Comparing Radio 1 and Capital’s Music

I really enjoyed the Radio Festival this year, especially the first session where Global Radio boss Ashley Tabor and BBC boss Tim Davie had a bit of a ding dong about Radio 1 and whether it should be more distinctive when compared to commercial radio (and, I guess, Capital FM particularly). Ashley argued that musically Radio 1 in daytime isn’t distinctive enough and that it was very similar to commercial competitors. Ashley’s sentiment is something I agree with (Radio 1 needs to keep being distinctive), but I thought it was worth having a look at the actual numbers to see if his hypothesis is right and compare Radio 1 and Capital airplay.

Luckily, at Folder Media we’ve built a radio intelligence tool, RadioBase, that’s perfect for these sort of things. M’colleague Sam, ran some numbers looking the songs played between 6am to 7pm from the 11th to 17th of October. The data we’ve used to do this is very good, but I don’t promise that it will be entirely perfect. However, i’m more than comfortable to say it’s representative of the majority of both stations output.

So… what do we see?

Well, a quick glance shows that all of Capital’s top 20 most played songs are also all played by Radio 1 in daytime. So, is Ashley is right? Well, numbers can show all kinds of things, so maybe it would be good to start at the beginning…

Over the time period we measured, both stations played a similar number of tracks – Radio 1 with 1068 and Capital with 1081. However – unique songs at Capital is 83 and at Radio 1 its 443, together they share 49 songs.

One of Ashley’s arguments was that it didn’t matter about the number of different tracks played, it was about the volume of airplay that the hits got. In other words you could play a few hundred tracks once, but you might play the top ten most of the time. I thought it might be useful to look at those shared songs – the 49 – and see what percentage of the total number of spins were from those songs.

For Radio 1 these 49 represent 26.3% of their daytime airplay and for Capital they represent 79.4% of its daytime airplay. In other words 73.7% of Radio 1’s daytime airplay has no crossover with Capital whatsoever – to me that makes Radio 1 pretty distinctive.

However, crossover isn’t the entire story, does Ashley have a point about the volume of Radio 1’s output being hit driven?

I looked at Radio 1’s top 30 tunes and they make up 39% of daytime airplay (the other 412 representing 61%). I think it’s an interesting question about whether this rate is too high. If you do the same thing with Capital the figures, the plays of their top 30 songs represent 73% of their output. Yes, it’s much higher – but the two stations are there to do very different jobs.

Overall, Radio 1 is musically a much more distinctive listen and it’s clearly concentrating on songs that one of its main commercial radio competitors isn’t playing. Its definitely creating its own hits and then reaping the benefits of continuing to play those tunes.

Is it mean to press Radio 1 to play more unfamiliar songs or less hits? Or is it already getting the right balance in daytime?

4 thoughts on “Comparing Radio 1 and Capital’s Music”

  1. Interesting comparison, but I’m not sure you can measure how distinctive Radio 1 is being based entirely on its’ daytime playlist. Much of what Mr Tabor seems to be gunning for is already catered for in specialist shows (remember when Galaxy used to have some of those?) where music is the sole or main focus of the programme. These tracks feed into daytime output through DJs records of the week and the In New Music We Trust playlist.

    Daytime output can’t realistically be specialist – if Radio 1 only played new music that the audience didn’t already know then their reach would fall. Probably lots. This would please Global I’m sure, but if you’re a band or artist is 30 plays a week to 1 million listeners better than 5 plays to 11 million? I doubt it.

    Higher levels of speech content on Radio 1 (I know you say both stations play a similar number of records, but Capital does of course have ads), social action campaigns and an hour of news content every weekday all make me think that actually Radio 1 as an entirety is somewhat more distinctive than Ashley is letting on.

    Final thought… if you think Radio 1 is sounding too much like “commercial radio” (does all commercial radio sound the same?) then this is a two way street, you could always change your stations to be more distinctive Ashley?

  2. It would be fair to press Radio 1 “to play more unfamiliar songs or less hits”, if Capital served the nation rather than just London. As long as the format is relevant to its target audience I don’t see a problem.

  3. Er. No.

    Capital is the number two station in London, Global are running it fine. There would be no need, or desire, to sell it to Bauer and i’m not sure that they would want to spend £30m to buy it. Lincs FM are good at running smaller stations, they’re not set up to run a big station in a big competitive market. Plus, again, the cost would be somewhat prohibitive.

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