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Why radio and films share a symbiotic relationship

Films are the mainstay of Indian entertainment. Music is the mainstay of films. And radio is the mainstay of music! We usually say that radio and music are two sides of the same coin. But this can easily be extended to make films, music and radio, the three equal sides of an equilateral triangle!

While film stars bring glamour to  a film, music is its main marketing weapon and who can popularise music better than radio stations? As soon as music is launched – which is usually 4 to 6 weeks before a film releases – radio stations take the music to millions of people across the country. TV may be a bigger medium than radio (Phase-III will change that!), but when it comes to music, there is nothing else even remotely close to radio.

Music channels on TV are niche, attracting few people and that too for very small periods of time. In contrast, movie channels on TV are big. The biggest movie channels get as much as 100 group rating points (GRPs) a week, making them the second biggest genre after general entertainment channel (GECs). But music channels manage no more than 12 to 15 GRPs. In contrast, radio listenership is un-fragmented, with the top radio stations reaching out to more than a hundred million listeners and with listenership as high as three hours a day. Not surprisingly, most music is released first on radio these days.

In fact, capturing the music space by radio broadcasters has led most music TV channels to at least partially switch over to GEC-like programming. Channel V has very little music programming left nowadays and MTV India has likewise reduced its music programming to 25 per cent or so.

There is another important reason why radio and films go hand-in-hand. When it comes to building intrigue around a film, making the characters of the film lovable and proximate, and escalating the excitement and anticipation for the film, radio is the go-to medium. Rarely do film stars and directors open up to the people as candidly as they do on a chat with an expert jock. Spilling out the gossip, demolishing myths about relationships or building them and sharing the secret source of box office success all happens best in the warm and cozy studios of a radio station!

And how can one forget the interactivity that radio offers? Again, no other medium can offer the kind of instantaneous connectivity between stars and their fans. Callers call in by the hundreds the moment they know their favourite stars are in the studios. Stars get to share moments with their fans in the ‘meet-and-greet’ organised by radio stations. And what makes this interactivity even more special is that it can be organised in so many towns all across India and internationally. There is no substitute for radio in a film
promotion calendar.

There’s a new trend these days – radio stations are organising music launch events and PR opportunities. Most of the big films launch the music inside radio stations with the stars interacting with the press there as well. For film producers and directors, radio stations have become their second homes.

However, given the fragmented nature of media, it is usually a better practice for films to work out media calendars that include all media. With radio at the centre of the plan, the best filmmakers add TV for its national reach, newspapers for their immediacy especially around the time of a film’s release, and the Internet for its ‘any time and anywhere access’. Together, the plan helps promote films all over. But if there is one medium that is at the centre of this plan, it is radio... given its versatility, reach and the trust the medium commands from its listeners.

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