Dublin mu­sic ra­dio mar­ket finely tuned to in­dus­try change

Ra­dio con­sump­tion trends in the cap­i­tal have been go­ing their own way since about 2012, when a pat­tern of de­cline set in.

The Irish Times - - Home News - Laura Slat­tery,

The Ir­ish ra­dio mar­ket is de­fined by boundaries, fran­chise ar­eas, spec­trums, li­cences and other as­sorted ana­logue-era rules and reg­u­la­tions.

In the­ory, the tech­nol­ogy that en­cour­aged the cur­rent carve-up has been su­per­seded by dig­i­tal plat­forms that are po­ten­tially bor­der­less. In re­al­ity, Ire­land is not Norway.

The Scan­di­na­vian coun­try started switch­ing of all na­tional and com­mer­cial FM trans­mit­ters this year, and not ev­ery­one was happy about it. If any­one tried to do the same thing here, there would be war.

In Ire­land, we may not move the dial very much, but enough of us re­main at­tached to the con­cept of a dial.

Ip­sos MRBI re­search shows the ma­jor­ity of ra­dio lis­ten­ing in Ire­land (some 95 per cent) takes place via AM/FM ra­dio at home or in our cars, with only 2.5 per cent tak­ing place via mo­bile de­vices.

All ra­dio, mean­while, is said to ac­count for al­most 88 per cent of to­tal au­dio lis­ten­ing, far out­strip­ping own mu­sic (8 per cent), Spo­tify (3.3 per cent) and pod­casts/lis­ten-back op­tions (1.1 per cent).

When I see th­ese fig­ures – and the ra­dio in­dus­try that com­mis­sioned the re­search is nat­u­rally keen to share it – I can’t re­late to them at all.

Only 8 per cent for own mu­sic? I’m pretty sure there are sin­gle artists that rep­re­sent more than 8 per cent of my to­tal au­dio diet in any given week, while even a non-premium Spo­tify dab­bler like me de­votes more than 3.3 per cent of my au­dio min­utes to stream­ing.

But the Ip­sos MBRI share of lis­ten­ing data is, of course, based on the pop­u­la­tion as a whole. They are na­tional av­er­ages across all age groups.

The fig­ures for 15-34-year-olds look ever so slightly dif­fer­ent.

Among this age group, 7.4 per cent of ra­dio lis­ten­ing takes place via mo­bile de­vices, while ra­dio ac­counts for 75 per cent of to­tal au­dio lis­ten­ing, with own mu­sic jump­ing to 15 per cent, Spo­tify to 7.9 per cent and pod­cast/lis­ten-back to 2 per cent.

From Ip­sos MRBI’s joint na­tional lis­ten­er­ship re­search (JNLR), it is also pos­si­ble to iso­late an­other di­vide: the one be­tween Dublin and the rest of Ire­land.

Ra­dio con­sump­tion trends in the cap­i­tal have been go­ing their own way since about 2012, when a pat­tern of de­cline set in. While 83 per cent of Ir­ish adults lis­ten to ra­dio on an av­er­age day, that pro­por­tion in Dublin is 77 per cent.

Speech sta­tions

Na­tional ra­dio holds the ma­jor­ity share po­si­tion in Dublin, but this is tied to speech sta­tions Ra­dio 1 and New­stalk, which out­per­form in the cap­i­tal rel­a­tive to their na­tional shares.

When it comes to RTÉ 2fm and To­day FM, the trend re­verses: 2fm’s share in Co Dublin (4 per cent) is below its na­tional share (6.7 per cent), while To­day FM’s is 3.8 per cent in the cap­i­tal ver­sus 7.5 per cent na­tion­ally.

The woes of both sta­tions in re­cent years can be traced to their weak­ness in the cap­i­tal.

In fact, al­most ev­ery lo­cal sta­tion does bet­ter than 2fm and To­day FM in Dublin.

They are led by FM104, the brand that de­scended from Ire­land’s first ever lo­cal com­mer­cial sta­tion (Cap­i­tal Ra­dio, which went on air in 1989). Now owned by News Corp’s Wire­less Group, FM104 en­joyed a strong re­sult in the most re­cent JNLR sur­vey, in­creas­ing its share of the Dublin ra­dio mar­ket to 12.1 per cent.

Two Com­mu­ni­corp sta­tions come next, with Spin 1038 (7.4 per cent) over­tak­ing 98FM, an­other child of 1989, which slipped to 6.5 per cent. FM104’s sis­ter sta­tion Q102 is not far be­hind with a 6.3 per cent share, while the other com­peti­tors are coun­try-flavoured Sun­shine 106.8 (5.1 per cent) and rock-themed Ra­dio Nova (4 per cent), with Clas­sic Hits 4FM bring­ing up the rear on 2.1 per cent.

Near-in­fi­nite op­tions

Set this list of sta­tions against a back­drop of near-in­fi­nite lis­ten­ing op­tions, and it is not hard to see that there is very lit­tle el­bow room in the frag­mented Dublin ra­dio mar­ket.

Nor is it hard to un­der­stand why the peren­ni­ally loss-mak­ing TXFM (pre­vi­ously known

‘‘ Ra­dio con­sump­tion trends in the cap­i­tal have been go­ing their own way since about 2012, when a pat­tern of de­cline set in.

as Phan­tom) fi­nally floun­dered off air in 2016.

The good news for the in­dus­try is that the most re­cent JNLR sur­vey sounded no new alarm bells: a two-point rise in lis­ten­er­ship in Dublin from 75 per cent will have elicited cau­tious sighs of re­lief.

But was this the be­gin­ning of a turn­around, the es­tab­lish­ment of a re­as­sur­ing plateau or merely a teas­ing pause be­fore the de­cline re­sumes?

As far as con­sump­tion of both stream­ing ser­vices and pod­casts are con­cerned, it cer­tainly feels like the only way is up.

Re­mem­ber that plenty of chil­dren de­velop a love of mu­sic and es­tab­lish me­dia habits long be­fore they reach the age of 15, but the lis­ten­ing di­ets of any­one born af­ter 2002 has yet to be cap­tured by the re­search.

Most ra­dio sta­tions freely ad­mit it is more dif­fi­cult than ever be­fore to re­cruit younger lis­ten­ers, and that with­out that con­tin­ual re­cruit­ment the medium will slowly wither.

The Dublin mu­sic ra­dio mar­ket may be the place to lis­ten out for the first real cracks.

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