Why are private FM stations reviving retro music?

In a bid to differentiate their content offering and to take advantage of popularity of old Bollywood music, radio operators have been launching standalone retro stations. We spoke to radio

e4m by Abhinn Shreshtha
Updated: Aug 24, 2016 8:26 AM
Why are private FM stations reviving retro music?

In a bid to differentiate their content offering and to take advantage of popularity of old Bollywood music, radio operators have been launching standalone retro stations. Others have increased focus on retro content over the years within their existing stations, while even the internet is being used to deliver retro music to listeners via web radio stations, as in the case of Radio City 91.1 FM.

Why Retro Programming Makes Sense

For multi-city FM networks like Fever FM and Red FM, it makes sense to have their second stations in a city focus on a different genre of music and this is exactly what these stations have done with the launch of Radio Nasha 107.2 and REDTRO 106.Chaar.

In fact, RAM data suggests that shows focused on retro Bollywood music have consistently done well over the years, especially in urban, Hindi-intensive cities like Delhi and Mumbai. To take an example, RAM data for Week 32 (July 31 to August 6, 2016) shows that Radio Nasha is the 5th most popular radio station in Delhi, even ahead of established players like Big FM, Hit 95 FM and Oye 104.8 FM. Also, some operators we spoke with opined that contrary to popular belief, retro music is also gaining in popularity among the younger audiences.

“When we ventured into retro music three years ago, we did extensive research and felt there was a need for this genre, hence our positioning of ‘Hit Thhe Hit Rahenge’. Our consistent success by far, which is evident in the RAM ratings, has proved that retro programming resonates well with consumers,” said Manoj Lalwani, Network CMO, Reliance Broadcast Network Limited, which operates FM radio under the 92.7 Big FM brand. The station has roped in personalities like Annu Kapoor and Neelesh Misra to create unique formats. “We have so much rich content that we can deploy, utilize, cross sell and cross promote,” said Lalwani.

Prashant Panday, MD and CEO of ENIL, which operates under the brand of Radio Mirchi 98.3 FM, also agreed that retro music is popular with a certain section of the population.

“I think there is a tremendous demand for variety in music. The success of some brands with retro music has shown that retro music is popular with the older crowd,” he said.

Though Radio Mirchi takes the position of a Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR), it does have a retro focused show “Purani Jeans” in the 9 pm-12 pm time slot. When asked about the station’s plans for this genre going forward, Panday said, “More than 70 per cent of our music is last 6 months. All of our music is less than 3 years old. As and when we launch our send channels in the top markets (Ahmedabad, Pune, Kanpur, Lucknow, Jaipur, Surat and Nagpur), our music positioning will become clear. So far, we have launched our second channels in Bangalore and Hyderabad. In Bangalore, we have entered the fast-growing segment of Hindi music with a very tight “breaking music” positioning. In Hyderabad, we were the first Hindi station.”

Radio City 91.1 FM, another of the big pan India FM networks, has taken a different approach. The station, has recently launched 7 new web radio stations–RC Hindi Gold, RC Kannada Gold, RC Tamil Gold, RC Telugu Gold, Lata Mangeshkar Radio, Kishore Kumar Radio and RD Burman Radio through its web radio network – PlanetRadioCity.com.

“World over there is a growing interest in older music. Not just the older audiences who directly identify with the music, they grew up on, increasingly even the younger listeners are showing an interest in older music. Radio City, with our recent association with Sa Re Ga Ma for rights to their library for web streaming, is the only radio network to offer web radio for retro music. These retro offerings on web platform cater to global and regional audiences,” said Abraham Thomas, CEO of Radio City 91.1FM.

Currently, among the newly launched stations, Radio Nasha 107.2 FM is positioning itself as a station for Bollywood music from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, whereas REDTRO 106.Chaar seems to be focusing on the early 90’s.

“REDTRO is a modern twist to the 90’s retro for ‘aaj ke zamaane ke’ listeners. While other stations do recreate retro music, we believe we have a more focused and sharper proposition for the listeners. Also, our programming, content and our exceptional on-air talent will be our biggest differentiators. Amongst the brilliant line of RJs we also have Cyrus Broacha on board who brings in his individualistic sense of satire and humour,” explained Nisha Narayanan, COO of Red FM.

Of course, the recent spate of interest in this genre of music has not gone unnoticed by the music industry. The head of one radio station who did not wish to be named informed us that Saregama, which he claims has a monopoly in retro music titles, has increased its license fees for their library. However, he still admitted that getting the rights of retro music is still slightly less than more contemporary Bollywood music.

Are Advertisers Biting The Retro Wave?
One question that could be asked is whether, with the increasing interest in this genre, will there be a fragmentation of advertiser revenue and whether retro stations could cannibalize revenues from CHR stations. For example, Panday informed us that though ad rates depend on the strength of the brand and the listenership, in general, CHR stations tend to get higher pricing.

“I think retro music appeals to a more mature audience. To that extent, advertisers from the real estate, automobile, travel and tourism etc categories would find it worthwhile to advertise on retro stations. However, they cannot avoid advertising on the CHR stations as those are much bigger in reach. It is also possible to influence younger people much more than older audiences with marketing messages,” he told us.

Narayanan was of the opinion that the retro genre has always been popular with advertisers and the launch of new players has further strengthened it. “The advertiser is going after RoI and for him priority changes from product to product and market to market. The differentiated genre in India is now picking up and now you have clear demarcations in choice of stations –by way to their music and language. Currently we do see adex growth in volume among stations which are purely on retro format. We are new in the league but are getting encouraging signals from advertisers. However this is not impacting our CHR stations. Products that are targeted towards a TG of 30+ do prefer retro channel as reach medium but for frequency they are taking other channels as well. After all, CHR is popular amongst all,” she told us.

Thomas admitted that there could be some fragmentation of listenership as newer stations focusing on the same genre become operational which would determine ad rates. “Advertisers have always shown great interest in the genre as it delivers mature and affluent audiences and given the increasing listener interest in the same it will only grow. When a genre grows in popularity, so does its ecosystem and this has been very encouraging for us as a brand as well,” he added.

Meanwhile, Lalwani also opined that number of advertisers has “increased significantly” in the last one year. “We are seeing larger market share shift towards us. We are also seeing advertisers finally getting conscious about where they spend their money because spends on radio are going up after the cap of ad time on TV. Moreover, advertisers now seek integrated solutions where multiple mediums like radio, television and digital are all leveraged simultaneously,” he informed us.

With a number of new Phase III stations yet to be launched, it will be interesting to see how operators manage to create differentiated content for their listeners and how it further affects the ad spends on radio for this year.

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