Monday, May 14, 2007

The start of another week....

Hopefully a momentous one for The Project (beta? let's hope so).
Great post from Suw about the decline and fall of Xfm, obviously I might be just a little bit close to this for a truly objective point of view, but here's my two pence worth....
What the new management appears to be trying to do is monetize the Xfm brand, in much the same way that Kiss was developed into a brand in the mid-90's. They want to break Xfm out into a bigger arena, but it will be impossible to do it with a "niche" mentality. Unfortunately, that "niche" mentality is the basis of Xfm's strong position as holding itself up as a bastion of cool, if it develops into a bigger brand, this core value of caring about the ethos behind the station will undoubtedly have to be sacrificed.
Ultimately, I could no longer stand by and not have the ability to support and represent the music I loved, I had to search for a new outlet to do just that, that's "the project".
Levity for Monday, comes in the shape of Black Bush

8 comments:

Chris Bray said...

Suw's managed to say exactly what I was thinking.

The only reasons I listen to X these days are Ian Camfield, James Hyman and Eddy Temple-Morris (and I havn't listened to the latter two for weeks after they got shifted into Terrible schedule slots!)

It would appear that Xfm has lost all that "zing" it had as a young upstart as it lost all it's good DJ's :(

iain said...

John Kennedy will soon be the last bastion of genuinely great music on Xfm, last time I saw him, I just told him to "raise the drawbridge" and just carry on doing what he's doing....

Tim said...

Interesting... I can understand wanting to transform Xfm into a brand, but I'm pretty sure there's a way of doing it without alienating a) the existing listeners, and b) the people who actually work(ed) there. Unfortunately, that seems to be exactly what they're doing.

Gawd, I could rant about this for ages because it's awful to see - or rather hear - something you love change for the worse. And heck - it's not like I even worked there!

Bring on The Project, I say!

skillz said...

I found myself thinking the same thing. I agree with Chris, Eddie TM is one of few reasons to tune in these days.

I've found myself listening to the New York online station K Rock a lot these days http://www.krock2.com/ (remember, they did import/export?) It's been such a breath of fresh air, though I do feel bad for skipping X after a good 9 years or so of listening.

Suw said...

Thanks for the link, Iain!

Interestingly, James Cridland from Virgin picked up on the post too, although he didn't exactly engage with it as such, other than to say I had a point about human voices being important in radio.

I think this all ties in with radio's fear of the technological changes that are happening now. They think that if they 'strengthen their brand' that they will be able to weather the storm created by disruptive technologies like podcasting. I've been to so many conferences over the last year or two where there have been 'podcasting vs. radio' panel discussions, and frequently they get totally the wrong end of the stick about what podcasting is and where its strengths lie. Worse, they seem not to understand where radio's strengths lie, and these are people in the biz.

Like the faux 'blogging vs journalism' debate we were having three years ago, people seem to polarise themselves at the opposing ends of a false dichotomy.

I stood up at the Guardian's Changing Media conference not long ago and told them they were obsessing over music and failing to understand that radio and podcasting is more than just music. (notes on my other blog.) They mainly looked at me as if I was barking mad.

Playlist is really important, yes, but DJs are too. You can't have scones without the clotted cream and jam...

Sorry, that was nearly a whole blog post in itself! Will have to write more about this because it pains me to see XFM getting it so wrong when, with they have so much potential to get it right. There is so much that they could be doing to really engage with their audience - indeed, an audience worldwide - without having to sacrifice their ethos.

iain said...

*applause, throws flowers*
Absolutely right....they've already got a great product, yet they seem intent on destroying it to make it better! Huh? Why not utilise the foundations that are already there?

Dan said...

Xfm always had a strong brand, anyway - or least it seemed to. We listeners knew what Xfm meant, or thought we did, while Virgin, Capital et al seemed muddled and muddied. And while Xfm meant different things to different people, it always meant something.

What's happened in the last few months seems to be weakening the brand to the stage where (during the day at least) it's pretty much indistinguishable from anything else. That's not a great basis on which to expand a brand: it's almost as if it's now an 'X-flavour' playlist - generic blandness most of the time with the retention of X-posure, Remix and Rinse to lend a 'dangerous' element (carefully controlled, of course). Like putting the tiniest hint of absinthe in your alcopop, for effect.

It makes me sad, because like others I used to listen pretty much all the time to Xfm. As a teenager moving up to London for the first time, Xfm educated me about music - new and old - from the X-list to X-posure to Steve Taylor's fantastic A-X of Alternative Music. Yet in just a couple of years Xfm had descended to that 'This is Music' album where even reading the tracklist causes a yawn.

And in a world of hundreds of possible listening choices, wouldn't it make some sense to strengthen Xfm's distinctiveness rather than diluting it? What is Xfm's proposition? I know what Chill's is, I know what Planet Rock's is, I even (kind of) know what Kiss's is. But what Xfm now plays isn't alternative, it isn't real indie, the DJs aren't (for the most part) apparently permitted to be interesting or stamp any actual personality or musical insight onto their shows (look what happened to Jon Hillcock's music). It's just Capital without some of the pop & R'n'B excesses. That isn't a proposition on which to expand a brand.

Listening online, Xfm Scotland perhaps appears to be closer to the older Xfm spirit - the number of specialist shows is greater and the playlist draws to some extent from the Beat 106 dancier heritage (to retain inherited listeners, I presume), and this makes it seem more refreshing than Xfm London. How long that'll last for, I don't know...

It's now mostly BBC 6music for me: it can't match the rebellion and edginess that Xfm used to have, and there's a certain Radio 2-cringeworthiness, but the enthusiasm's there, as are some of the presenters.

Lauren said...

I'm a little behind here pal, but suffice to say tis the end of an era. You'll be sorely missed but time for bigger and better things :)