For the wired generation, these are not merely gadgets, but an extension of one’s personality, almost an appendage to their bodies. These are the MP3 players and iPods, increasingly seen plugged firmly on to many a young ear. In a country which loves its music as passionately as a game of cricket, music on the move is in big demand. So, where does a static medium like FM radio stand? Can it withstand the onslaught of the NewGen music devices? exchange4media takes a look.
MP3s and FM listenership
Anuj Singh, National Marketing Head and Station Head-Mumbai, Red FM, insisted, “Besides adding to the distribution options available, there has not been much effect of these things on the radio industry. This is mainly because of the fact that FM channels have a major advantage over MP3 players and iPods, in the sense that we offer new music, which is not always available for downloads.”
He further said, “The element of interactivity and localised content is also an integral part of FM channels, something which is not available on MP3 players and iPods.”
Taking on the MP3 devices, Rana Barua, National Head-Programming and Marketing, Radio City, said, “When it comes to entertainment mediums, listeners broadly look for three key elements – entertainment primarily, along with information and interactivity. Radio provides all three. While MP3 and iPod devices allow the listener to carry his choice of customised entertainment options such as music, films, games, images among other things, these devices provide no ‘live’ information updates and personal interactivity like radio.”
Sharing her views on this, Kavita Bagga, National Marketing Head, Radio Mirchi, said, “It has given the listener an option to choose the kind of music he/she wishes to listen to, however, the impact on FM channels is substantial as radio caters to a need beyond just music, that is, interactivity and bonding with the radio jockeys besides getting updates on latest issues, Bollywood gossip, etc. The entertainment on radio is a lot more holistic than that provided by MP3 players and iPods.”
Agreeing with her, Harrish Bhatia, COO, My FM, said, “MP3 players and iPods belong to a completely different class of entertainment as compared to radio. Even in the past, radio has created an identity beyond LP records, cassettes and CD players, as a personalised and interactive medium. Radio will continue to hold its charm as a novel source of entertainment that brings together music, entertainment and other facets of life into one common ground.”
Is it time for FM stations to press the panic button?
Anuj Singh had an emphatic ‘No’ to that. He maintained, “In fact, MP3 players and iPods have given us a chance to explore newer distribution options as most MP3 players are also available with built-in FM receivers. We are big believers of the digital era and are in the process of using digital platforms for the dual objective of firstly, increasing interactivity through contests, polls, etc., and secondly, enabling the listeners to access our brand and its content through SMS, Voice, WAP, Podcasts, etc.”
Rana Barua explained, “Compared to radio, MP3s and iPods cater to a niche audience and fall short of the sheer variety that radio offers. The Indian listener is more inclined towards a medium which offers an entire range of content and services rather than restricting himself to select options. Thus, I see MP3s and iPods as a totally separate category driven by a totally different set of consumer needs and motivations all together, which do not impact FM radio much.”
Ridiculing the threat, Kavita Bagga said, “FM channels strive to establish an emotional connect with the listener, whereas MP3s and iPods serve purely a functional need. MP3s and iPods are about recovery of music, while radio is about discovery of music.”
According to Harrish Bhatia, “MP3 players and iPods are not really threats to radio per se, since they are technically very different forms of entertainment. Radio isn’t just about music, it is about the entire aura and context of music as a part of life. Its impact and appeal is far more than just brining music to your ears. Radio creates an emotional bond which MP3 and iPods cannot. It’s live and interactive.”
What do media agencies think?
Agreeing with the FM players, Divya Gururaj, Managing Director, MediaCom, said, “The penetration of these gadgets is still very low. On the other hand, mobile penetration is increasing faster and most handsets nowadays are FM-enabled. This will increase FM listenership.”
Sudha Natrajan, Joint President, Lintas Media Group, said, “My personal feel looking at the youth of today is that a couple of years ago, every kid used to have a ear plug connected to his mobile, listening to FM, or carry small devices which would play the radio, but that listenership has moved substantially to musical devices like the iPod, so that they can listen to ad-uninterrupted music of their choice.”
She added, “Radio listenership is good at homes and in cars, but it sure looks like it is down amongst the youth on the move.”
For Nandini Dias, COO, Lodestar Universal, Interpublic Group, “Both medium are growing, and while there is a high duplication between the two, there is also a big difference in the way and how much the mediums are consumed.”
She further said, “FM penetration is huge, while iPod penetration and iRiver penetration is really low, for every 5,000 FM listeners, there may be one iPods listener in urban India. With such a big difference in the current situation, FM stations are not affected too much.”
She, however, does believe that five years down the line, the medium to grab the market share from FM would be iPods and iRivers, “iPods have made a big difference to MP3 players itself,” she maintained, adding “While both are portable media, FM is primarily listened to at home and as a family. iPods and iRivers are very personalised media and listened to not as a social activity.”
While the FM players claim to have an emotional connect with their listeners, media agencies agree that MP3 and iPods still have a long way to go before they can be possible threats to FM stations.