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Sublime FM Takes Different Approach

Offering a “fresh jazzy sound,” the private station is forging its place on the Dutch radio landscape

UTRECHT, Netherlands — A new website, “lime”-fresh station-imaging and promising audience figures are the icing on the cake for Sublime FM’s third anniversary.

Sublime FM rose from the ashes of Arrow Jazz FM (part of the Arrow Classic Rock group) and started broadcasting on Nov. 4, 2012. The station, now owned by Exceed Jazz BV, was awarded a “jazz” broadcast license, but since its launch, has focused on taking its programming beyond just jazz, adding a fusion mix of soul, Latin, lounge and funk to the musical content.

With an almost no-talk lineup, the station stands out in the Dutch radio landscape. Sublime FM only features one hosted show, “Dutch Jazz” on Tuesdays between 10 and 11 p.m., presented by Rolf Delfos and Bart Wirtz.

Even Sublime FM’s coffee cups highlight
the station’s new imaging.

“We noticed that the nonstop musical format brings in extra listeners,” said Stefan Wayper, Sublime FM CEO. “Hosted radio shows are quite expensive and, in our case even put off part of the audience.” Wayper added that, during Christmas holiday week, the station broadcast completely advertising-free as a gift to its audience.

Sublime FM targets “cultural creative” listeners: the higher educated 25- to 49-age-bracket with an interest in arts and culture. “We want to keep close pace with our target audience — one of our staffers is continuously doing research to define who’s listening and how to get more people to tune into Sublime FM,” said Angela van Bragt, online marketer with Sublime FM.

“We’ve stepped away from listeners over the age of 65 and are focusing on a younger public instead,” continued Wayper. “We’ve noticed that the younger audience appreciates our sound, with core artists like Stevie Wonder, Adele, Amy Winehouse and John Legend.”

Wayper explained that Sublime FM is currently broadening its musical database with a substantial amount of content that comprises soul, funk and jazz tracks.

One of the ways the station is consolidating and broadening its audience is by organizing concerts and participating in various events. Van Bragt cited the example of the recent Jonathan Jeremiah Sublime FM showcase, staged at the Utrecht HiFi Klubben store.

The Sublime FM Team includes, l to r, Angela van Bragt,
online marketing manager; Merijn Tiemessen, music director;
Peggy de Bruin, graphic designer; Martien Groenendijk, audio engineer;
Stefan Wayper, CEO; Madeline Spronk, project manager; Thomas de
Bruin, editor; Michel van den Wijngaard, finance manager; Sandra
Kolodzinskyi, editor in chief; and Joost Brands, sound engineer.

“We invited the audience via our website and social media. It was an intimate session of the British soul singer-songwriter and perfectly matched our profile,” she said.

With the “Let’s lime things up!” campaign, backed by a promotional campaign on the station’s Web pages, advertisements on the Discovery TV Channel, in newspapers and on billboards located on main motorways in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, Sublime FM invites the Dutch to “paint the country green.”

It’s more than a slogan or baseline, explains van Bragt. “We’ve also adapted our station logo, integrating the vibrant color. We want the public to discover what we do, resulting in more listeners.”

Sublime FM has also successfully hosted notable sporting events such as the July 2015 “Tour de France” departure from Utrecht with over 10,000 visitors, and served as a media partner for the 2014 World Hockey Championships.

The station’s news program, “Nieuws van de Vooruitgang” (“News of Progress”) is aired every hour between 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. and focuses on climate, economy, health and sustainability.

“This is one of the station’s unique selling points,” van Bragt continues. “It’s an innovative element that has grown since the station’s launch and now has a dedicated website (, and loyal audience. We recently covered the Paris COP 21 climate summit.” The program also airs on Sublime FM’s second DAB+ channel.

The station set up a temporary on-air broadcast studio at
the Utrecht Central train station two years ago.
One year ago, Sublime FM left its site in the Utrecht Conclusion Tower and moved to the city’s Jaarbeurs exhibition center, a 100,000 square-meter complex attracting some 3 million visitors to more than 7,000 events per year.

“We are located in a prominent spot near the entrance hall,” said van Bragt. “With some of the events focusing on the same audience we target, Sublime FM has grown to be a solid media partner for trade fairs such as ‘Living & Design’ and ‘Trademart’.”

The Jaarbeurs location includes the station’s on-air studio, two offices, a meeting room and a technical equipment room/editing studio.

In the same move, Sublime FM slimmed down its staff from 20 to 11. “We have become more ‘lean and green,’ both in terms of administration and on-air staff,” said Wayper, who has been with Sublime FM since day one as commercial manager. “We decided to invest our money in media marketing, sales and technical equipment.”

Sublime FM’s studio configuration features two DHD 52/SX consoles as core elements. The studio was designed by Sublime FM and built with the support of Media Utilities and M&I Broadcast service.

“The initial set up comprised one DHD 52/SX mixer,” said Martien Groenendijk, the station’s chief engineer. “With the launch of DAB+ and the legal obligation to launch a second program, we decided to add a second DHD 52/SXconsole. Located in the central engine room, this console serves as the main control desk — the on-air studio and outside broadcasts from other locations are routed to that console — and as the DAB+ content desk.”

Initially Sublime FM used (the former Arrow Jazz FM’s) Dalet 5.1 playout system, but the station now uses Omniplayer software from M&I Broadcast Services.

“When M&I, the Dutch supplier of Dalet products, developed the Omniplayer, based on the Dalet database, we decided to go ahead with that software,” said Groenendijk. “The Dalet 5.1 hadn’t been upgraded for some time and the Omniplayer combination allowed us to use all the new tools. Sublime FM was the first station in The Netherlands to use Omniplayer around the clock.”

A Close-up of Sublime FM’s On-Air Production Desk
Featuring Røde Mics

The on-air studio is further equipped with Genelec 8040 monitors, three Rødemics and beyerdynamic dt 770 pro headphones. “Programs like ‘Dutch Jazz’ and the ‘Nieuws van de Vooruitgang’ are recorded in the central equipment room,” said Groenendijk. “In the same room, we also have HD servers for central storage, a Cisco router network switch, a Telos Nx1 telephone hybrid and a Telos Z/IP One broadcast codec.”

Groenendijk opted for Omnia.9 audio processors, allowing uncompressed signal transfer to the transmitters. “We have the best sound processing in the country, and we’re still the only station using this setup,” he claimed.

“This was essential in building Sublime FM’s open and relaxed sound. That’s where we make the difference — we prefer to have a distinct and at the same time very ‘open’ output, making it attractive for our listeners. Today, three years after we decided on this approach, we see that some of our competitors have adopted a more ‘relaxed’ type of signal processing.”

Sublime FM’s audio content is routed via an Audio TX fiber-optic connection to Hilversum’s Media Gateway transmitter park. “The signal is then distributed to our 14 terrestrial FM transmitters, the Dutch KPN cable network, Digitenne digital radio and TV and, since September 2015, DAB+,” said Groenendijk.

“Apart from an additional mixing console, we stepped into DAB+ without extra investments. The Omnia.9’s HD+ signal can be used for the DAB+ broadcasts. We will turn on our 15th FM transmitter, located in Arnhem, in mid-2016.”

Sublime FM airs its “fresh jazzy sounds” on its first DAB+ channel. “Broadcasters are obligated to operate two DAB+ channels,” explained Wayper. “We’re still negotiating with author and neighboring rights’ associations BUMA-Sena, to get clearance on musical content for our second channel. At present, the second DAB+ channel broadcasts speech-only content with the Nieuws van de Vooruitgang program, pending an agreement on the rates for music broadcasts.”

With an increasing market share in the B2B target group and a weekly reach of 375,000 listeners (source: GFK Intomart Sept 2015), Sublime FM has a steady position in the Dutch radio market.

According to Wayper, changes and format adaptations with other stations may have a positive impact on Sublime FM’s audience ratings.

“The fact that (government operated) jazz and soul station Radio 6 stopped its broadcasts on Jan. 1and that 3FM is moving toward more alternative music are opportunities for us,” he said.

“We hope that the Dutch radio listener is stepping away from talk radio and considers Sublime FM a nice alternative. This will help us make the station an economically viable player on the Dutch radio landscape.”

Marc Maes reports on the industry for Radio World from Antwerp, Belgium.