This post first appeared in the January 14th edition of the eRadio newsletter.
The new Bauer City 2 stations launched last week, Euan McMorrow had a listen:
I approached the launch of Bauer’s new City 2 stations with cynicism. Not only do I have warm memories of the Magic AM network but something jarred about introducing local station names while reducing the amount of actual localness. I thought it was going to be a RAJAR/sales game and not about the listener experience. I was certain we’d hear some clever radio voodoo that would bolster the RAJAR figures of its sister FM stations. I was expecting a bland, generic and uninteresting product.
Hands up. I was wrong. The City 2 stations are the ones I’ve listened to most across the last week. I find myself turning one on for a bit and staying longer than I meant to. Why? It’s a combination of what is there and what is missing altogether.
The big attraction for me, and others I’ve spoke to, is the music. It’s a mix of the greatest hits of the 60s through to now. The emphasis is on the older songs but a smattering of George Ezra and Ed Sheeran keeps it from sounding like a nostalgia station. It’s well scheduled too. You never feel like you’re getting too much of one era or one genre. Truly Bauer is beating Heart hands down at the variety game here.
It’s easy to keep listening and there’s not much to make you turn off.
The stations allow very, very little to get in the way of the music. The presenters aren’t overbearing. They’re laid back, relaxed and on message. To quote a friend “they blend in unlike the infuriating egos on the FM station”. City 2’s presenters don’t say much but they sound like real people.
It’s a bit strange that they repeat the strapline lots but never say the station name. However the presenters are not cramming in content while selling everything else on the station, the £1.50-a-shot text message competition, the “big prize” competition on the website, playing some artist endorsements and salivating over Twitter.
The City 2 stations are for grown ups who don’t need much more than some decent music to accompany them. It’s unhurried and uncluttered, that makes such a difference.
An attempt at localness comes in the form of news and other functional information. Sadly It’s really patchy depending on which location you’re listening to and what time of day it is. Sometimes it can clash with the accomplished tone of the rest of the station. I didn’t want news of the troubles in Paris read in a smiley voice or an update on the Celebrity Big Brother house.
The website changeover was horrible at times. There was badly checked copy and lazy cut and pasting. This is the kind of thing that gets the anoraks on social media and forums up in arms. Do the vast majority of listeners care or even notice? Of course not. These stations will live or die by how they sound on air.
The quibbles are minor. The vast majority of the station is at a high standard.
So yeah.. from expecting something cheap, bland and unremarkable I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Unless you’re addicted to overpaying for your text messages while being force fed Taylor Swift they make a great alternative to their more bloated and commercialised FM rivals.
Euan McMorrow is a content and talent specialist, find him at mcmmonline.com or on Twitter @euanmcmorrow