Covent Garden Radio’s John Hicks, out of the heart of London, UK, talks to Jennifer Martin about the digital radio revolution, his radio stations, and the love of music.
JM: John, tell us a bit about your background in music and how you got started in radio? Are you also a musician?
JH: My passion is live music across all genres and, when I was invited many years ago to get involved, I saw internet radio as a means of sharing that passion. So it started as a hobby and grew from there. I have strayed into PR, management and promotions for performers but always came back to my first love, internet radio.
Sadly, I am not a musician. When I was in my early teens my dad offered me the choice of piano lessons or shorthand & typewriter lessons; as I wanted to be a journalist I chose the shorthand and typing which opened up my career opportunities in journalism and then the public service so it paid off. I have often regretted the decision as I would love to play an instrument but, upon reflection, I knew that I made the sensible choice! Besides, like having two left feet resulting in my dancing abilities being very restricted, I cannot see my co-ordination producing great music!
JM: What exactly is Covent Garden Radio?
JH: Covent Garden Radio is London’s new arts, entertainment, events and music radio station. It is intended for Londoners who want to a local station with a difference, for people across the UK coming to London wanting to know what is on offer (theatres, shows, dining and other entertainment), ex-patriates wanting to keep in touch with their home city and tourists from the across the globe planning to visit London. With our wide range of quality music I am sure that we will be a popular station.
JM: What kind of shows do you broadcast?
JH: We aim to broadcast music of every genre – from country (from David Lovell’s new releases, Colin Roake’s album releases, Lee Williams and his country lunch program through to the lovely Brigitte London’s Highwaywoman Radio Show and the Emporer Rosko’s Coast to Coast) through to Blues (with Mark Kerr, Terry Knott and the legendary Dan Ackroyd). During the day, we have easy listening of all genre.
UK readers will be as excited as I am that former BBC Radio One dee-jay Mike Read is joining the team to present a Saturday morning show. As a great Elvis fan, I am looking forward to our new three hour Elvis request show every Sunday lunchtime. A traditional English Sunday roast dinner with Elvis is something to look forward to for sure!
JM:I’m under the impression you work with many substations. How many stations do you represent? Are any terrestrial or are they all internet?
JH: I am very lucky to have been at the pioneering end of internet radio, dating back many years to when it was virtually unheard of. Lee Williams and I co-founded CMR Nashville Country Radio which is now the #1 country music radio station in Europe with a global influence. From there I went on to co-found UK Jazz Radio with Brian Soundy, a well-known jazz musician and broadcaster across Europe, which is now the #1 jazz radio station in Europe. Finally, Lee and I went on to found Radio UK International, a pop and variety internet music radio station catering for a 35+ age group.
In recent years, I have been working on developing community internet radio stations. This has been a unique experience because working with all parts of the community – young people, youth groups, schools and colleges, local Council, town centre regeneration partnerships, disability groups and chambers of commerce, for example – is fraught with difficulty. They all have a different agenda from one another – and schools have long summer breaks when they produce no shows!
I also offer businesses in-store radio via internet radio stations. This is great entertainment for their customers and is very affordable; for me, it’s just great fun putting the shows together!
JM: What is your vision for Covent Garden Radio?
JH: Eventually I would love to go digital and be more widely available but we have to prove the concept first, but confidence is high that we will become the number one radio station of choice for a wide range of people across the globe.
JM: How do people tune in? Can they also listen on Ipods, Ipads, etc? Do you have application software for that?
JH: The majority listen in through their PC but they can also listen on their mobile phones, Sony PlayStation and wi-fi radios. We have a free app download on our site and are in the process of developing a new one for our new website which launches over the next month or so.
JM: I know that in the U.S., Internet radio is growing rapidly. Do you see that as well in the U.K.?
JH: Aboslutely, all the evdience, both statistical and anecdotal, is very encouraging. In particular, the growth of “play again” facilities has been dramatic. As I say, I am really encouraged for the future. Having been in at the ground floor when it wasn’t fashionable it is a wonderful feeling to see the world catching up! The entry costs for amateurs wishing to share their passion for music with a global audience is very affordable.
JM: Anything else you’d like to mention?
JH: It is wonderful for me personally that I have been able to create a business out of a hobby. Covent Garden Radio is different from any other station I have been involved in because it is not just music with some of the best presenters from across the globe, there is also conversation about all the great cultural happenings in London.
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