'We're sometimes making changes every hour': Kiss boss Andy Roberts talks competing with streaming

'We're sometimes making changes every hour': Kiss boss Andy Roberts talks competing with streaming

As revealed in the latest issue of Music Week, the Radiomonitor end-of-year airplay Top 100 shows a growing disparity between the biggest radio hits and the OCC’s singles of the year. Only a minority of the Top 20 airplay hits of the year ended up in the overall biggest sellers.

It suggests editorial and playlists on DSPs are now as important as radio in creating hit singles. But commercial radio has shown its strengths in recent RAJAR figures, including Bauer Media’s Kiss, which has 5.76 million listeners.

Andy Roberts, group programme director, said the network has seen the opportunity for insights from streaming.

“It’s fantastic that Kiss is still important to record labels, it can move a needle on a purchase and on a stream and we spend a lot of time curating the playlist,” he told Music Week. “Gone are the days of doing a playlist each week. We’re having music conversations every day, we’re making changes sometimes every hour and we’re very hands on - that’s very important.

“We do things very differently to the likes of Radio 1, I know they do playlists by committee. I do listen to my team but we keep the music strategy very tight within a couple people at Kiss. We work very hard on understanding the data. We’ve got a lot of tools at our disposal in terms of data and looking at streaming, syncs on the TV and who performed what on The X Factor as well as your own gut on what is a good record.”

The station launched a new breakfast show this month and it’s shaken up the weekend schedule

Gone are the days of doing a playlist each week - we’re having music conversations every day

Andy Roberts

New technology is also a key part of Bauer Media’s strategy. While labels are increasingly exploring Alexa Skills for smart speakers, radio stations were early adopters of the voice technology. Kiss is available across Alexa, Sonos and Apple HomePod devices.

“As people understand what they can do with them and go past the novelty aspect of getting it as a present and switching the lights on and off, you realise you have great access to radio and streaming services,” said Roberts.

Mobile apps are also growing in importance for both live and on-demand radio, according to RAJAR.

“Making sure that we have solid apps within the company was really important and we generate a lot of streaming hours everyday for Kiss, it is the leading brand in the company for that, which is fantastic,” said Roberts.

Kiss’ strategy has also seen successful brand extensions, including Kisstory. The ‘old skool’ spin-off station has 2.16m listeners and is chasing digital-only market leader BBC Radio 6 Music.

“What’s amazing is you see people going up to DJs and saying, ‘Play me some Kisstory’ and they understand it,” said Roberts. “The good thing we’ve been able to do with it is walk the tightrope of appealing to a younger audience with Kisstory as well as an older audience. 

“I used social media originally to build the Kisstory hour [on Kiss] and I think word of mouth did the rest. We haven’t done any marketing for it really at all. It is about experience and memories and just slightly reminiscing - but they are hopefully all good songs.”

The success of Kisstory inspired its own festival last year. Kisstory On The Common will return in 2019.

“We went on sale with a Streatham Common event, 10,000 people and we sold it out in literally a couple of days,” said Roberts of the launch event. “It was a great experience where the crowd, both young and old, enjoyed it. It allows us to build from that.”

To read the Music Week report on the Radiomonitor chart, subscribers can click here. To subscribe and never miss a big industry story click here.

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