By Jabulile Mbatha

The beginning of this year witness the appointment of the CEO of Classic FM, Lyndon Johnston, who brought transformation to the station. Classic 1027 will be 22 years this year and has seen remarkable changes in the last eighteen months particularly in the Gauteng region.

At today’s Radio Days Africa 2019 session, Johnston expanded on what it meant to be “rebuilding a classic”. Classic FM has gone through various processes of re-branding, re-thinking and re-launching which was the subject of his address. Upon being appointed as a CEO, he admits to knowing very little about classical music as his expertise laid mostly in radio. Prior to the changes, the station had a predominately white audience and music that a much older generation resonated with.

According to Johnston, the radio station was in need of structural reframing something fundamental to its transformation. This step essentially meant pushing the boundaries, modernizing their sound and re-programming.

He highlighted the importance of incorporating a youthful element to keep the station alive, fresh and gain traction with a broader audience in order to diversify post-apartheid. “who better understands an audience than someone within that same demographic”. Johnston added.

With a new sound on air, they also went through the process of re-branding, adding that when something is taken away from people who have a strong connection with the item, they experience a sense of loss, therefore, their station felt the need to create something that they could marry the old logo with. 

The new strategy provided a gender shift with 76% female and a 49% black audience base. They also partnered with the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra Company to educate and provide opportunities for talented individuals to attract and appeal more to the younger audience.

Johnston concluded by touching on how they focused on working with their strengths to implement the changes by applying commercial radio principles and creating a new team with deep musical knowledge and strong personalities.

Edited by: Bridget Lepere