No one DJ is god in Irish radio business, says Universal

Apple Music has made FM radio ‘up our game’, says Today FM director

No single radio station in Ireland is "too powerful" in the eyes of the music business, while radio is still an important medium for industry revenue, according to Mark Crossingham, head of Universal Music Ireland.

Speaking at the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland’s ‘Radio – But Not as You Know It’ conference in Dublin, Crossingham said he felt “lucky” the Irish music radio sector was not as concentrated as it is in the UK, meaning there is no single playlist that can make or break artists.

"In the UK, it's all about BBC Radio 1, which is great if you get BBC Radio 1, but if you don't get BBC Radio 1, you're snookered really," he said. "I think it's great that one station here isn't too powerful."

In this market, it is more likely for a song to spread from one or two station playlists. Nor is it true that Irish artists don’t get a fair crack, he added.


“I’m very defensive of Irish radio. That whole thing about Irish radio not playing Irish music drives me mad,” he said, citing a recent top 100 airplay chart that showed a fifth of the tracks were by Irish artists.

‘Is God still a DJ?’

Crossingham was speaking on a panel where the question up for debate was “Is God still a DJ?”

The radio industry has been soul-searching about its role in the music business in the age of YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music.

Colm O'Sullivan, programme director for Today FM, said Apple Music (which includes digital station Beats 1) was "absolutely" a threat, but that its advent could be used to traditional FM radio's advantage too. "It makes us up our game," he said.

Asked about the heavy rotation of certain songs on radio, O’Sullivan said music policy was influenced by what the audience wanted.

“We play music from The Academic up to Calvin Harris . . . It’s important for us to play enough of a song for the audience to get it,” he said.

New artists, including Mullingar band The Academic, are supported on Irish radio, O’Sullivan said.

“We love to talk about new artists, particularly if they are Irish, because we have access to them. They can come in and they can give something back to the listeners.”

But Irish radio’s access to international musicians is a little more tricky due to time constraints, said Crossingham. For business reasons, their promotion schedules tend to focus on bigger markets than Ireland.

Still, when faced with a choice between live interviews on radio and performing on RTÉ's The Late Late Show, which seeks exclusivity, Universal is "more and more choosing radio promotion".

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics