industry as a presenter for a long time. I had listened to his show on a station out of Glasgow called Celtic Music Radio, his show did not fit well in my mind with the Celtic image they were pushing, he played contemporary folk music from all around the world, Americana, Roots, Blues, Alt Country and more, all on the one two hour show. I was amazed by the way he blended genres, and, it worked. I should add that Colin is extremely knowledgable and a pro at linking the tracks with his quirky, dry sense of humour. I asked the station programme Director if it would be possible for us to air his show and after consultation with Colin he kindly agreed to do so and has been with us ever since.
I had the great pleasure of meeting Colin in Glasgow two years ago when we had a trip back home, I confided in him then that the template I used for Blues & Roots Radio was his show, I wanted each of our shows to blend as seamlessly as his music choices and I think in large part we have managed to do that.
Colin's playlists introduced me to artists like Blue Rose Code
The Coal Porters
and Canadian Lynne Hanson
And so I went forward seeking out shows that blended with the existing, always in my mind that one day we would have all exclusive shows to our network building a name and reputation for presenting top hosts playing quality music by primarily independent artists.
There was one instance when I thought I might have over stepped the mark and reached out too far, it involved a hugely well know host in the UK by the name of Mike Harding. I grew up listening to Mike on the BBC, his show was legendary, he also had a TV series or two which cemented the fact that he was the man when it came to contemporary and traditional folk music, his knowledge was immense, his presentation insightful and endearing and I found him to be one of the funniest presenters on radio and TV ( He also had a career as a stand up comic as well as an author).
One day while I was checking out the world wide interweb for news, I was shocked to learn that the BBC had let him go after almost eighteen years, they were replacing him with a younger presenter and hoped to appeal to a younger audience. There was an outcry from his listeners and fans but alas his show was no more. I watched for a few weeks as Mike decided to keep his show going on his own from his home studio in Yorkshire and in the first two broadcasts thousands of people tried to tune in simultaneously crashing his website.... I had an idea !
I sent a message to Mike's website saying " Hello Mike, you don't know me but I have been a fan for a long time, I noticed your website keeps crashing when I try and tune in along with the many thousands of others. If you were ever to consider letting your show air on a platform that broadcasts worldwide just let me know, I have one and would love to be able to air your show to our audience "
A few weeks later, stone me, did I not receive a message from Mike asking me a bit about who I was and what Blues & Roots Radio was all about, long story short Mike has been on the schedule ever since and his show as would be expected is one of the most listened to on the station. I smile and am proud to say that we air someone of his standing who gave me an education when I was growing up in folk music, and I suppose, it's a reflection of what we have built and achieved that has enabled someone like Mike to agree to their show being aired.
And so the hunt for quality shows was on with heightened vigour, my confidence was up and I knew that we had a good platform and audience that most would be happy to be a part of, but always in the back of my mind was having a station with exclusive shows.
why ? I hear you ask ....
The Stats Don't Lie
I have access to statistics, and those stats don't tell lies, it took a long time to work out the best way to gather information but we have a system that can show us who is listening and to what over a day, week, year with spikes and dips. We don't gather info for every show but we see the spikes and can hone in to see what the show was and what quickly became apparent was that shows that were produced exclusively for Blues & Roots Radio received many more listeners, it always made sense to me that if we had shows only available through our platform then listeners would have to come to listen.
Pairing shows from different genres together on the schedule would spread the listeners and introduce them to music that they might never have thought about listening to, it made sense in my mind, so we put it to the test.
We took interest as we learned of show hosts syndicating their shows out to other platforms over a period of a year or more and watched as their listenership dipped on our platform, some used to be the most popular shows but soon became the least listened to, and in the same vain, we watched as exclusive shows were introduced and the way the graphs spiked, we were increasing our listenership by a solid 5% monthly, not only that but if we paired them with other exclusive shows the listeners stayed on, increasing our TTSL ( Total Time Spent Listening ) dramatically of individual listeners.
Our Lesson Learned on Syndicated Shows
What had also been learned by us over a period of time ( Having my own radio show which I initially looked to syndicate out ) was that the more you syndicate your show and make it available on other stations and platforms such as deezer, Mixcloud etc the less people will listen, you are giving them too many options, for sure you will get a handful of stalwart fans who will listen on their platform of choice at their leisure, but you will not be able to build a fan base and grow your audience to benefit you, the artists and the station. If you doubt that, just take a look at the Mixcloud of your favourite show and tell me how many people have listened on that platform ( Mixcloud is one of the most popular platforms used to archive shows ), if it breaks double figures for listens I would be very surprised, also bearing in mind that the figure is from when the show was posted, so if it's three months old with twenty listens that kind of speaks for itself. If you then figure in how many folks have actually taken the time to listen in to the broadcast on a radio station in an outlying community in the UK, Canada, Australia or wherever, it does not amount to many listeners at all.
Light Bulb Moment
It was during this period that everything we knew was being confirmed and set us off on the path to discover new shows, new hosts and content that would embody what the overall station was all about. It was a revelation and a light bulb moment !
We found a show called Blues & Roots Connections with Paul Long whose tag line was ' It may not always be the blues, but it will always have a connection ' ... Brilliant !
Music started to flow that was contemporary but with links and tracks that had a respect for the traditions of the past, and to top it all, Paul was an extremely knowledgable presenter who was a top producer for the BBC live broadcast unit.
He got me listening to Kaz Hawkins and many others.
Shows started to spring out at us from all over the world, in Australia we had Glen Morrow and his show Rhizome that he created specifically for Blues & Roots Radio, based in Melbourne with a huge pedigree in radio presenting, Rhizome is eclectic brilliance, we also have Jock Hossack who created the show Jock's Celtic Calamity playing Celtic, Folk and Roots music from Australia and beyond.
Glen introduced me to Paul Kelly and Charlie Owen
Jock to the likes of Kate and Ruth
There are so many other great exclusive shows along with those I have mentioned and a full list can be found here http://www.bluesandrootsradio.com/brr-essential.html
What the heck is he talking about ?
Blues & Roots Radio has had over one million visitors so far in the last year, all those visitors are not all there for the show that is airing at the time of their visit, but they may well end up discovering a show that they come back to listen to again and again. We know this because the stats tell us. Since the start of the year our listenership grew by approx 4% month on month until we switched to two channels and from there BRR Essential took a massive 10% increase in listeners in the first month.
Next week I will go into some of the shows that have shaped and bent the way we think, leading us in different directions but always coming back to the starting point, I was amused at first and then delighted to learn that show hosts were in touch with each other, sharing tracks and influencing the way the music on the station was heading.
Brilliant shows like HeartBeatTrue Radio I USA ), Hillbilly Boogie ( UK ), The Lost Highway ( Canada ), From Cover To Cover and Radio Wrycraft ( Canada ) all nailing listenership and enjoyability week after week.
The addition also of an ever growing number of shows out of the USA with extremely well respected hosts like Ron Olesko ( Traditions ), Bud Johnson ( Acoustic Accents ). Artie Martello ( Power Folk, Mostly Folk ), Michael Park ( TIAMS ) and Joe Pszonek ( Radio Nowhere, Finnegan's Wake ) to name only a few have increased again our reach and quality.
We also have still to go into a pivotal weekend when a whole team of entrepreneurs gathered at our base in Port Credit, Ontario to conduct a marketing brain storming weekend just for us, initiated by a good friend who saw potential in what we were doing but wanted us to think like business people and not like musicians ....boy did that ever work !
Until next week I'll leave you with a discovery from Ken Stearns out of Florida, USA who played this artist Joe Pug on his show HeartBeatTrue Radio
Have a safe week ahead all