Brits abroad: The best of Brits sharing their knowledge at Radiodays Europe 2024 in Munich

AI, Gen Z, VR, and radio in the car were the hot topics at Europe’s biggest radio conference which took place in Munich this week.

Hundreds gathered from around the world as attendance levels reached pre-covid numbers, with over 1500 paying delegates registered.

Coming up – coverage of sessions including Greg James, new tech, local radio, managing talent, and even jingles.

The three day conference started with a podcasting day, which included a panel consisting of Liam Thompson, Brett Spencer, Arielle Nissenblatt, and Joanne Sweeney who discussed various aspects of the podcast market. They talked about the differences between creators with institutional backgrounds and those without, podcast monetization, the use of AI in podcasts, the diverse platforms for podcasts, and the rise of short podcasts. The main takeaway: podcasts aren’t dead – they’re still on the rise. There is more to come!

A Sunday panel on how youth listen to local radio included Chris Burns, Controller of Local Audio Commissioning from BBC. She states that “local still matters” and provides the consumer with a sense of community. Local content is relatable, may it be due to sports or just usual happenings. “It’s less about local RADIO, it’s more about LOCAL,” she said.

Also on Sunday, attention was turned to AI.

Ann Charles from Mediabobs gave foresight on upcoming personalized audio reception with Object-Based Media. “Imagine: Wherever you are, you get your audio experience based on the location or the situation you are in. That’s what OBM can achieve through splitting audio data into different segments that can be rearranged and reused for different situations.

“The creation opportunities from there are endless. But for the technology to work, it will need much more cooperation, training, and taking technicians seriously!”

Raoul Wedel from Wedel Software, which works with many UK radio stations, concluded the summit by addressing language barriers and dialects as challenges for AI. “Despite these challenges, AI is already a major player in the radio industry, presenting both significant challenges and opportunities for growth,” he said.

On Monday morning, Radiodays Europe CEO Peter Niegel welcomed a packed room before handing over to hosts former BBC Radio 1 exec Paul Robinson and Sabrina Lang, a presenter on local station Radio Gong.

During the opening session, Lars Bastholm, Founder Bastholm Creative Consulting showed the possibilities of AI, saying there is a lot of risk in having this opportunity, and there are still things that AI can’t do.

Stefan Möller, president of Association of European Radios, and Edita Kudlacoa, Head of Radio at the European Broadcasting Union, talked about the importance of trends, like AI, in the audio industry. Stefan Möller pointed out: “Radio is the drummer in the band called total audio. It keeps the rhythm, everyone relies on it, everybody needs it.”

The risk of AI is obviously the growth of fake news. This is, where Marianna Spring comes in.

She is the first disinformation and social media correspondent at BBC, and introduced her self and her role ahead of a dedicated session later in the conference.

Kara Oehler is working at the Institute for Climate Sound & Society at metaLAB Harvard. She said it is possible to monitor whales, species which we can’t hear with the human ear.

The opening session was summarised by a sketch made by one attendee, Jana Wiese.

Listening to the radio while driving was discussed in many sessions, and there were a few vehicles in the trade show demonstrating new audio experiences.

Iris Rothkirch, the Product Owner of the Connected Radio feature at BMW, said she is committed to elevating the radio experience: “We must elevate radio to the next level.”

BMW aims to introduce a consistent overlay for all media types in the dashboard, as highlighted by both Rothkirch and Kai-Michael Gutjahr, BMW’s Product Manager for Audio Entertainment.

To support this, Xperi is offering a receiver emulator to their clients, allowing them to see exactly how audiences experience their station. This tool offers valuable insights into listener demographics, including when and where people listen, information that is invaluable to radio producers like Jim Receveur, CEO of Bauer Media, and Rüdiger Landgraf, CDO of Krone Hit.

By leveraging this data, radio stations can optimize the timing and placement of promotions, sponsorships, and music to better match listener preferences, ultimately enhancing the in-car radio listening experience.

Radioplayer announced a new partnership with NIO to add to the three million vehicles in Europe which now have access to Radioplayer.

A new deal with Google will also help listening to radio on Home Assistant and smart speakers operated by the search giant.

In a session on local radio, Chris Burns, Head of Audio and Digital for BBC England and phrases the present-day goals of radio as follows: “At the heart of it is authentic storytelling and we need to make sure to use of all the platforms available to us.

“In every community there can be found stories, people and emotions that are unique to their community – all in their own way. A local radio station is able to pick up on all of those and broadcast them to people who care.

Through the summit “BBC sounds connecting our listeners to the music, radio and podcasts they love”

Jonathan Wall and Katie Tully described what they have been doing differently for the past five months to improve the BBC Sounds platform.

Firstly, Jono clarifies the importance of combining culture and radio, but most importantly – personalising content. He demonstrates important goals for further developing the platform, such as protecting live listening and being trusted on audio news and local content.

While funding new-starting podcasts, BBC sounds will focus on further enhancing their most listened podcasts, and working together with other well-known outside-created podcasts.

BBC sounds are now working on a one product roadmap where you can find all the content at one place, using metadata. News will be transformed into playlists, and with smart use of social media, BBC sounds will create a community, in which listeners don’t want to miss out on.

In a session on commercials, we’re asked what is the value of attention? Do we need to create the maximum amount of attention to achieve the maximum outcome for our ads? The simple answer, given by Mark Barber from Radiocentre, is no.

Advertisements can already have powerful effects at low levels of attention. “If something isn’t listened to, it is still heard.” This effect is not reached by any other medium but audio.

So perhaps it is better to concentrate on the advertisement to avoid unnecessary purchases.

To round off day 1, Greg James and his producer Vinuri Perera showed how important the bond with the listeners is.

“Radio is nothing without the audience,” said Greg. Listener feedback in particular is crucial. Greg wants to give listeners the same feeling as what he wants to hear on the radio.

If there are suggestions from the audience, they are gladly accepted, be it for games or other show content. That connects. In the same way, people’s personal stories make the entertainment.

Greg sees it as a give and take. He gets a platform as a presenter, but also gives the listeners a platform. “You get the stars of the radio show. Imagine being in bed in the morning and Radio 1 is calling”. The bond once saved him the show.

The production wanted to play a trick on him and claimed they were taking the show away from him. To win the show back, they distributed puzzle pieces all over England and with the help of the listeners, James had to find the pieces and put them together. A bit of banter is also involved. When James asked why the puzzle pieces had to be put together on the water, the producer replied: because it’s funny.

Not only listeners are part of the shows. Celebrities are also regularly invited to the show. And even in these situations, there are conversations with the audience. That’s what Greg James finds so special. “Everyone is equal on the radio. That’s the essence of the show. Everyone can chat with everyone.”

Greg, being a true radio geek, wanted to back-time his session to the very end, so started singing jingles from his favourite European radio stations to fill time, much to the amusement of the audience.

The final day opened with a session on How to be a better programme director, with host Nik Goodman, who always provides a great energetic session “in the round”.

Rebecca Frank and Paul Sylvester, who are referred to as Content Directors, are the guests.

So, what’s the difference? They explain that their job isn’t solely about the programme itself, but also about the listeners. Alongside Nik and some voices from the audience, they delve into their roles as content directors.

Apart from the listeners, they also focus on the presenters at the station. Rebecca and Paul meet with their hosts every week. Although meetings can sometimes be a little bit boring, there are ways to make them enjoyable. For instance, everyone shares something cool or their favorite Madonna song. These simple ideas infuse energy into meetings, even when held online.

Trust and honesty are paramount for a content director. You must trust your team while being completely honest with them. It’s also crucial to support them in reaching their goals and ensuring the best for the station. This applies even when hard decisions, like letting someone go, need to be made.

Music-related tasks are a significant aspect of radio programming, so both Paul and Rebecca are involved in such work at their stations. However, the specifics of this work vary depending on the station’s brand. Despite their involvement in music, it’s not their primary responsibility, but they do offer their opinions, especially when they are strong, on the music being played.

To become a better programme director, one must not only focus on the programme itself but also consider the people involved. This includes the listeners, the creators of the programme, and even the advertisers running ads in the shows.

And it wouldn’t be a radio event without at least one session on audio branding.

How have radio jingles changed? Prolark Media’s Lee Price, who was previously Head of Production at Capital Radio Group, and has worked at Global, Bauer and the BBC, is sure: more than you might think. But one thing is certain – they haven’t lost any of their importance.

On a date, Price was asked what kind of music he likes to listen to “And for some reason I decided to say that I quite like to listen to radio jingles.”

For Marc Vickers, Composer at Wisebuddah & No Sheet Music, finding the essence of a pop song and squeezing it down into a radio jingle is the art of sonic branding. He thinks the dream of every jingle creator is to have their tunes become an earworm.

According to Vickers, the best way to achieve that is emotion. If a song feels right for the audience, a jingle created from that song is much more likely to succeed.

Brandy’s Creative Director Tom Van der Biest explained his process in creating jingles after playing a few examples. For him, a jingle needs to be based on a well-known tune, while still featuring its own twist to make it stand out. For the listener, a jingle needs to feel as simple as possible, however hard that is to achieve for producers.

Thomas Giger, Partner at PURE Jingles, puts importance on making jingles stand out on their own, even if the station’s vibe usually wouldn’t support that.

Austrias Radio Vorarlberg broadcasts hits from the 70s and 80s, but Giger made sure that their sonic branding still sounds modern. “Jingles need to change, even if the music doesn’t”.

Sometimes however, creating jingles can be a bit challenging. Especially if the radio station differs from the “norm”. Marc gave examples of working for dutch Sky Radio, a station with no hosts.

As the station only broadcasts music, advertisements and jingles, having memorable sonic branding becomes incredibly important to impact the identity of the station. Opposed to that, the BBC’s Radio 2 is very focused on their radio hosts, with every jingle having to represent the style and energy of their respective hosts.

The talk ended with Thomas Giger’s most important tip: “If you want to make a statement, it doesn’t always have to be big and bold.”

Engaging Generation Z with traditional radio might sound like a Herculean task, but Aled Haydn Jones, Head of BBC Radio 1, sheds light on the strategies that have proven effective in reaching this elusive demographic.

One of the fundamental hurdles in attracting Gen Z to radio is their expectation of personalized content. Unlike previous generations, who grew up with the notion of broadcast media, Gen Z has been immersed in a world of tailored experiences.

So, how does Radio 1 break through the noise and resonate with Gen Z? The answer lies in three key approaches:

Firstly, Radio 1 reaches beyond its traditional bubble by leveraging existing fanbases and hosting events that draw in young audiences. By collaborating with popular guests and embarking on creative projects Radio 1 ensures its relevance among Gen Z listeners.

“The moment of silence was the most listened to moment in BBC Radio 1 in 2023” – Aled Haydn Jones

Haden Jones gave the example of creative project where BBC Radio 1 presenter Greg James had to find missing radio DJs all over the UK in a scavenger hunt. If he fails, the radio will be off air.

Secondly, Radio 1 capitalizes on the strengths of live radio. Hayden Jones gave the example of how everyone was in front of the radio when Queen Elizabeth II. died in 2022. Another strength of live radio is offering mood-managed playlists.

“You don’t have to hire a 15–24-year-old to attract 15–24-year-olds” – Aled Haydn Jones

Lastly, Radio 1 prioritises reflecting the experiences and voices of Gen Z on-air. However, you don’t need the specifically young presenters to resonate with Gen Z even though Radio 1 also features upcoming young presenters at times. More important though is to have relatable presenters with genuine friendship between them. You hear that.

In essence, Radio 1’s approach in connecting with Gen Z lies in its ability to adapt, innovate, and resonate with the ever-evolving preferences of this demographic. By embracing change and staying attuned to the pulse of their audience, Radio 1 continues to thrive in an era dominated by personalized media consumption.

And Brit James Cridland, who arrived without his luggage, but proudly carrying his first iPhone, talked about how Podcasting tools can help radio.

Podcasting is over 20 years old – and James wants to celebrate that. But not only that – he wanted to explain the evolution of this “new” form of audio content. As not only is AI generated content the new star of video production, it can also be incredibly useful for audio content. Demonstrating the use of AudioStack to write, record and produce a small ad for the RadioDays Europe on the fly, James showed the potential of cloned voices for Radio and Podcasts.

Automatically creating advertisements, AI can help in playing actually relevant ads while reducing the workload to do so by a large amount. For radio stations, generating VoxPops without having to actually go out and talk to people can be a way to speed up the production process by a lot.

Ai can not only help by generating audio, but by transcribing it as well. Different programs can be fed data from single podcast episodes to entire audio archives. This can help in transcribing podcasts for hearing impaired people or just make it easy to skip to a scene you want to listen to. Or for radio stations, it can give the opportunity to archive the entire radio stations broadcast.

James continued by showcasing a list of different AI-based tools for content creating. From tools helping to optimize your videos, automatically creating small clips of important parts of your recording, specifically created for Instagram or TikTok or removing delay in online voice chats.

Using The Beatles’ latest song “Now and Then” as an example, James showcased different softwares for separating different audio-tracks, splicing vocals from instrumentals. This technology was used to isolate John Lennon’s voice to record this last Beatles song and allowed James to end his talk.

And finally, the location for next year’s event was announced as Athens, from March 9th to 11th 2025.

See you there?

Content in this article was created with the help of Radiodays Europe’s excellent team of writers and photographers, with live tweets by Stuart Clarkson, Roy Martin, and other contributors.

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