The On-Air Studio of Qmusic Netherlands
VILVOORDE, Belgium — Fifteen years after Q-Music hit the airwaves, the broadcaster decided to rebrand.
With a new tagline, slight name change, program makeover, updated imaging and logo, the Dutch-language radio station holds, both in the Flemish part of Belgium and in the Netherlands, the second position in audience ratings.
Q-Music (part of Medialaan Media group, which also owns radio station JOE fm and TV channels VTM, 2BE, Vitaya, VTMKZOOM and Jim) was launched in November 2001, broadcasting as a national commercial radio station for the Belgian Flemish community.
The station, offering a hit music format, soon proved to be a solid competitor in the Flemish radio landscape, pulling audience away from the public broadcaster’s radio channels such as Radio Donna (now MNM) and StuBru.
Today, the rebranded Qmusic (http://qmusic.be/) holds the second spot in the radio ratings in Flanders with a market share of 14.69 percent (source CIM August 2015).
The station made its way to the Netherlands in August 2005, after Belgium-based Persgroep acquired the radio frequencies of Noordzee FM and Talpa Radio. Like in Belgium, the broadcaster’s “feel-good” format met with increasing audience ratings, climbing from a four percent increase in the first year to almost 10 percent in the August 2015 figures. Today, Qmusic (http://qmusic.nl/) holds the second position in the country’s rankings.
Qmusic Program Director
“We’re doing well in the ratings, but that doesn’t keep us from thinking about our evolution,” said Tom Klerkx, program director for Qmusic and JOE fm. “Today’s audience is different from the listeners that discovered us 15 years ago. This rebranding, both in Belgium and in the Netherlands, is a logical next step and emphasizes that the audience is key for us.”
Asof Aug. 31, the station’s name dropped the hyphen — from Q-Music to Qmusic. Simultaneously, the station’s new tagline, “You make us Q,” replaced the 15 year-old adage “Q is good for you.”
“In the early days, we were really broadcasting programs to our listeners,” explained Klerkx. “That has changed, and audience interaction has become a crucial element in what we do. Whereas before, we received postcards or telephone calls, we now have other channels like social media and discussion platforms,” he said.
“It’s obvious that the audience wants to contribute to what we do and we appreciate it. That’s why we put the ‘You’ first in our new tagline — it’s all about the Qmusic listener,”said Klerkx. “You make us Q’ aims to enhance the audience’s involvement by reinforcing the station’s social media team, allowing a constant dialog with the Q-listener.”
Rebranding a radio station that’s leading the ratings pack may seem risky, and Klerkx admits that “the project is the biggest challenge in his professional career,” adding that he is well aware that radio listeners stick to their daily habits and know exactly what to expect on their radio. “On TV, changing a few typical programs can mean rebranding, for radio, it’s about the whole package.”
To reinforce its rebranding operation, the station, places cutting edge technology at the forefront.
“Today people want to see radio happen — like the concerts our Belgian station staged at the Qmusic Beach House last summer — we had a film crew on site, but radio remains in the lead,” said Klerkx.
“Radio will continue to be our core business, but we create extra opportunities without wanting to become a TV station.”
Qmusic Netherlands morning team Mattie Valk, left and Wietze De Jager lead Dutch commuters through the morning drive
The broadcaster gave its studios a facelift by redecorating them to fit the new imaging. “During the summer holidays, we aired for two months from our seaside mobile studio, which came in very handy and allowed us to renovate the facilities in Vilvoorde,” Klerkx added. The Dutch Qmusic studios were also overhauled during the summer.
As part of the studio upgrade, the Belgian station implemented a Dalet Brio playout system, serving as an interface between Qmusic’s Dalet radio suite and the Dalet video suite. “The big challenge is the difference between radio and TV,” said Stefaan Hessens, Dalet administrator for Qmusic.
“Getting sound and image in perfect synchronization was the target.”
Convinced that the video image (on Qmusic’s website, app and cable TV channel) should not affect the radio on-air process, Hessens decided that the audio file would be the basis to work from.
“Video clips may differ from radio-edit versions and we wanted to achieve maximum frame accuracy and lip-sync. The only solution was to have a team of video editors reediting video clips to fit the radio-edits for use in the Dalet video suite playout system,” continued Hessens.
“The new Dalet Radio Follow playout software serves as an interface between the audio and video signal. Dalet has, together with us, adapted their Radio Follow system to fit Qmusic’s format, including the radio mix edits. Today, Qmusic is the world’s first station running this Dalet configuration.” The Dutch Qmusic continues to use the OmniPlayer playout system.
Qmusic Belgium morning team Dorothee and Maarten
heat up Qmusic’s airwaves.
Presenters Heidi van Tielen and Sam de Bruyn
in the studio.
As for the station’s presenters in Belgium, Sven Ornelis, Qmusic’s morning drive presenter since day one, left the sunrise DJ seat to become assistant program director. The station’s popular morning show is now hosted by Maarten Vancoillie and Dorothee Dauwe. Ornelis continues on the air between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. and Sam De Bruyn has joined Qmusic after eight years with the public station, StuBru.
“We have gone for a mix of steady Qmusic values with fresh presenters like Maarten and Dorothee plus some newcomers,” explained Klerkx. “Since we started with the Q-Academy in 2006, this has become a valuable breeding ground for new on-air staff. Today, we have seven Qmusic presenters who started their radio career at Q-Academy.”
Klerkx is attentive to the changing habits of the station’s listeners and factors this in to its programming strategy. “A hit is no longer based on record sales — other channels and platforms like streaming and YouTube views have to be taken into account when you decide to include a track in the playlist.”
Overall, he believes that the transition in both Belgium and the Netherlands has been positive. “There may be some cultural differences between the Flemish and the Dutch, but both stations continue to make radio with a upbeat attitude,” Klerkx said.
“We’re targeting the young, fresh and active, between the ages of 18 and 34. People who are just starting their career or looking for a job, and whose glass is half full.” he concluded.
Marc Maes reports on the industry for Radio World from Antwerp, Belgium.