Radio Imaging Explained
What is radio imaging
Radio imaging is the term used to describe pre-recorded audio that promotes a radio station and possibly other key information such as a presenter or the name of a show. These can be played between songs, spoken content or around ad breaks. There are many other terms that can describe radio imaging, these include radio sweepers, idents, IDs, stabs, stings, jingles and station sound.
The crowded radio dial means that stations need to have a clear identifiable sound to distinguish themselves from the competition. Big brands invest a lot of money and expertise to create a unique radio imaging package. Larger groups with many imaging producers create a brand style guide so their is a consistent sound.
Most music stations stick to using one male and/or one female voiceover. This ensures consistency. Many voiceovers are signed up on a market exclusive basis to ensure that their voice isn’t heard on competitor radio stations.
Stations with very clear branding pick a small collection of radio imaging effects and stick to them. In effect they create their own FX palette and they only use a limited set of swooshes, hits, and tones.
A sonic logo can be a sequence of notes that is either sung or played. One of the most famous and recognisable non radio station sonic logos is the Nokia ringtone. This shows the value of creating a clean and easily identifiable sonic identity. Some stations use imaging effects to create a sonic logo – in effect a non musical logo.
For radio imaging to be at its most effective it has to compliment the general sound or feel of the radio station. For example, easy listening music stations are not likely to use hard imaging FX such as hits, crashes or high impact FX as it will not work between the songs.
Each station has a “target audience”, so it’s important to use words and language that their demographic uses and understands. As a contrast, BBC Radio 1 and BBC Local Radio target younger and older audiences respectively. To have an emotional connection with their target audience these stations will script trails and idents with their listener in mind. For example, Radio 1 audiences will talk about selfies more than an the average BBC Local Radio listener. Using the right language for the stations target audience is often overlooked by new and inexperienced radio imaging producers.
Many stations and brands use a pre-set template in their audio editors which use the same compression, eq, reverb and delay settings. Many also have mastering settings enabling each piece of imaging to have the same on air tone, feel. Think of it as audio polish.