Imaging In 2019 – Alastair Boyes

Welcome to the “Imaging In 2019 Series” – a blog series that interviews inspiring producers and great creators of Station Sound.

This week’s features an amazing talent from New Zealand and who currently works for IMGR, based out of London.

I’ve been friends with Alastair for a few years now and I always admire his stance on the future of Radio and Radio Imaging and his ability to constantly strive to do things differently. He has a strong list of previous positions and continues to create amazing audio on a daily basis!

He currently heads up IMGR’s Country Service and it’s definitely a new sound for the popular Radio format. But, how does he do it – and how does he do things differently? 

1. How did you get started in the business and tell us about your role at IMGR?

Usually these things get answered ‘I always knew I wanted to be a star’, or ‘I was obsessed with the radio as a kid’. 

So my journey is a bit different. 

I was 18, living at home, unemployed in a small town. Had finished high school, and wasn’t sure where I was going to go with life. My Ma said ‘either get a job, or you’re paying rent’. The irony wasn’t lost on me, and the next day I found a 6 month radio course in the newspaper. Turns out I wasn’t totally crap at that, and 10 years later, I’m still playing with radio. 

IMGR is a Production Service (and a pretty good one, if I do say so myself), and I spend most of my days working on the Country and Classic Hits formats – but make those cool wee branded intros for BBC Radio 1 on the reg too (not to mention a whole host of other custom stuff that’s always coming at me). Oh, and I’m trying to gain Insta-fame on our IMGR Instagram. So y’all should follow us – Because there’s tips and tricks on there all the time!

2. What's your opinion on the current state of play with regards to Radio Imaging?

This is something I could write a book on. I’ll try and keep it short, because attention spans, and oh look is that a squirrel? 

For me it all comes down to “why did people start listening to the radio in the first place”? 
It’s about communicating a message. It’s about information, entertainment, and company.  

But we live in a hyper-connected landscape now. Instagram stories, Tik Tok, Twitch – All these media that is giving us unrivalled access to celebs, influencers, and strangers. 

How does that apply to Radio Imaging? 
For years we’ve had a style of Voice Over which is ‘talking at an audience’, instead of ‘talking with the audience’. We’ve been too busy sounding ‘cool’, and we’ve forgotten how to communicate with the audience directly. I listen to Imaging the world over, and if I don’t get the sense that it carries the personality of the station, I switch off immediately. 

1. I think we need to remove some of the polish, break the fourth wall, and join in the conversation with our audience. Especially the younger audiences that are turning to streaming services in droves. We need to become their friends, and occupy a place in their heads and hearts. And quickly, before we end up with a large demographic bypassing us. And for F, please use the audiences language! 

2. Drop endless, or pointless tag-lines – “Your number one hit music station?”. Nope. That’s Spotify for me. What’s your unique offering to the audience that they can’t get anywhere else? What’s the place you want to occupy in your listeners head? That should be your tagline – not some recycled line that isn’t actually correct anymore. 

3. We’re a human media. The most human media out there. We literally communicate direct to our audience, which other audio services just can’t do. So use your station’s personality to inform, entertain, keep company, and above all reinforce why your audience should stay with you.

4. Stop sounding like voice overs! Would you rather listen to an infomercial, or your best friend? Exactly. Drop your guard, and sound more like a conversation. No, a REAL conversation. The ‘Radio Voice’ is dead. Bury it forever please, kthnx. 

3. In 2019, what do you think is more important - creativity or technical ability (or both)

Look, when people ask this, I think ‘what do you class as creativity or technical’? Creativity often means writing – and I feel like I’ve always existed in this camp. But to me, technical ability uses far more creativity than just plonking words on a page. With writing, you just keep writing and rewriting until it feels like it makes some sort of sense to you. Anyone can take the time to be creative that way. 
But my friends with strong technical abilities can imagine what something’s gonna sound like, before they even start – and to me, that’s WAY more creative!

But if I take it back – and ask: What’s more important ‘the message, or the delivery’? To me, the message every time.

4. What was the best tip you know now, that’d you wish you knew when starting out?

EASY: Ask for help. 
No one bites in this industry, and no one is going to think you’re an idiot.
Because we’re all idiots, really. 

5. You are very well versed having worked in multiple formats. What's your favourite and tell us why?

Was my favourite format to work on! Not because I’m a huge sports maniac, but the freedom and creativity in that format is huge. 
It’s a format that knows why it exists, who its audience is, and isn’t afraid to have fun.

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