Media Profile: Rocking after all these years - Chris Parry, managing director, Xfm

Next week the radio industry hands out its ’Oscars’ at the Sony Awards with prizes for the best breakfast show, best documentary and all the usual stuff. There won’t be an award for most tenacious attempt to get a radio station on air, but if there was, Xfm would walk off with it.

Next week the radio industry hands out its ’Oscars’ at the Sony

Awards with prizes for the best breakfast show, best documentary and all

the usual stuff. There won’t be an award for most tenacious attempt to

get a radio station on air, but if there was, Xfm would walk off with

it.



By the time the station starts broadcasting on the London airwaves in

September, it will have been six years in the planning and bidding. It

began as a restricted service licence covering the Reading Festival.

Bids for full licences failed twice but the station’s managing director,

Chris Parry refused to give up battering on the door of the Radio

Authority and now it’s paid off.



’Xfm is an alternative rock station,’ says Parry. ’That means

alternative rock in all its guises. We will include acts like The

Prodigy and Underworld alongside Sneaker Pimps and Oasis. We’ll probably

take most of our audience from Radio 1, Capital and Virgin but we may

get a few from Heart and Kiss 100.’



He predicts an estimated weekly reach of 500,000 listeners, which

compares with Kiss 100 which currently draws in 817,000 weekly listeners

(RAJAR, Quarter 4 1996). Parry also expects a youthful audience with a

core between 18 and 24. ’Our listeners will be a very disparate group,

from students and graduates to those with an outlaw attitude,’ he says.

’The two things that unite them are attitude and music.’



As well as music, Xfm will have a vibrant speech style, and although

there will be no non-music programmes apart from the news, Parry

believes the station should take a robust line on issues of the day. As

for the news itself, he is looking to work with a news provider, but

plans to employ a handful of journalists and researchers to ensure that

everything gets that Xfm spin.



’I’m very keen for PR agencies to get in touch with us about our

non-music output,’ he says. ’Our listeners love fringe events, whether

it be theatre, comedy, films, books or bands. We need to let them know

what’s going on so we want to get in the loop right away. It’s no good

us starting to get stuff in September. We need to get it now.’



He is not naming his presenters yet and, although Radio 1 stalwarts

Steve Lamacq and Mary Anne Hobbs got their first breaks on Xfm’s

restricted service licences, Parry doesn’t expect to haul in that many

big names.



He’d prefer to build names from scratch. That’s just the sort of plan

you’d expect from the man who built The Cure up from an unsigned band to

global superstars.



Although he has dedicated his career to music, Parry does try to have a

life in his spare time. For one thing, he’s a keen sailor. He’s been

round the world in a yacht and crossed the Atlantic twice. It’s been,

er, quite eventful. ’I was out diving by the Galapagos Islands and I

followed some seal cubs into an underwater cave,’ he explains. ’I’d just

nosed in when this huge male seal charged at me, protecting his young. I

had to back flip out of there and swim for all I was worth. Compared to

that, starting a radio station will be quite relaxing.’



HIGHLIGHTS

1974

International manager, Phonogram Records

1975

A&R manager, Polydor Records

1978

Managing director, Fiction Records

1997

Managing director, Xfm



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