Like any computer, a playout system can need rebooting at an awkward time. When that happened for Dublin’s Radio Nova, however, it launched an on-air vinyl resurgence.
On Jan. 6, 2022, Radio Nova launched “The Vinyl Vault,” foregoing digitized playback in favor of disk jockeys spinning platters. In Ireland, one in five albums purchased is on vinyl now, mirroring the resurgence in vinyl listening seen around the world.
“The idea actually came from a time we had to reboot our playout system during the day and, instead of going to CD one of our presenters plucked out a piece of vinyl. It was the same track as was scheduled, but he decided to play it from vinyl for the laugh,” said Radio Nova CEO Kevin Branigan. “When he announced he was about to play it off vinyl, there was an instant reaction.”
The station’s format is built around classic rock tunes from the 1960s and ’70s, along with guitar-based music up to the present day. Most of these songs were originally released on vinyl, so there is a natural connection between the music and the medium.
“Vinyl evokes special memories for people — although us breaking open ‘The Vinyl Vault’ is not just a nostalgic endeavor,” said Branigan. “Research shows that the main driving force behind this vinyl revival is actually Millennial and Gen Z consumers. … We wanted to have a laugh with a medium that is exciting, brings nostalgia along with interest from younger listeners and, above all, let’s us really showcase the unique music that we play on Radio Nova.”
Six times a day, during all dayparts, the station opens “The Vinyl Vault” to play a vinyl record. The segment is sponsored by a single advertiser, Des Kelly Interiors. Each night the station plays an entire album without interruption at midnight; on Sunday evenings, that album is played off vinyl.
Adding vinyl into the station’s regular rotation did not have a large effect on the station’s operations.
“We have always had vinyl capability in our studio used to broadcast our digital radio service, Nova Classic Rock,” said Branigan. “Since the new vinyl promotion, we have installed a turntable in the on-air studio.”
The station has two turntables across its three studios: a classic EMT 948 and newer Citronic PD-45 Ultima.
Branigan said adding vinyl to the studio playout mix did not cause any complications for the presenters or their Broadcast Radio Myriad playout system, “We pride ourselves on being live as much as we can so there is no issue. Our presenters mix in the vinyl as they broadcast.”
But there was some interesting interplay with the station’s audio processing. “Playing vinyl does not sit so well with modern audio processing,” said Branigan. “We use an Orban Optimod, and [the vinyl produced] some crackle and rumbles. We adjusted our Threshold slightly to compensate, but we like the crackles as it adds to the effect of playing the vinyl in the first instance.”
In Dublin city, county and commuter region, Radio Nova has an audience of about 177,000 listeners and Branigan said Radio Nova’s listeners love both the music they play and hearing it on vinyl.
“The feedback has been fantastic. People love hearing vinyl on air, for lots of reasons. It’s been one of our more successful and quirky initiatives,” he said.