Smoothfm turns two

Staff Writer

Smoothfm has turned two.

Nova Entertainment's Group Program Director Paul Jackson says he hasn't been surprised by the popularity of the station or the diversity of its audience.

In an interview with Nicola Riches from The Music Network, he also says there are plans for extensions of the Smooth brand.

Smoothfm is celebrating its second birthday.

The station, launched by NOVA Entertainment, has been something of a rapid success story, commanding a combined audience that has grown by 93% since launch, with a current listenership of more than 1.2 million and a 6.7% share in each market.

During the past two years it has attracted a number of guest DJs including Michael Buble and Olivia Newton-John, who hosts a Sunday afternoon show. The playlist, noted for its classic, easy-listening feel spans generations incorporating on one hand Dionne Warwick and on the other, more recent pop acts such as Bruno Mars. This diversification, it would seem, is key to its popularity.

The company has also forged heavyweight brand partnerships early in its tenure to engage in a 360 degree fashion with its audience: hence its deal with Foxtel for a smooth-branded TV station and the release of music compilations.

We spoke to NOVA Entertainment Group Program Director Paul Jackson:

How do you decide on the playlist? How are the tracks chosen and selected – is it gut feeling/talking to your audience/or is there some kind of science involved?

In our first year all the music was hand-selected for its uniqueness and fit with the easy listening format. We did test a set of songs a couple of times but have found listening closely to our listeners views has served us well. We also have a vast selection of top class music to choose from and often vary the music we are playing to both reflect seasonality and to keep sounding fresh.

Is there anything about the demographic of your audience which has surprised you?

I keep hearing people say how surprised they were at the breadth of the appeal of smoothfm. It certainly didn’t surprise us. We were always aiming for a station that would have broad lifestyle appeal and that’s how it’s turned out.

So, does this mean younger people are tuning in and if so, which acts tend to appeal?

Interestingly, the younger listeners seem more interested in the older songs like Elvis or Neil Diamond whereas we get many more requests from our discerning older end for the smooth favourites especially Bruno Mars and John Legend. It’s just a pleasure to know that we have young, old, male, female all enjoying the station.

You’ve been ambitious in your plans to release a compilation album in a market dominated by digital – how did it go for you and are the plans to do it again?

We’re always keen to explore brand extensions and new opportunities. We did smoothfm All Time Top 50 in January and this month released smoothfm Music For Mum. Both compilations went to Number One and both have achieved Gold sales status. They were available in stores and on iTunes. It certainly exceeded our expectations and we definitely have more plans in the coming months.

Are there any more plans to have artists present on the station – can you reveal those to us?

We’ve been very fortunate with the calibre of talent that have wanted to do these guest weekend shows. Michael Buble who launched smoothfm was the first and that set both the standard and the tone going forward and we’ve had some great ones in the last couple of years. Right now we have Olivia Newton-John who we are receiving amazing reaction to and Keith Urban. It’s his second stint with us, and if I had to choose, he’s most likely to be offered a permanent gig, though I think that may not be his next intended career move!! We do have James Blunt coming up again soon, he’s also very interesting and articulate.

Do these acts/appearances drive ratings?

I’m not so sure it drives ratings for us but it does help shape and cement our image in listeners’ minds in terms of what smooth stands for, so the association has been important for us especially in the early days when we were trying to get meaningful cut through and awareness in highly active marketplaces.

So, what happens next?

We have many more plans for brand extensions. On air, we have an outstanding team of presenters and I’m keen for us to remain consistent for a very long time as we’re still relatively new with cume still growing, therefore new listeners coming in for the first time pretty much every day. We’re still developing. There isn’t a single person working for smooth that doubts that this is a number one brand in the making.

Read the original in The Music Network (this was republished with permission).

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