Thursday 27 January 2011

Capital FM vs BBC Radio 1

NB these are my personal views and nothing to do with my employer

Ok, so excuse the title of this post. Couldn't resist.

Some thoughts on the new Capital FM, which is of course touted as a national competitor to BBC Radio 1.

I've been listening to Capital a fair amount since it went national at the start of January. The main thing to say is that it's incredibly different to Radio 1. So different that I'm not sure you can really compare, although you can certainly contrast. They are both music radio stations, but that's about it. They are so far apart in terms of content I'm struggling to see them as competitors.

For a start, Capital has an incredibly consistent sound, much more consistent than Radio 1. By that I mean that whenever you flick through the radio dial and get to Capital, you can tell it's Capital within about 3 seconds. Partly it's the high compression level being used, but mainly because the musical range is extremely narrow, which means it has very consistent mood and tonal quality. Radio 1 is not frightened of mixing up genres and styles, which means you're much more likely to hear a song you don't know or like, whereas if you like the type of music Capital plays, it's pretty unlikely you'll hear a song you don't like. Then again, you're much more likely to discover a new song or artist you like on Radio 1 than Capital.

Compare My Radio confirms what my listening suggested, that Capital is playing a small number of tracks on very high rotation levels. It's most-played song as I write this - "Cooler Than Me" by Mike Posner - has been played 156 times in the last 30 days, which is well over twice the number of plays the top song on Radio 1 has received ("Me and You" by Nero). Compare My Radio also shows that Capital has only played 195 unique songs, compared to Radio 1's 1,195.

I'm yet to hear a song being played live on Capital, compared to the large number of songs either recorded live or actually being played live on Radio 1, and not just in the evening. Of course, not everyone likes hearing live music on the radio, especially if it doesn't sound like the recorded version or the artist is unknown.

The other main difference I've noticed is the lack of speech content on Capital. Apart from the speech in the adverts, there's very little DJ talk, and what there is tends to be bland, upbeat but simple links between songs. Flick across to Radio 1 however, and you're very likely to hear either DJ's with "big" personalities (eg Moyles, Mills, Lowe, Grimshaw etc), being funny or interviewing artists, news bulletins, reviews or discussion. Try it for yourself now - switch over to Capital and see how often you hear speech, then do the same for Radio 1.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact for many people this is a good thing. Capital is a very consistent service where you know what you're going to get, and get it you will whenever you tune in. My daughter (10) loves the kind of commercial urban music that Capital focusses on (Rihanna, Cee Lo Green, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, Usher, Tinie Tempah etc), and now she's discovered the station insists on having it on. In fact, it's the first time she's ever really shown much interest in radio. So Capital has turned her on to radio. She loves the fact that whenever she turns it on, she's almost guaranteed to know the song being played, and it's very likely to be something she likes. Radio 1 is too eclectic for her, and she doesn't want to listen to DJ's talking or interviewing bands she hasn't heard of.

So, Capital and Radio 1, two music radio stations that are so far apart that I find it hard to think of them as competitors. Are there really many people who would admit to loving both stations, or are they in fact targeting such different demographics and tastes that they don't compete, they actually complement each other?

The other interesting thought is this: if Radio 1 were to heavily target a much younger audience, as some in the industry would like, would it in fact be forced to sound much more like Capital?


  1. Bruno Marks?! Its MARRS! What a 'dad' thing to do!

  2. Actually, it's Bruno Mars, not Marrs. Or Marks.

  3. most of the records in the charts are crap ayway,i dont want to hear them more.How can this station compete with Radio 1 lol.It's
    Radio 1 ,everyone listens to it and always will do.

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