Wednesday, 30 March 2022

The big money in radio

The BIG money in radio 

Having been in and around the radio business for so many years now, I have become pretty immune to the huge valuations put on radio companies by their owners, and by some predators who take over stations, often on little more than a whim.  Radio stations have changed hands for literally millions, often hundreds of millions, of pounds and dollars over the years.  

There are so many factors involved and very often these have little to do with the station's earnings, as would happen in normal business. Perceived value is a nebulous figure and can be many things to different people and be wide of market value.

The USA is of course the largest commercial radio market in the world, worth around $22 billion, with annual sales around $1.6bn.  After a few years of near stagnation (only 1.1% annualised growth from 2017-2021) IBIS are projecting 4.4% growth in the market in 2022. (LINK).  From those two numbers, we see that American investors value radio stations at about 14 times their revenues on average, and this is borne out by sales of both small and major market stations. 

Triton bought by iHeart

Even I was surprised to hear that TRITON has just become a part of the iHeart Media radio conglomerate in a $230 million deal to buy it from Scripps. Triton's streaming and podcast measuring company and ad-placing technology is now used all over the world and the purchase further strengthens iHeart's position as America's biggest radio operator owning 858 radio stations.

(Triton has also today completed purchase of MSIMA, the biggest group of Indonesian stations).

I remember the days when commercial radio in the UK was pretty new and totally hamstrung by red tape and archaic rules, often imposed by regulators who hadn't a clue what really happened in the wacky world of wireless. Despite most stations' inability to turn a profit, much larger companies would still come along and offer untold millions to take over stations that apparently could not turn a profit at all. Even Capital Radio, the UK's biggest station and undisputed 'market leader' was loss-making for several years, but has seen its value soar to hundreds of millions of pounds as it snapped up small stations around the UK.

Radio stations are usually valued on a basis of their FMV - Fair Market Valuation, which is driven by several factors, but mostly on a combination of (1) population covered by its signal,  called its 'stick value', (2) its cash flow or EBITDA,  and (3) historically on the station's gross revenues.  A station that is profitable will generally be valued on a multiple of its operating income which is known as BCF (Broadcast Cash Flow),  a modified EBITDA figure.

A new metric is now being used in radio station valuations, which can only be described as 'perceived value'. It takes into consideration what the truly huge audio distribution companies will pay to increase their market share. Amazon, Apple and Spotify all have huge war chests of hundreds fo millions of dollars, ready to snap up any audio distributor that may fit into their portfolio and help them enhance their business.  Radio stations are increasingly coming under the magnifying glass. Will this see radio station values increase more rapidly?

It's certainly a good time to be in radio, despite the wobbles at the bottom of the business.

Paul Rusling 
30 March 2022

Tuesday, 15 March 2022

Music Industry's best year ever.

Cash on the piano keys
Record-breaking year 

 for the music industry 

Vinyl sales soar with other music

I was astounded to read this week that 2021 was the record industry's best ever year in terms of sales.  Just a few dollars short of $15 BILLION, thats up a whopping 23% on last year.  All that time locked down has obviously made people address their home music collections and start filling in the gaps they have wanted to for many years?

All major formats of music grew versus the prior year with the exception of digital downloads. Paid subscriptions continued to be the biggest growth driver, resulting in the sixth consecutive year of growth for music revenues.

Bear in mind that musicians have been in lockdown too - no live gigs, so they are presumably earning more than ever before?  Some have home studios now, which helps and means there has been a continuing flow of new music available, although its in 'back catalogue' that most growth has taken place.  (Information accounts for some of the growth; taking that into account means that 1999 just shades last year).

The advance in digital sources of music has had some effect too of course; streaming and downloads have matured tremendously in recent years, but there is more competition now from screen driven entertainment (YouTube, TV, Til-Tok and games)  though music companies still benefit from those too. 

Streaming accounts for many formats; regular paid subscriptions, advertising-supported music streaming services, digital and customized radio, and licenses for music on Facebook, etc.  All formats together show a growth of 24% in 2021 to total $12.4 billion, which is 83% of total revenues. 
TikTok revenues for music used are now included too. 

Vinyl continues to grow and now accounts for  $1 billion of sales. Both vinyl and CD both grew last year - that last time that happened was back in the 90s!  Vinyl products accounted for 63% of sales last year, an incredible revival. Considering that most record stores were close most of the year thats even more remarkable. 

 Last year both vinyl and CD sales made the same amounts, with 

Figures provided by RIAA. 

Thursday, 18 November 2021

updated Radio Caroline Bible out now

Radio Caroline Bible

 updated edition is out 

Published just in time for Christmas, the Radio Caroline Bible iwas published on the 2nd November.  It has the very latest news from the Radio Caroline camp including a picture of the station's new AM transmitter, due on the air later this week. This will boost Caroline's output power four fold, bringing the 'Sound of a Nation' to a wider audience on the AM band. 

The updated edition brings the story right up to date, as of Autumn 2021. It now has a technical appendix describing the equipment of Caroline’s ships and the land based facilities.  The pagination is now up to 558 pages.

The story is packed with disasters, boardings, excitement and the usual copious amounts of skull-duggery covering events from Radio Caroline’s four eras. Told by many of the key people who made Radio Caroline happen, this book gives a platform to the station managers, secretaries, and others who are usually in the shadows. Their unique aspects help put the flesh on the true story of what is the world’s best known radio ship.

Unique content & many ‘never published before’ photos among the 350 illustrations. It’s chronologically correct, fully indexed and will surely become a real collector’s item. The book’s gorgeous full-colour cover shows the ship in all her magnificence with her huge tower clawing high into the sky.

- an amazing Christmas gift!

 This is an item that will be treasured for many years by any Radio Caroline fan

They say that every home should have a Holy Bible
Every radio fan’s home needs a Radio Caroline Bible
They should read it every day. (Sir Hans Knot, radio historian.)

Full details of this incredible publication are on the Radio Caroline Bible’s own web site.

Book Cover and Poster

The book is unique in that it is a solidly made, hand-finished, hardback. It also has a superb picture of the Ross Revenge on its front cover, rather than the traditional non-colour library style solid cover. "Fotoflyte took such a fabulous picture of the Ross Revenge with the Olau Brittania ferry cruising pas and we had it available to us at high resolution, so the chance of remembering the Ross Revenge, in all her magnificence,  with one of her friends sailing pas, for size comparison, made it I'm possible to resist," said Paul. 

The shot was taken in the second week of august, 1987, just after the UK increased its Territorial Waters to 12 miles, making the former and protected anchorage in the Knock Deep inside UK jurisdiction. This meant the ship had to moved out to a mooring near the South Falls Head, a more exposed spot and closer to shipping lanes.  

It was the wild weather two months later that weakened the tower on the Ross Revenge, causing it to fall into the sea a couple of weeks later. It was also the heavy seas at that location that tore the Ross Revenge from her anchor four years later, and there her up onto the Goodwin Sands.

Radio Caroline Bible poster
The Ross Revenge in 1987
with the Olau Britannia passing

When first published, we produced some A3 posters of the cover to promote the book and so many have asked for copies of that, we have now had a small batch specially printed. These are now on sale for a limited period at the Radio Caroline Bible website. They are digitally printed at high resolution on art paper and look superb on any office of den wall.

Available now for just £3.90  

(Including postage, folded) to UK addresses only.

Monday, 15 November 2021


2021 album


is a record breaker!

The new album released by superstars ABBA in Autumn 2021 has rapidly become the new century's  fasting selling album on vinyl.  Sales of  the Voyage album are  made up mainly physical sales (as opposed to downloads) reflecting their likely audience demographics.  89.53% of the sales are for physical 'items' rather than downloads or other streaming.   

The group’s first album in four decades, has debuted at No.1 with sales of 203,909 - the biggest weekly sale since Ed Sheeran’s success in March 2017. 

The vinyl sales figures of just under 30,000 ( 29,891) copies easily beat the previous record this century of 24478 held by the Arctic Monkeys, for their Tranquility Base Hotel release over three years ago. ABBA's  Voyage album has also notched up sales of  148,471 copies on CD, and has even shifted 4,205 copies on cassette!

With 10 No.1 albums to their name, only seven other acts have notched up more UK chart-toppers than ABBA: The Beatles, Elvis, Rolling Stones, Robbie Williams, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and David Bowie. The No.1 for Voyage also marks ABBA’s 58th total week as UK No.1 on the albums chart. Its a position only surpassed by Elvis Presley and the Beatles. 

Sales are expected to surge again after the release of a Deluxe box set package, comprising a CD with a Poster, a pack of  Art Cards and sheets of ABBA  Stickers. Ideal for any ABBA fan - More details of that package can be had by clicking HERE

The tracks on Voyage are -   
1. I Still Have Faith In You
2. When You Danced With Me
3. Little Things
4. Dont Shut Me Down
5. Just A Notion
6. I Can Be That Woman
7. Keep An Eye On Dan
8. Bumble Bee
9. No Doubt About It
10. Ode To Freedom

UK Audience figures

UK  Radio Audience Figures  

The latest listening figures for radio listening in the UK contained a few surprises. 

Commercial radio is reaching 36.8 million people across the UK, the biggest audience it has ever recorded, according to the  data. RAJAR has modified its way of collating and publicising listening  but the basic principles of REACH and audience SHARE still prevail. The total combined audience for all UK radio (BBC and commercial) is now the highest level recorded at 49.5m people. That represents 89% of the UK adult population.


  • Digital listening surges to 65.8% of all radio listening
  • New stations (Times, Capital Dance, Boom, etc) attracting hundreds of thousands of listeners.
  • DAB now the predominant platform for radio listening accounting for 43% of all listening compared to 34.2% for AM/FM
  • New digital stations deliver strong performances
  • Digital listening now accounts for the majority of in car listening at 53%

Digital listening has surged past 60% to now account for 65.8% – or almost two-thirds – of all radio listening, according to new data for Q3 2021 released by RAJAR today (28 October 2021). The data release marks RAJAR’s return to publication with a new modified methodology having been suspended for 18 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the new data, listening via DAB is now the most popular means of all radio listening accounting for 43% of all listening (and 65% of digital listening), exceeding listening via AM/FM which accounts for 34.2% of listening. Listening via online and apps accounts for 18.1% of all listening (and 27.5% of digital listening) and listening via DTV accounts for 4.7% of all listening (and 7.2% of digital listening).

The new data shows that 41 million adults, or 74% of the population aged 15+, now tune into digital radio every week, and 69% claim to own or have access to a DAB radio.

The strong performance of digital platforms has been boosted by the launch of a number of new digital stations in the last 18 months, which receive their first RAJAR results today,  including Times Radio with a reach of 637,000 listeners; Capital DANCE with a reach of 287,000 listeners; and Boom Radio with a reach of 233,000 listeners.

These stations join a host of established digital-only stations which continue to perform strongly, including  BBC 6 Music with 2.687 million listeners, and KISSTORY, the most popular commercial digital-only station, with 2.255 million listeners.  BBC Radio 4 Extra is the third most popular with 2.036 million listeners, followed by BBC Radio 5 live sports extra with 1.697 million listeners. Other stations in the top 10 are  digital-only stations Absolute 80s (1.690 million listeners); Virgin Radio (1.631 million listeners); and Heart 80s(1.493 million listeners).

INCAR RADIO LISTENING.   46.6% of listening in the car is to DAB while   AM/FM listening is 33.1%,. Online/apps listening in-car accounting for only 6.4% of all in car listening.

Another survey, released by the World DAB Forum the second week in November, showed that 89% of car owners across Europe expect a new vehicle to include the latest form of in-car entertainment, such as Apple's CarPlay.  80% of those who have a new vehicles claim to use it.  This follows an EU law making it mandatory for all new cars to include some form of digital radio in the dashboard. The EU directive is not being complied with, although the UK, where the DAB lobby is strongest have done so.

Friday, 8 February 2019

558 AM, Radio's sea of controversy?

558 AM 

- radio's hotbed of controversy!

558 is a  much coveted readio frequency at the bottom of the Medium Wave Band. For those whose radio dials are marked in Metres, then 558 kHz is the same as 538 Metres.  Originally the ITU allocated the channel to stations in Egypt, Switzerland and Finland; in those days it was 557kHz, or 539 metres.

The channel came to prominence in Western Europe in September 1972 when the muchj loved North Sea station, Radio Veronica moved to it, after a high power Swiss mouth made it impossible to hear its programmes on 192.

After 12 years on 192 meters, at the top of the AM band, Radio  Veronica moved to 538 on BBC Radio One's fifth birthday at the end of September in 1972. It was also the day that transmissions were heard from Radio Caroline after a four year hiatus. The new frequency gave Veronica coverage well into neighbouring countries, including Belgium and the UK.

 The Battle Commences
All was fine until the following year when the UK's IBA decided to use the channel for Capital Radio in London. although only low power, this made reception of Veron ica difficult over a big chunk of its area.

Radio Veronica closed in 1974 and later,  Radio Caroline tried using the frequency for a short time, but the mast on the Mi Amigo was inadequate for the type of antenna they had in the mid 70s.  The IBA had meanwhile relinquished its use of 558KHz, whose long wavelength gave very wide area coverage.  The BBC thought it might be useful for one of their "local" stations and began a lengthy 'clearance' process to have it assigned to them for use in Essex, even though they had no firm plans to open such a station at that time.

In early 1984 another offshore radio station, LASER, opened up on 558 from an anchorage close to radio caroline, just off the mouth of the Thames. Laser 558 achieved huge coverage from the radio ship the Communicator, despite using only about 12 kilowatts power.

Laser 558 was hugely successful; accoridng to the official listener figures (RAJAR it attracted just under 5 million listeners in the UK alone, and probably more than that on the near continent, inc ourntriues like Hoilland, Blegium and France.  You can read more about Laser's success in  Laser Radio Programming, a book I published in 2017.  Click Here for details.

When Laser's crew decided to sail the ship into the UK,  Radio Caroline quickly moved onto the frequency.  They operated successfully on it for a few years; it probabbly gave them the widest coverage they had ever had, despite only a modest few kilowatts of power.

In 1990 the UK authorities tried to force Radio Caroline off the frequency and awarded it to a new multi-ethnic station, Spectrum Radio.  Eventually Radio Caroline capitulated as they had only low power available and a hurriedly built partial aerial system.

Spectrum continued on 558 KHz until 2017 when the frequency was taken over by Kelvin McKenzie, who operated TalkSport for many years.  He launched a new station called LOVESPORT on 558 in March 2018.  Depsite its name (and licence conditions) most of the output is general speech and very little of the content is sport.  Many believe it IS a sport station however, and this certainly is a deterrent to many prospective listeners who dont want to hear non-stop sport commentaries and sport.

Kelvin clearly now thinks that the future for Lovesport is DAB and online and he has decided to relinquish the frequwncy.  He has reached agreement with a Punjabi station which will see Lovesport move to 1584, at the opposite end of the Medium Wave dial (and with a much smaller footprint).  Panjab Radio meanwhile will take over 558 kHz with a capital-wide station in Punjabi and English.   The move required approval from OFCOM who are now seeking the views of affected listeners.


Why has Lovesport decided to abandon 
the coveted 558 frequency?  

Perhaps not enough listeners have chosen to access Lovesport on 558 Medium Wave? If so, the situation bears some careful examination.  Less than a year's operations seems a very short period to arrive at a decision to shut off the use of one platform for any radio station.

The market for local sport coverage in London is not at all crowded.  In the commercial radio sector, only national station TalkSport makes any attempt to cover sport.  It also competes with BBC Radio Five Live, but neither of these stations cater for local sport interest and must cover the whole of the UK.  The BBC national station is operated from its new base in Manchester.
BBC Radio london pays only marginal lip service to sport in the capital - so LovePSort has a wide open market to serve and ought to be able to attract an audience.

In similar markets, sport radio stations do very well.  In New York, the leading station is WFAN in terms of advertising turnover (its $76m is far higher than any UK station, even national ones).  WFAN is also down at the bottom end of the AM band, and despite AM being regarded as 'old hat' by many, it is still capable of producing handsome returns for its investors.

All things considered, one can only assume that the main reasons for the rapid take off that Kelvin had expected for LoveSport haven't materialised.  That however, must be a result of the dire lack of promotion by LoveSport for the 558 frequency and, perhaps, the word 'sport' being in the name which probably deters the majority of the potential audience.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

"Stay out of Court" guide for Radio station staff

Stay out of court

with this "more than useful" 
new book 

"Essential reading if you work in radio"
Paul Rusling 

Many people running radio stations think their biggest legal danger comes from journalists, and what they might put into a news bulletin.   The reality is, however that it is their presenters and DJs who are the biggest potential danger to the station - they are the ones more likely to get a radio station into trouble. 
“At least journalists usually have some legal training in college and read off pre-prepared scripts. However presenters ad lib their links and are untrained in media law," says Paul Chantler.  "It is no coincidence that the two biggest legal catastrophes in commercial radio in the last 20 years were caused by presenters rather than journalists.
“The next big legal problem in radio will probably be caused by Johnny Jock on Radio Nowhere’s breakfast show commenting on allegations he read on Twitter about the local mayor – Very dangerous.”
Paul Chantler has worked as a journalist, presenter, producer and PD in British radio for over 30 years.  His co-author, Paul Hollins, who currently presents on Smooth Radio, has worked on stations all over the UK including Key 103, BRMB, Capital London and Heart London. 
This is an easy-to-understand guide to the laws of defamation and contempt for radio broadcasters, podcasters and social media users.  It is  illustrated with lots of real-life examples of when things have gone wrong and what to do to ensure you... keep it legal.   At £ 9.99 it is FAR cheaper than a lwyer, and way cheaper than the cost of going to court. 

Your can find KEEP IT LEGAL at Amazon 

- full details HERE.

For more useful books on radio - Programming and Production, 
see the World of Radio web pages about Radio Books