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Trust your ears!

Fali R Singara, one of the Indian radio’s best known RJs, reveals what goes into the making of good music programming

When I was in school in the 1990s, there was only one FM radio frequency in Mumbai – All India Radio’s 107.1 FM.  Radio is now more easily accessible to the public since I started out in the business – earlier, you had to have a radio set at home or in the car, or a portable radio/Walkman with FM to tune in – in the last 10 years, all that has changed for the better. You can now tune in on your phone and mp3 players, to name a few; making radio entertainment of the masses.

A survey done in the past showed that between 1998 and 2003, the average household in Mumbai would tune in to the radio for nearly 10 hours per week. According to new data, listenership is currently significantly higher and audiences between age 21 to 45 make up for more than 43 per cent of the listening public.

In spite of the emergence of several new radio stations in the past decade, All India Radio’s FM services has increased its listener base many folds in all age groups as our programming focuses on catering to the various tastes and preferences; some thing for everyone! We don’t make tall claims as we know two things – one is that All India Radio has the strongest signal of all the FM stations so we reach the most listeners. I’ve had listeners who call me up from places like Nashik and Mahableshwar to request songs as they can receive the Mumbai stations clearly. The second is – diversity, which is the key to good programming. At FM Rainbow, the radio jockey writes his/her own script and chalks out the play list from an extensive library of songs to choose from.

Over the past few years, we have increased the number of hours for international music on FM Rainbow due to its popularity. Every international music slot is now three hours – with shows in the morning, afternoon and night.

As an RJ with a good number of years under my belt, I’ve understood that people who listen to radio do so to be entertained and to discover music. I’ve grown with my listeners over the years and adapted accordingly. Listeners want useful information or an interesting conversation relevant to the music/topic of the show – not useless banter! It is very important to understand your audience and what makes them tick. It’s also very important to be aware of what’s going on the day of your show and plan accordingly; staying relevant.  For example, I did the live show on the night India played and won the 2011 World Cup. Apart from giving listeners interesting cricket updates, the music had to be relevant – for example, We Are The Champions by Queen, The Best by Tina Turner, etc were the kind of songs played – giving listeners a positive vibe that we would win on our home turf.

Unfortunately, a lot of new international music today sounds alike and generic at best, though there are exceptions to the rule.  Don’t believe the hype – trust your ears.  There’s tons of fantastic new music being made today by new and old artists which gets lost in the crowd and a good radio jockey should actively seek them out for his listeners.

I’ve always made my play list according to what I’ve felt listeners will appreciate – be it an old artist/band or something that came out this week. You have to appreciate the music yourself – a good RJ should always listen or be familiar with the music first before playing it on his/her show – be it old or new. It is very important to always do your homework before going on air and presenting a show – do research, write a script, find the appropriate music and then share it on the airwaves.

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