smoothfmTurns 4!

Saturday, smoothfm celebrates its fourth birthday. And what an incredible four years it has been.

It was May 2012 when Michael Buble launched smooth FM in both Sydney and Melbourne and in one of radio’s great stories by 2015, smooth 95.3 Sydney achieved its first ever Number #1 FM position. We talk to Paul Jackson and Peter Clay.

For both Sydney and Melbourne there were some false starts – the Vega experience saw it  debut with a 1.8% share in Sydney in 2006. Talent changes and expanding to a variety position didn’t result in much of a shift. With the Vega brand tainted and only nudging around a 3 share at best, the reset button was pushed and Classic Rock launched. By May 2012 with a new Group Content Director in charge, Nova Entertainment finally found their groove.

Survey 2 2012, they dropped the Classic Rock brand and format, becoming just 95.3FM and 91.5FM. They started to broaden the format and began to shape their adult music position. By May – smooth FM was launched.

We catch-up with both Nova Entertainment Group CD, Paul Jackson and smoothfm Group CD Peter Clay to talk about smoothfm’s Fourth Birthday.

Blair: First up Group CD Paul Jackson, when did you draw a line in the sand with Classic Rock, making the move to turn the frequencies on their heads in both Sydney and Melbourne?

Paul: It was in February 2012. We took off Alice Cooper and started to soften the music, although we then tested some songs the following month and every smooth song totally bombed so we knew we were effectively starting from scratch.

smoothfm's Melissa Doyle Bogart Torelli and NE CEO Cathy O'Connor

Blair: Did you spend time researching the space… or was it just the natural gap and position for you to take?

Paul: There was clearly a natural gap for this format but we did also research the size of the opportunity which as we now know is huge.

We also researched possible names for the station but much of it was inconclusive.

In the end the team here had a clear vision for the brand and we followed our instincts in shaping smooth.

Blair: What are your memories of the day smooth actually launched?

Paul: It was very special. The whole station was gathered round on the 3rd floor just before 8 as Lachlan and Cath said a few words. Michael Buble then presented the opening sequence and I had 3 or 4 glasses of champagne very quickly, relieved that we were now live!

Then sadly, Robin Gibb passed away later that morning so we were playing non-stop Bee Gees songs by lunchtime.

Blair: How big is the smooth music universe?

Paul: All in all, we would have around 1800 songs in our universe but are playing actively around 700 at any given time.

The more important thing is resting songs and reintroducing other ones regularly and playing them not because of research but because they sound great.

smoothfm's Richard Wilkins Mel Doyle Bogart Torelli and David Campbell

smoothfm’s Group Content Director is  Peter Clay, I asked him if a variety position is important to the smooth brand or is it more surprise and delight?

Peter:  Smooth FM was designed to create an easy place for listeners to relax. The playlist is based around creating a feel good moment and an escape from the daily grind.

Blair: What are some of the important “must haves” with talent On-Air with smooth?

Peter:  The smooth FM announcers have been chosen because they reflect the brand and fit the format. A great way of communicating with the listener. An art of speaking one on one and really reflecting the sense of the day in a concise way and most importantly a love of the music.

I do not mind admitting that it is the hardest format that I have ever worked on. Keeping things simple is often the most difficult thing to do.

Blair: What are your memories of the day smooth actually launched?

Peter:  Well when I was with Michael Buble in LA doing the TVC and launch audio, we had an RV that Michael was recording in, however the production crew had set it up on the main road which, if you know LA, has constant ambulance and police cars with sirens on passing every two minutes. We had to get the team to pack up the RV, move it two blocks around the corner to a quieter location as I do not think people would appreciate and relax with audio that contains sirens blaring.

Blair: You’ve had a lot of stars join the smooth line-up on weekends… anyone stand out?

Peter:  Michael Buble is just an amazing talent. He just gets it and he is a pleasure to work with every time we record. However, I have to say that Keith Urban is just a lovely guy that really wants to be a part of the station even down to the selection of music. We have been so lucky with the talent that have joined the station because they all understand and enjoy what we do here at smooth.

Congratulations to all the team at smoothfm on your Fourth Birthday!

smoothfm’s line-up of announcers includes Bogart Torelli and news journalist Glenn Daniel in Sydney breakfast and Mike Perso and Jennifer Hansen in Melbourne. Thedaytime line-up of Ty Frost, Simon Diaz and Byron Webb leads into Cameron Daddo’s Mellow Music at night. Weekends see’s Mel Doyle, Richard Wilkins, David Campbell and has included special guest hosts, ranging from Elton John, Neil Diamond, Nigella Lawson, James Blunt, Michael Bublé, Keith Urban and The Beach Boy’s Mike Love.

smoothfm is also now a multi-platform entertainment brand having expanded its national footprint on DAB+, along with the introduction of a strategic partnership with Foxtel to create smooth, the first Australian radio station developed into a TV channel. Nova Entertainment has also seen the release of 10 smooth FM compilation albums with Sony Music and they have also extended into the experiential space with the creation of the smoothfm Festival of Chocolate, returning for a third year in 2016, and the launch of the smooth relaxation station. will now be the next phase in the station’s cross platform offering evolving beyond radio and extending the brand across the Australian lifestyle category.

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