(Not so) Smooth Extra

By Art Grainger
Posted 28 December 2014, 2.57am est

Or should that be Xtra (which seems to the fashion these days)?

Whilst on my way to the Chinese supermarket yesterday, I decided to give this "new" station a try.

Now, please bear in mind that we are often told on these radio forums how much more professional commercial radio is these days, now that most of it is owned by two or three big companies, whilst other smaller stations are "tin-pot" and not anywhere near as good nor as professional and it's a surprise that anyone listens to those smaller stations because they are so bad (especially because they don't play 42 station idents an hour, which is atrociously amateur).

So, after hearing the same songs as played on the main Smooth Radio service (although they were played in a slightly different order but with different station idents and the addition of the word "extra"), I turned the volume up to hear the news at the top of the hour (which was the first captivating output of the station during my listening time). Then, straight after the news, on this highly professional station owned by a highly professional company that are much more professional than anyone else that claims to be professional, there was an Extra ident for smooth weather - followed by ..............................................................................................................silence!!!!!!

After almost half a minute, another station ident was played, followed by another song that's on the main Smooth Radio playlist - but that song is being played at a different time of the day from its sister station, as are the other songs but all those songs are interspersed with different station idents from the sister station, of course, which seems to justify its existence and is therefore providing more "choice" for the listener.

Still, apart from missing an important bit of station traffic (a feature that listeners would be fairly interested in), it all sounded quite slick. I mean, those idents were played within a nano-second of the next song - and that is just flippin' brilliant. Who needs CD's. Spotify, I-pods, vinyl, cassette players or Radio 2 to be entertained.

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4 years, 11 months ago

They say that the proper launch is 5 January. When, presumably, we might get some travel news.

4 years, 11 months ago

On a Facebook thread, under a Radio Today article, there are already some most unpleasant and indeed caustic comments about this station, whihc, because I am a fair minded person I will not repeat here. I have listened, and whilst i am somewhat disappointed that all it seems to be is a re-hash of what is being played on the main smooth station, it seems all right to me. It is not really offering more choice. I think the space that it is using could be put to better use. But, let us see what the great listening publc make of it. It is not something that i will tune into on a regular basis though, but, that is my choice.

4 years, 11 months ago

Imagine you're a company who has had to franchise out a brand to meet competition issues, yet would like to continue to keep those listeners on D1 who listened to the main station without diluting the brand and keep the franchisees happy that Global's national DAB service isn't taking away listeners (and advertisers) from their regional service.

Global have devised this station so they can continue to provide a similar music policy, keep the same branding with a slightly different playlist, while maintaining share for the Smooth brand as a whole.

4 years, 11 months ago

Bully for them! They own some Smooth stations and have letted the Smooth brand to a franchisee in other areas. Even so, it doesn't make sense to impact on the existing Smooth stations by having a near identical station with the same brand.

I am the one and only Art. I am of a certain vintage and with that vintage comes a preference and taste for radio, music, entertainment and so on. So I should be able to select Station A and listen to that when I want to.

Let's say I have a big brother. He could be 15 years older than me. He too would have a preference and taste for radio, music, entertainment and so on. Surely it would make businesses sense for a radio group to appeal to him with his own brand, rather than Station A Version-ever-so-slightly-different that does not appeal to him.

I can't and won't split myself between Station A and Station A Version-ever-so-slightly-different. I would prefer to stay tuned to Station A for a longer period of time or maybe tune to something else on offer whenever my mood takes me. Meanwhile, my big brother would like to be able to do the same but instead has been left out in the cold because neither Station A nor Station A Version-ever-so-slightly-different appeals to him.

It would have made more sense, to me, to have another of Global's brands on there, such as Gold, which potentially appeals to another demographic. Not every old (or younger) person likes dreary ballads, love songs and easy listening in the way that Smooth provides. Instead, they could be offered something more upbeat in the way that Gold provides.

4 years, 11 months ago

It's probably worth reminding ourselves that the station has yet to actually launch.

4 years, 11 months ago

So basically Art, between all that waffle is you don't like Smooth? Fair enough, but as a business you can see why they've continued to use the brand, rather than use Gold which isn't as attractive a brand?

Global could have applied to expand LBC's London AM rolling news station instead, yet considering it's a part-time station as it is. It's as attractive as replacing Smooth with Gold.

We know that Global are intending on adding a spin off station of Heart in the future on D1, possibly by replacing Premier Christian Radio. This is the next logical step.

4 years, 11 months ago

Let's be brutally honest here. First off, Art - you were never, ever going to like it so why did you even listen? Global are probably glad you don't like it, in all honesty!

Martin's alluded to the important point, though. This, and Heart Extra, are more to do with Global being able to "sell" those brands in areas where the mainline station is being operated by Communicorp. It's logical business sense.

I must admit I'd have done it a little differently - launching Heart Club Classics instead of an "extra" station, and then effectively rebrand Gold into Smooth Extra - rolling it out on AM in London, Manchester and the East Midlands - but bring Tony Dibbin across on breakfast. The main Smooth can continue to morph into Magic 2.0 with a "soul/motown" edge, whereas Extra would be more 60s/70s and be more male-orientated.

4 years, 11 months ago

Martin and James - you've made a wrong assumption. I never said I didn't like it. When I used the adjectives in my last post, I was doing so as a third person (and I have heard some people describe the kind of music played on Smooth and similar stations, especially love songs, as "slash-your-wrists" stuff). Even James Martin is not fond of love songs going out on air when people actually like to hear them.

I should also point out that back in 1997 I programmed an RSL to play the style of music that Smooth Radio plays and it was highly successful.

However, I stick by what I say that if Smooth Extra turns out to be a smidgen of a variation between it and the main service that is available to large local markets on FM, MW and DAB, then doesn't that make the Extra service a bit ......... pointless!!

However, if Extra was to be a complimentary service to the main brand and actually offer something that is a little more distinctive, perhaps with a playlist that had much more music prior to the 1980's, whilst the main service played much more music from the 1980's to today, then that would make total sense. You would be cutting across different demographics with the same brand but with a better skew.

As for any suggestions that Smooth Extra is really a continuation of the Smooth brand to fill-in places where Smooth is not available (or owned by somebody else), then that's also a bit pointless because those areas that are not served by local Smooth stations are usually places with low populations (unless Global are spending squillions of pounds on a national DAB slot because they feel philanthropic - which we know would never happen).

Meanwhile, James, your idea of Heart Extra being more akin to Heart Club Classics is something that, to me, makes sense, for the same reason that Heart itself is now available in almost all major markets and where it isn't available is where hardly anybody lives by comparison. So why should Heart Extra be just like Heart but with the same playlist being played in a different order?

Gold becoming Smooth Extra and playing a greater emphasis on pre-1980's music makes total sense.

As for other brand extensions, well I've created a thread about that, for which (just like our European neighbours) there are online extensions of the main brand, with internet streams (and occasionally wireless options) that provide the same content as the main station's specialist shows but are providing them 24/7 instead of just a small amount of hours in a day or week, just like Kiss with Kisstory and Kiss Fresh.

4 years, 11 months ago

The serious flaw in online-only brand extensions is the retarded licensing structure in this country, hence we get situations like Absolute 60s, where it has remained on DAB in Inverness so that it's viable as an online operation.

Consequently, we don't really have any decent Internet-only stations here in the UK. I do agree the situation needs to change there, as there's a huge opportunity for brand extensions without needing DAB or television carriage. These can then obviously be coded into the station's apps.

4 years, 11 months ago

The Tune-in app is great for 'back-door' radio via television. It's on the NOW TV box or as I do, I cast from my Android phone to Chromecast.

However, I think the issues with UK internet radio stem from the PRS/PPL costs if you have more than 50 listeners, which has led to the closure of Trent Sound which was providing the kind of niche radio which internet radio excels at.

On the other hand, if you're not an anorak, how are you going to discover those semi-pro outfits like Solid Gold GEM AM, Decades Radio, The Mix Radio etc? This is where the mainstream linear brands still excel as they have the advantage of brand awareness.

4 years, 11 months ago

This is very true, and if the licensing situation were different, I see a market for IP-delivered radio. IP-TV has already had a decent success in this country (it would be fantastic if YouView boxes could deliver FTV extra channels over the Internet - I know BT and TalkTalk already do this on a subscription basis) so why not radio? The Internet would be an ideal platform for the sort of stations we had on DAB ten years ago.

4 years, 11 months ago

I forgot to mention Fubar Radio, the subscription internet radio station which has comedians presenting shows. This is maybe the future for British internet radio?

4 years, 11 months ago

Here in the East Riding the Absolute extension stations are still in operation with Classic Rock, 60s, 80s and two feeds of 90s (as we await the national feed to become Magic). In the meantime the DAB feed of Magic 1161 has a message telling us that it becomes Viking 2 on 5 January 2015. The Yorkshire multiplex still carries the original Smooth and presumably will transfer, space permitting, to other Yorkshire multiplexes in mid-summer 2015.

4 years, 11 months ago

It appears from Monday, Smooth Extra will launch with a simulcast of the Smooth London breakfast show, then goes into automation from 10am-7pm, then takes Smooth Radio network programming.

4 years, 11 months ago

Which, plays right into the comments that Art made. Smooth Extra should be a complimentary service, not an additional outlet for what is already available on Smooth's main service.

3 years, 8 months ago

It Would Be Far Much Better If Smooth West Midlands Was On Dab All Over The West Midlands And South Midlands Like Herefordshire And Shropshire But No Global Is No Good

3 years, 8 months ago

I know this forum is normally just me, JC and Martin Phillip fighting Art and Ian's very warped view of the world but when I said we need more members this isn't what I had in mind.

3 years, 8 months ago

Back in the days of simulcasting on AM/MW and FM by commercial radio there was a change of policy by the then regulator. Stations were told to split their transmissions and offer two different services, one on AM/MW and one on FM, so we started to get one 'Hits' station and a second 'Oldies' service.

Perhaps something similar needs to happen today so that two different services are offered, one on national DAB and a second service with different content on local DAB. One could be called say 'station name' UK and one called 'station name' Extra.

3 years, 8 months ago

Sorry James, but if you think my view is warped, then you need to get out into the real world a little more.

Smooth Extra is okay, but it's hardly that much of an 'extension' of the Smooth brand, in the same way that Heart Extra isn't much of an 'extension' of the Heart brand.

In those terms, Mellow Magic and Magic Chilled are better brand extensions. The Absolute decades stations are better brand extensions, though I think that the 60s station at least is poor in terms of the music.

I'm not against brand extensions, but I do wonder if the current crop couldn't be significantly improved on.

3 years, 8 months ago

I Thought Dave Wiggy Wiggins Is Banned And That Is True?

3 years, 8 months ago

James Martin said

."I know this forum is normally just me, JC and Martin Phillip fighting Art and Ian's very warped view of the world"

Please allow me to respond this one - because I can't help but want to make these points.

I've been posting on radio forums for a few years, with views that are partly based on my own radio experience and also from trying to provide the perspective from the public rather than that of jingle fanatics.

Needless to say, during that time I was the target of a small number of radio forumites. Some of them sent me death threats via PM. One wee soul in East Kilbride sent abusive e-mails. Others who made a point of dismissing everything I said (and spent quite a bit of time doing so) are now living very different lives from what they used to have, with one person now serving a jail sentence as a pedophile, another was recently arrested in Europe for allegations of abusing young boys, another person is an alchoholic who has spent a few occasions in rehabilitation (as a child of someone whose daily diet included 9 pints of lager every day, 365 days of the year - I have little sympathy). But seemingly - I have a warped view.

Then there was the occasion that I lended my support for an old school friend and her child, who heard an attrocious swearing incident on her (then) favourite radio station . I was subjected to criticism from radio forumites - yet the BROADCASTING REGULATOR agreed with me. OfCom are the really big bananas in the pecking order when compared to ex-radio presenters or current radio employees and are certainly way above jingle-brained radio forumites. But seemingly, even though OfCom agreed with me - I have a warped view.

I have also been quite critical of programming decisions made by stations that I used to support. Again, radio forumites dismiss what I say - but then with each RAJAR survey I find that the stations have lost yet more listeners and those who are still listening are doing so for even less than they did in the previous year. But seemingly - I have a warped view.

3 years, 8 months ago

For the record, I find Art's comments - while a wee bit repetitive - are pretty sensible much of the time.

Our posting policy states, in part:

We reserve the right to remove or hide posts that are rude or offensive, or for any other reason that we deem necessary to ensure a great discussion area.

I may be a little more vigilant in my application of this rule. I'm keen to ensure that posters enjoy being here, and to remove or edit comments that don't advance conversations, or treat others badly.

Particularly, a hobby broadcaster admonishing a reputable and respected commercial broadcaster and consultant about business knowledge, as I've seen in the last twelve hours, grates beyond belief.

3 years, 8 months ago

James Cridland;

Particularly, a hobby broadcaster admonishing a reputable and respected commercial broadcaster and consultant about business knowledge, as I've seen in the last twelve hours, grates beyond belief.

Perhaps, you should consider a few facts a little more closely before dismissing me and people like me as mere "hobby" broadcasters.

Like the simple fact that community radio relies on people putting in hard work and effort that would put a lot of commercial broadcasters to shame.

Perhaps you might also like to consider the idea that broadcasting on public airwaves should be about far more than merely making a profit.

Just because I come at this from a completely different standpoint, doesn't make me a hobbyist. Trust me, if this were a mere "hobby", I think I wouldn't have bothered coming back into it, and I wouldn't be dedicating the amount of time to it that I do.

Frankly, I think your dismissal of my views is beneath contempt. I would prefer an apology.

3 years, 8 months ago

I won't apologise, Ian. I called you a hobby broadcaster - since you are not earning a wage from your broadcasting, nor dependent on it for wages. That's factually correct, in other words.

I will carefully sub-edit all further postings you make here to remove any hint of personal insult, as in our posting policy. Your posts are way too aggressive, and you understand little of the industry. I believe your posts damage free conversation in these forums, and drive away more experienced contributors. This is my gaff, my rules; I have no requirement, legal or otherwise, to reward your behaviour further.

You are also, of course, entirely welcome to never post here again. That, too, will be quite acceptable. Please do consider that.

3 years, 8 months ago

Conversation can never be free if all you have are people repeating the latest piece of unproven, unprovable thinking that the industry has suddenly bought into. In other words, if people aren't prepared to listen to alternative viewpoints, and alternative thinking, then conversation isn't free.

But that's the problem, and not just here. Nobody's prepared to listen. I've heard what everybody has said, but when you start from a different perspective , you see the failings of standard thinking, the assumptions that have to be made to make what the other person is saying possible. When you start looking at things without making presumptions, you see where the thinking falls down.

If others were able to let go of everything they think they know, and see something truly from another perspective, they'd see where I was coming from.

This post has been edited to remove aggressive language.

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