VILVOORDE, Belgium — The plan to launch a new radio station dates back from 2017, when Kevin Moens, music director with Joe, and a group of radio creatives came up with the idea.
“We felt we were missing something,” Moens said. “Both Qmusic and Joe have well-defined formats, but we couldn’t find a ‘guitar-focused’ station on the Flemish radio scene — part of the audience was left in the cold.”
The idea initially faced some criticism. “A third FM station for our media group was not the option, there was no room in the existing frequency plan — and streaming the signal was not enough,” Moens explained. “But gradually, the idea to serve a new segment alongside Joe and Qmusic became reality.”
When, in 2018, DPG Media decided to fully go ahead with DAB+, and with Alain Claes as head of the group’s innovation department, opportunities for new stations were created. “We launched the new Joe channels and DAB+ also became a facilitator for a new station,” said Moens.
“We wanted something novel — and Willy became the group’s first digital-only station, broadcasting via DAB+, streaming and the Radioplayer platform,” he said.
“Willy was part of a business plan,” added Claes. “This has to be seen as a long-term investment and although we offer a modest program today, the new station has received a lot of enthusiasm from advertisers because it offers a new potential audience market. With DAB+ tripling its penetration here, we are confident in Willy’s future.”
Willy is complementary to Qmusic and Joe. With the tagline “Music Matters,” the new station targets the “music lovers” audience bracket. “It’s all about music and people talking about it,” continued Moens, who is Willy’s music director.
The station invited a cast of music and media personalities to host its Friday program roster. Musicians like Triggerfinger’s Ruben Block, television director Tim van Aelst and presenter Sofie Engelen received “carte blanche.”
Moens added that the only prerequisite is that “they are passionate about music and their playlist includes a guitar segment.” The rest of the week, Willy offers a no speech music format. Friday night’s “Free Willy” show is the platform for bands, interviews and album presentations.
Although Willy wasn’t planned when Joe and Qmusic moved to the Sound Park studio landscape, the new station benefits from the future-proofed structure.
“To be honest, when we planned the studios, we knew new activities would be coming our way,” said Alain Claes. “In-house production of commercials and jingles, podcasts, micro-podcasts — they all require studio space and today, it’s nice to see that we have the capacity.”
Willy broadcasts from one of Sound Park’s studios, which the broadcaster build this summer. The station makes use of a DHD RX2 console, Dalet Galaxy playout system, Neumann TLM102 mics and a Technics SL1200 turntable.