RJ Melbin On Why We’ll Never Tune Out Of Radio

Video killed the radio star? Nope. Digital killed the radio star? Nope. Songs, news, entertainment, whenever we want and in whichever form we want, it’s all but a click away. Tuning into an entertainment source that proudly does not steer its direction with each new turn of technology may then seem redundant. However, the thriving radio industry is testament to the contrary. We can swipe up, HDR, live video all we want; but the charm of tweaking the radio into that precise frequency for your special show, breaking news, or your favourite cricketer taking a wicket, is not yet lost on the world. While it continues to rake in popularity points, it’s more than nostalgia that makes for the timeless magic of radio. And it was time for DSSC HQ to listen in closer. Enter RJ Melbin of FM 94.3 Radio One, who tuned into our quest for the secrets of this art that till date makes you listen up and take notice.

Hosting the Delhi Drive show from 5 pm to 10 pm (Monday to Friday), RJ Melbin has been a friend in need to all us Delhi dwellers. Rush hour traffic, night drive, or a lazy evening in, his playlist and razor sharp wit has punctuated many a sitch. Get him Delhi winters, red meat, and Get Lucky by Daft Punk ft. Pharrell Williams on speakers, and you’ll be his friend indeed. The man who likes his life uncomplicated and music “heart-full”, helps us unravel the evolution of radio; one frequency at a time.

Tell us a little about yourself, what made you choose radio as a career and how’s the journey been?

I’m an easy-going guy who likes the simple things in life. I try not to complicate my life and have realized that life is this massive wonderful opportunity just waiting for us to grab onto. At this stage, I’m just trying to become the best version of myself.

Now that my philosophical side is out there, let’s get to why I chose Radio. My stint started right out of college with AIR Chennai in 2005. After graduation I was confused about what I wanted to do in life, so instead of pursuing post-graduation like everyone else, I took a break to ‘find’ myself before jumping into another expensive proposition for my poor parents. It’s been 12 years and I’m apparently yet to find myself. The journey has had it’s ups and downs, but overall it’s been fantastic. Radio has given me a lot over the years. And just like every beautiful relationship we witness on the big screen, I’ve taken it for granted many times but am also grateful to it at the same time.

Co-existing with stations dedicated to Hindi music – how easy or difficult is it to create and sustain an identity among this milieu?

To be honest, not so hard. For anyone looking for informative and engaging content along with the latest international chart toppers, there is only one option. Our audience may be niche and not as large as some of the Hindi stations, but listening to us is a conscious decision by them. Also, a smaller percentage of a completely attentive and engaged audience in a metro like Delhi is a massive number and possible target audience for our clients.

You’ve worked in the industry for over 10 years. According to you how has it evolved over time?

When FM radio was introduced in the early 2000’s it targeted a well informed, educated, and hip audience, who knew their music and pop culture. Infact most of the stations started off in English and slowly realised that to get the numbers they have to get more local. So over the years stations became regional and mass. Though it started off as a very entertaining product for a small group of people, it evolved into being more accessible and has literally spread out to every nook and corner of the country. Video will never kill the radio star, because hearing without seeing will always be a more ‘wholesome’ experience than seeing without hearing. You will always enjoy listening to the radio, but you will never enjoy watching TV without the audio. And no, silent movies don’t count!

Do you think digital media has helped radio grow or does it diminish the charm associated with the art?

Yes to both. It has helped radio grow, it compliments the work of radio stations and it’s always great to have digital engagement, it brings you closer to your audience. Also, yes, the ‘mystery’ associated with radio personalities is no longer there, but it’s obviously unavoidable. There was a time when VJs were really big on music channels. These days, thanks to digital media, you no longer need a VJ to be the bridge between you and your favourite song or celebrity. So yeah things are changing fast and all you can do is find a way to stay relevant. RJs have managed to hold their own in that regard as compared to VJs, who are almost non-existent at the moment.

There has been a tremendous change in how advertising is approached on radio, from direct ads to the subtle promotions through show hosts. How does this impact the listener?       

The whole point is to never tune out. Period. These subtle promotions by hosts make sure a product or service can be sold in a more fun and engaging way. It obviously comes at a premium, but it’s worth it to the advertiser. When the host talks about your product in a seamless way and keeps the audience’s attention, it’s a sure shot way to get the message across and not risk a listener tuning out when the direct ads play out.

When you work for an organisation with a reach across 7 cities, creative liberty is slightly restricted. While the potential for sales and revenue increases, you can sometimes feel shortchanged as an artist or a personality. However, we still manage to create a fantastic balance between the client’s and our creative requirements.

Radio has thrived over the years, despite new forms of entertainment. What contributes to its  continual popularity?

But since everything is so easily accessible, that ‘special’ feeling you had when you consumed it is no longer there. What’s always available for free is always a bit too cheap to be special. There is still something special about going for a long drive and tuning into an Eagles track on the radio, or sitting by yourself on a park bench and tuning into your favourite FM channel (using a smartphone) and watching the squirrels.

So yes, while technology will constantly make everything easier and less special, everybody’s odd craving for that special feeling or the simplicity of how things used to be will always keep a medium like radio relevant and enjoyable.

What is the one music genre that you love and would like to hear more of on the radio?

I would love to hear a lot more disco and some 90’s pop and R&B. I’ve never been a sucker for just one particular genre of music, I like ‘tasteful’ music. Music that makes you sing along without warning, music that sends a message to your brain to get your feet moving, music that makes you smile for no apparent reason. Genre-less and opinion-less, but just heart-full.

 

And so you have it. No tech trend can kill the radio star, because some things simply tug at your heart so, the fingers move involuntarily to tune in.

 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this feature are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of DSSC & its affiliates.

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