What a journey. The task was building a radio station which kept the best bits of the Golden Square success story, adding in some extras and making sure they fitted perfectly. And choose a new name. And do it all it a matter of days. A jigsaw. A pretty big one.
Getting the new brand right was the priority. Next came a label for it: ‘Absolute‘.
Many of you at Golden Square will have heard my story about how this name came about – if you have not, do ask, but set aside a few minutes, it’s a long story. Suffice to say, alongside Albion our brand consultants, we explored everything from made-up words through to words that described what we do. We held all suggestions up against criteria which included URLs and trademark availability, resonance with brand, international translation & appeal and the like. Absolute was a clear winner on all fronts and the more we lived with it, the more we really liked it. Such a great powerful and flexible word. And we can own it across the World – and we can really build a music entertainment business around it, with a great radio station at the core. It sums us up well, though, I think. The word embodies what we stand for: we are resolute and unapologetic about our passion for real music – our desire to build a great entertainment brand and business – our determination to put listeners at the heart of our plans – and we are not afraid to challenge the commercial radio status quo.
But, then again, it’s just a word, and it’ll grow to mean as much as we do under it.
What is that? Well, for one, certainly not just a change of name. We are seizing this once in a lifetime opportunity to innovate and step into a new phase. Under our new name, Absolute we can explore opportunities which we could not. Commercially, those opportunities are clear, particularly with the advanced digital assets we’ve inherited. We’ll build on these with a new HD Streaming Video player, hopefully the first commercial music subscription service, and a real focus on in-car DAB. There’s evidence of the latter with our plans to cross-market our digital services on the main service like no-one else has (Xtreme and Classic Rock). Some innovative thinking here: introducing the digital audiences to Geoff and Christian’s shows – and heralding the choice available on all three services at the end of each of those shows. Conversely, we’ll create a unique show on the main station each week to showcase each of the digital station offerings.
Presenters? Well, many will remain. Russ is an institution. Christian will continue the great work he’s been doing – and it’s just great that Geoff once again can be enjoyed by a larger audience on his new early evening show. I don’t think there are many who would dispute that Geoff Lloyd is one of the UK’s greatest broadcasters. New names are slotting in too, such as Jo Russell who has won more awards than you can imagine from her Midlands breakfast show. There will be a few others too such as the inimitable Tim Shaw, ex-Kerrang and now the face of Fifth Gear, and my focus has been on real gifted communicators. Not just voices, but entertainers who will play a part in taking this station – and commercial radio – forward. Our goal is to be employing the services of more award-winning presenters than anyone else.
One thing was never in question. Golden Square needs serious marketing investment. We’ve just signed off what we believe to be the largest in Golden Square history. Aimed at keeping our current audiences- and then growing our 5m users/ listeners around the world.
Absolute Music? Most people now have their own personal radio station in their pocket: an MP3 player cleverly playlisted with some popular tracks and maybe a few surprises too. On-line you can discover new material within minutes of it being recorded or re-discover album tracks from old albums from artists who influenced today’s finest musicians. That is the world we are in. So, we’re sticking with real music – not manufactured rubbish – and we’re building on the amount of live music we do – we’re just going to discover more of all of it. Also, one key finding from every piece of research we did, and that includes walking into the newsagents opposite, we’ll be playing more different songs – in fact, ten times more! When we play a ‘Haven’t Heard It for Ages’ on Absolute Radio, you really won’t have done. Once we’ve played it, it won’t be on again for a year. And the No Repeat 9-5 workday is back, by popular request.
Come October, Absolute Radio will leap into life, trumpeted by a new sonic identity, assembled where all great things were. Abbey Road.
I could write about the different way we are doing business and working with our partners and staff. Openly. Honestly. Frankly, I think it is best if others judge us on that in the months to come. But, I am personally delighted with the response this blog has enjoyed.
We’re now into what we’re calling ‘crossfade’ (Christian called it that first). Our old and new names will live happily alongside each other for a few weeks whilst our listeners and users adjust. Then, after a brief pause, we’ll move into being Absolute Radio. In this crossfade period, we’ll be offering hints of some of the new ideas, and the ‘Absolute Classics‘ we’ll play in evey show are a great example of the musical discovery which will be a key part of what we do going forward.
Thanks to all involved here at Golden Square for your help and co-operation – and ideas along the way. I mean the last point honestly: we can point to a whole host of areas where your contributions have helped to shape what we’re doing. Similary, the debate amongst listeners has been hugely useful too – and I think they will be pleased when they hear the new station evolve. Thanks to all here for your tolerance of my midnight phone calls, swathes of dawn emails and the texts you did not understand. When the raw material alone was a huge national radio station, the future has to be exciting. It is.