Creative Loop Student Media Festival 2014: George Ergatoudis, Head of Music BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra

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March 20, 2014 by Colin Kelly

A fascinating presentation from the Head of Music at BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra.

Video streams from their programming and big moments from their shows are a key part of the strategy with the station putting serious time and effort into its YouTube channel, experimenting with Sound Cloud and simulcasting, as they do with the UK Top 40, and radio and video through iPlayer Radio.

The big push behind it: the need to lower the station’s average age. 32 is far too high for the liking of the BBC Trust and there’s a real drive to get 15-24’s consuming more of BBC Radio 1.

And here’s the warning. Lots of them – the vast majority – still listen, but they spend a lot less time listening that they used to. Time spent listening each week is down about 3 hours per listener in 5 years.

Sooner or later, that’s going to have a big impact on commercial music stations and BBC Radio Scotland.

A generation is growing up with a very different attitude towards radio than I had.

Radio 1 is responding – recruiting presenters who’ve built a YouTube following, and with a clear strategy around what various programmes will say through the station’s Facebook and Twitter feeds. It’s joined up, planned and measured and researched thoroughly.

George went on to talk about how Radio 1 makes decisions about which songs to playlist and the importance of specialist music programmes to the station. A minimum of 40% of their music is British, often it’s much higher.

And George highlighted the access they have to the biggest artists in the world and how they’re using them to create highly viral video content either through features like The Live Lounge, and Innuendo Bingo, or, for example Zane Lowe’s interviews with Kanye West, Eminem, Jay-Z and others.

Other key points:

This year’s One Big Weekend in Glasgow is the best line up they’ve ever had, George reckons.

If you want to work at BBC Radio 1 you need to demonstrate outstanding creativity and get out and do things. Write a blog, makes videos, something to prove how serious you are about this.

George shared a bit about his own background and how he started off publishing a music fanzine.

George reckons Scott Mills has a significant amount of time still in his Radio 1 career given his focus on the younger audience. ‘In his head, that’s who Scott talks to on his programme’, he said. ‘Chris Moyles is a brilliant broadcaster, but in his head, the audience he identified with had aged with him, and that’s why we made the change’.

But George explained how difficult it is for a station as popular as Radio 1 to lower the age of its audience and highlighted research showing the huge overlap between the music a 13 year old is passionate about, and the music someone in their 60s is passionate about. More than 40% of the artists one demographic enjoys are also enjoyed by the other.

My view: let BBC Radio 1 get on with doing what it does and keep the politics out of it. It’s a huge success and it’s in its own interests to serve a younger audience. But don’t force them to get rid of older listeners. The commercial sector have been rewarded with far greater regulation than they’ve ever had before and they’ve chosen (and there’s nothing wrong with this) to focus on profitability and being as lean as possible. That’s fine. But it increases the need for BBC Radio 1 to deliver the highest quality, most popular programming it can. Audiences love it, artists love it and media all over the world is hugely influenced by it. George and his team should be encouraged, rather than criticised and I’d like to see a little less pressure applied to them on issues such as audience demographics.

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