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Guest Column: Why retro will always remain fashionable on radio: Ashwin Padmanabhan, Reliance Broadcast

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Guest Column: Why retro will always remain fashionable on radio: Ashwin Padmanabhan, Reliance Broadcast

Ever since private FM radio came into being in the early 90s, the consumption of music content has undergone a paradigm shift in the country. Radio, as a traditional medium of communication, has come a long way from being considered as a channel to obtain news updates on national affairs, to becoming a preferred destination to listen to music and staying updated on current happenings on the go. All of this, whilst catering to the diverse tastes and preferences of a heterogeneous target audience.

Emergence of original content and the retro music format

The whole transformation of the radio medium happened largely due to the type of content that private FM stations brought to the table. The programming of an FM radio station is, and has always been based on thorough research of the consumption pattern of the respective target groups in each region. This very factor has played an important role in shaping the growth graph of broadcasters. While the industry as a whole was experimenting with a contemporary format, retro struck the most impactful chord with listeners. It gave programming an opportunity to present retro in an exhilarating new format, leading to the birth of original content. While retro is becoming a popular theme, original content is what differentiates one player from the other.

Why ‘Retro’ will never become old

If we were to look through a macro lens, private FM radio stations thrive on their Bollywood content, a major appealing factor which attracts a Bollywood crazy nation towards the medium. While easy access to news and social media provides consumers with live updates on celebrity lives and Bollywood stories today, the intriguing real life stories of artists of the golden era still command attention, building a sense of excitement and bringing in a surprise quotient as well. The sentimentality attached to the era from 60s-90s is what builds a strong bridge with listeners today. So while the nature of the audience has evolved over the years, retro will always remain fresh in the minds of people.

A case in point to further validate the retro phenomenon on radio would be 92.7 BIG FM, pioneers of the retro format and original content, standing out amongst a cluttered FM radio market through its unique offerings. To draw an example, the show ‘Suhaana Safar With Annu Kappoor’ conceptualized with a perfect mix of retro music and stories of the golden era, by has consistently maintained its popularity as the most heard show on radio since its launch.

Adopting a differentiated approach based on the market

Several radio stations launched in 2016 post FM Phase III Auctions last year have adopted a retro positioning mainly in metros, realizing the preferences of the TG. Similarly, romantic format is the second most adopted theme that some of the newly launched frequencies are engaging its listeners with. Therefore, combining the two most loved music formats, and providing listeners a full retro-romantic package expands the reach of a radio station by catering to a wider range of age groups. While localized content is the flavor in Tier II and Tier III areas, the metro population has a bent more towards Bollywood content and regional metro areas have a listener base with more inclination towards contemporary regional content followed by Bollywood.

Being a nation that oozes diversity, every region is unique with respect to the tastes and preferences of its audience. While Mumbai staying true to its classics enjoys retro, Delhi’s fun loving population loves romance with a mix of retro that reflects the true sentiments of love. Bangalore and Chennai loves regional content with a twist of freshness and contemporary hits. Kolkata as a market is unique. The daily dose of enjoyment comes through story-telling formats, devotional songs and heart rendering music with love for Bollywood as well. Region specific shows on our channel 92.7 BIG FM like ‘Arth with Sourabh Raaj Jain’, ‘Khas Adda with RJ Koushik’ and ‘Take it Easy’ with RJ Rashmi and RJ Rohith only reiterates the fact that retro music with original content is a trend that will stay for long, and will continue to be at the core of successful FM stations.

Retro is here to stay

Given the trends being observed, the radio industry in the coming years will witness more takers for the retro format. Moreover, consumption of original content will increase manifold, thereby resulting in healthy competition with several frequency options available in each market for consumers. To sum up, it wouldn’t be wrong to state that ‘Retro’ hasn’t lost its freshness over the years. Retro, in effect, will never go out of fashion in the private FM radio space.

(The author is COO, Reliance Broadcast Network Limited)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

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