Aled Haydn Jones on the future of BBC Radio 1

Aled Haydn Jones on the future of BBC Radio 1

What’s going on at Radio 1? That’s been the question many in the music biz have been asking since the departure of long-serving controller, Ben Cooper, at the end of last year.

The person who should know the answer is head of programmes Aled Haydn Jones, who is in charge of the reigning Music Week Awards Radio Station winners, pending controller of pop Lorna Clarke’s decision on the station’s future structure.

Jones already has plenty to contend with, following a tricky RAJAR book in Q4 2019, which saw the station’s reach drop to an all-time low of 8.79 million (down 6.2% year-on-year and 6% quarter-on-quarter).

But Jones says there’s a lot more to the station these days than just linear listening. Just this week, new BBC Sounds controller Jonathan Wall announced that a Radio 1 dance stream, combining the station’s specialist programmes, will come to the Sounds app this spring.

With change in the air, Haydn Jones talked to Music Week about Lorna Clarke, 5G and why listening via Sounds is the future…

How did you feel about the RAJAR result?
“It’s definitely been a difficult market for youth radio. You can see it across the board with all youth brands. But I’m so proud that Radio 1 is the No.1 radio station in the UK for young people. Greg James has done really well; even though he’s on four days a week, he is still the No.1 breakfast show in the UK for young people and that is something I do not take for granted.”

What can you do about the figures?
“There always has been a story of increased choice for young people, whether that is streaming sites or other radio stations, and that is healthy and good. We have to know where our place is in that market and that’s why ‘Listen Watch Share’ has always been really important to Radio 1. Going into 2020 with 10m listeners, 14m viewers on YouTube and iPlayer and 9.5m followers on socials, the biggest in the world for a radio station, is great.”

What’s next?
“The next chapter for us is to make sure Radio 1 fully supports BBC Sounds, so we know our audience is going to be able to consume on their phones in the future. Sounds will be bringing new audiences in because what’s good about it is it’s live radio, podcasts and music mixes, so each area will bring audiences in and they will discover the other areas, which will be good for live listening as well. In the past, radio was based around a device. When you were next to that device, whether it was the breakfast table or the car, you would choose radio. Sounds will enable all our listeners to be able to select the live connection whenever they want. That’s why we’re committed to making sure Radio 1 fully supports the app, so our listeners can take us with them wherever they go. That will be good for radio.”

It’s definitely been a difficult market for youth radio

Aled Haydn Jones

How about the advent of 5G? Is that a threat or an opportunity?
“It’s an opportunity, because our goal is to break new music and be as entertaining as possible for young people. And as long as we get that right then we’re good, no matter what the technology is.”

How has Ben Cooper leaving and the other changes at BBC Radio affected things?
“I’ll tell you what it hasn’t changed: Radio 1 is doing so much, we are going through so much content, it’s amazing. We did a Billie Eilish Bond special, which was thrilling. We heard on Greg James that she was dropping the song that night, got into the office, gathered round and, by the end of the night, we’d created a special hour which included Radio 1 archive footage of what she has done on the station. That’s what we’re really focused on; trying to stay as relevant as possible for our young audience, using music. It’s all about our audience and making sure we deliver as much great content as possible.”

How are you working with Lorna Clarke?
“I’m working very closely with Lorna. She is focused on a pop hub of networks which is an opportunity. Radio 1 has got a big part to play in helping bring what young audiences want to all the networks, but also to learn from the neighbouring networks as well.”

Are you feeling more competition from commercial radio?
“It’s great that radio as a medium is strong and is delivering content that young people want. I’m not particularly focused on what the competition’s doing, I’m really proud of what we’re doing and it’s important that we stay connectors to a young audience. As long as we are relevant, creating content that they really want and making sure that they can access that content wherever they are, radio is going to remain in very rude health.”

* To read our full, exclusive Q4 RAJAR analysis, see the current print edition of Music Week, available now, or click here. To subscribe to Music Week and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.

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