How smooth picks the songs that make it the music leader | radioinfo

How smooth picks the songs that make it the music leader

Wednesday 08 May, 2019
Image: Shutterstock

Paul Jackson reveals the secret to smooth's success

Undoubtedly smoothfm is the station brand launch of the 21stcentury.
From a vague hope that it might reach a 6.0 share of audience when it first went to air in May of 2012, in the most recent GfK Survey 2, the brand claimed the number one ranking on the FM band and number two overall in both Sydney and Melbourne on a 9.5 and 11.0 share respectively.
Not only that, the Breakfast show in Melbourne with Mike Perso and Jennifer Hansen on smooth 91.5 is ranked number two overall in the market behind the unassailable 3AW – leading Nova Entertainment Group PD Paul Jackson to remark,  “The aim has always been to be in the mix at breakfast time and it’s post breakfast where we really take off. We’ve been number two (FM) in breakfast in Sydney for quite a while now but to actually have the number one breakfast show (FM) in Melbourne in a marketplace with superstar names, lots of money being spent on marketing those shows – the one they haven’t seen on a billboard is the one that’s at number one. It’s fantastic!”
So, what makes smooth the runaway success that it is? 
“I think people believe in the promise of more music and less talk,” says Jackson. “The music is unique to us. We run our own race in that sense. It's got a nice brightness about it as well. It absolutely consistently delivers on its promise whenever you tune in 24/7."
Compared to Nova and other personality-driven stations, smooth is low key and a bean counter’s dream as it runs on tiny overheads. But that’s a large part of the point of difference between smooth and the others. Jackson (left) explains, “Many people love the big personality shows and love x y and z, presenters. They love the Red Rooms of Nova and the exciting moments we create. You'll hear a lot more competitions on Nova and a lot more partnerships with big brands and so on. That's a huge part of the market. But in a different slice of the market, you could approach it differently where smooth does the opposite to Nova and both are highly successful.”
It would be easy to pigeonhole smooth as a classic easy listening station with a lot of soft tracks compared to the perceived energy of CHR. Yet Jackson contends that that’s not quite the case. “There's definitely something in the music cycle. You see Taylor Swift songs being so successful because there aren't that many great powerful pop songs coming that thick and fast these days. Panic at the Disco had a great one with High Hopes – a little bit like Katie Perry's Roar from a few years ago - that kind of bright pop. If you listen to smooth it actually has a lot of that sort of music. There's a lot of 80s pop like Ah Ha, Human League and Duran Duran, with lot of songs you love and can sing along to that make you feel good. Contemporary pop is in a different cycle." 



As Group Program Director who oversees all of NovaEnt’s stations you wouldn’t expect Paul Jackson to micro-manage all the playlists but he does. 

“Hands on, all of it, every day. I have to be honest I can't help myself,” he says. “I’ll go through all the lists with Kate Mason (left)We work on it together. She rolls the records out and we work hand in glove on everything.”
And when he goes home does he listen to music?
“Of course, I'm obsessed! I've got millions of playlists on my Apple and my Spotify. I have songs we might consider playing and we're relentless about. Honestly, I'll hear a record smooth and I'll phone Kate or she'll phone me and say, ‘Let's not play that one again. We just chuck stuff in here and there and try it and we mix the records up and genuinely do it on how we feel at any given moment in time. And we keep moving them around because if we keep to the same set of records, if they're all 20 or 30 years old, you can get one dimensional. So, we keep it fresh. We try to reflect people's moods and emotion across all parts of the radio station.”
Jackson admits that song choice on smooth is much more about gut feel than it is research. But it’s that way for a reason.
“When you research our broad format, all the big ballads tend to rise to the top. So, you'd end up with a much slower radio station. You can look at the research and go, yeah, we know that the biggest songs are timeless classic ballads. They'll always score stronger. But is that what you want to sound like a 10 o'clock in the morning or two o'clock in the afternoon? You really have to create things for a feel or for people who want to sort of bop along during the day.”

Peter Saxon

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Anthony The Koala
8 May 2019 - 4:54pm
The lotto machine (pictured at top) and combining the music with "gut feel....(rather)...than research" (13th paragraph) suggests something like a cross between shuffle play and a human touch. One wonders whether 'scientific' research used in determining a playlist is overthink with a boring predictable format - think "classic hits/golden oldies" and does not produce results.

Anthony of exciting Belfield
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