United stations: Why radio is more important than ever during the coronavirus crisis

Zoe Ball

As the UK entered an unprecedented period of, first, working from home and, later, full lockdown, many in the music industry will have anticipated a surge in music streaming.

And yet, it may be that all this extra time at home and away from human contact during the coronavirus crisis is leading us back to more old school ways of consuming music.

During the first week of mass isolation, as revealed by Music Week last week, audio streams actually fell week-on-week. Maybe, like myself, people were finding some comfort in having the time and space to put on a vinyl record during the day, rather than listening to everything through a phone.

But maybe people were also craving more context, as radio – already very strong in this country – seems to have been under-going a major surge in popularity. The platforms may be new, but Global reported its daily reach was up 15% and its hours up 9%, while the BBC says it saw a record 3.5 million people use its BBC Sounds app, as live listening to its radio stations leapt 18%.

For years, radio executives and presenters have been stressing the human touch they bring to their job as their USP in the battle with streaming services for eartime. They’re not just curating music, but creating live moments that enhance your day and stay with you. 

The last couple of weeks have taught us how lucky we are in this country to have so many options on our airwaves

Music Week

That task is much harder in this situation, with some DJs working remotely; various networks having to change schedules; and all stations having to adjust to life without their usual diet of artist interviews and live sessions. Yet those radio moments are needed more now than ever. Guy Garvey writes passionately in the new edition of Music Week, available now, about the power of music radio. And, whether it’s Zoe Ball’s still-cheery start to the day, Mary Anne Hobbs' and Lauren Laverne’s emotional connectivity or any of the other dozens of BBC and commercial radio DJs – plus the likes of Beats1 – keeping the nation sane, and giving musicians a platform during these extraordinary times, the last couple of weeks have taught us how lucky we are in this country to have so many options on our airwaves.

Stations across the UK, including Heart, Capital, LBC, Hits Radio, Absolute Radio, BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2, 5 Live and Nation Radio helped support and amplify last week's emotional #ClapForOurCarers applause for NHS workers. But radio workers also deserve our appreciation.

Because, one day, things will go back to normal, but our radio stations will carry on doing an amazing job. We should salute and support them, not just now, but always.

* To read Guy Garvey on the power of radio, see the new edition of Music Week magazine, available now. To make sure you can access Music Week wherever you are, subscribe to our digital issue by clicking here.

For more stories like this, and to keep up to date with all our market leading news, features and analysis, sign up to receive our daily Morning Briefing newsletter

subscribe link free-trial link

follow us...