“Every market has different types of market leaders,” begins Frank Zammit, Vibe FM’s Station Director. “There are those who tend to play it safe and can afford to, because of their brand equity. Then, there are those that like to have a bit more fun.”
It may come as no surprise that Vibe, he says, forms part of the latter. “It doesn’t mean that we’re not running a business or trying to be profitable, but if there’s one thing I don’t want Vibe to be, it’s predictable. While others may want to stick to a formula, we want to be the people keeping everyone on their toes, wondering what we’re going to do next,” he smiles.
That’s not to say that the station hasn’t paid it’s dues – on the contrary, Frank says, the stellar team behind it has certainly done the leg work to get them to where they are today. “Vibe started from the ground up, and without any backing or affiliation with another company or organisation, the station has stood on its own feet from day one,” he explains, reflecting on its early days in 2009, when it was first set up by the late Justin Chircop and Terry Farrugia. “That, in itself, is already a massive achievement.”
From the outset, Vibe always found a way of riding the wave, evolving in tandem with the industry. “At first, the station was very heavy on music choice, but when there was a shift to personality radio we quickly jumped onto that, and immediately saw others following. We were very quick to adapt to what the market needed, and this has helped us to stay relevant,” says Frank, affirming that because of this, the station enjoys a solid business foundation.
“Nowadays we are able to take certain risks, although the truth is that those risks are calculated, and are taken because that is what fits the brand – and ultimately, that is what the role of a disrupter is… to continue to innovate, and perhaps even push others to do so,” he notes, adding that Vibe has always identified itself as a disrupter against the backdrop of an ever-changing media landscape.
“You can’t just sit behind a microphone and broadcast. We need to evolve, and we can do so in a way that continues to define our role as disrupter. This doesn’t mean that we won’t do ‘safe’ things from time to time, but we are also aiming to do more creative, energetic things that will get people’s attention.”
This is central to Frank’s vision as Station Director. With over 20 years of broadcasting experience under his belt, he admits to being “bitten by the media bug” at a young age, and humbly admits, “I started off when I was 16, and learned a lot by jumping right in. I’ve been very lucky to be at the right place at the right time a number of times. From my international VFX work to being approached to join Vibe, everything happened at the right time.”
Crediting his exposure to foreign workflows with helping him think creatively within his role today, his ambitious mindset is one that drives him to consistently push for growth.
“Sometimes, doing enough is not enough – you need to aspire to grow. Do we want to keep doing what we’ve been doing, and potentially plateau or find ourselves taking a step backwards, or do we want to keep pushing ourselves, and find a way to evolve? I’ve worked with some very inspiring people, and that mindset is something I’m bringing to Vibe,” he says, admitting that it is certainly a culture change, and it’s not easy to tell a team of people who have been successful thus far that they need to adapt the way they think.
Joining the Vibe team full-time in 2018, first assisting the CEO before taking on the role of Station Manager and eventually Station Director, Frank says he was very lucky to have taken over a company that was already financially sound. “I was not dealing with survival, so I could focus on evolving it and helping it grow.”
To do this, he began by assessing the station’s revenue streams. “Radio is a finite resource, and there is a certain amount of space that can be sold, so if you want to generate more income, there are two options: you can put your prices up or tap into different revenue streams,” he explains, noting that this works hand-in-hand with how Vibe has evolved in the past.
Looking back on its history, Frank recalls how, when it was originally set up, DJs were very secondary, and the focus was on playing as much music as possible. Then, when music streaming platforms gave people the opportunity to listen to music all day, the role of radio changed. “It became about creating the local context, and giving people something you could not find on streaming platforms – that’s how personality radio came about. What we are facing now with an increasingly digital world is even more competition for people’s attention,” he notes.
The way to overcome this, Frank says, is something Vibe has always done well. Adapting.
“The media game has always been about fighting for people’s attention, especially when you are in entertainment. So how do you stay relevant? Radio will continue to be a key player, but nowadays, a radio DJ is expected to be more than just a great voice. You need to have a personality, and you also need to have a presence on social media. In the past, you wouldn’t know what a radio DJ looked like, but nowadays, nuts as it sounds, radio also needs a visual element.”
For this reason, “visual radio” is the ultimate aim of the next phase of the station’s story. “If radio wants to stay alive, video is going to be what saves it, which is why I always say, cliche as it sounds, that video did not kill the radio star.”
Looking ahead at his plans for Vibe in 2023, Frank also lists investing in new premises and equipment, as well as a bigger workforce, as key to his agenda.
“The plan includes having new additions to the team – key people that will continue to help us drive the brand forward. These are not to replace the current players, but to continue to strengthen what is already a very strong team,” he affirms, adding that, as the team grows, so does the need for more space and better resources.
“We have been working on new studios for the past two years, and we’re finally starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel,” he reveals, emphasising the importance of equipping the team with the latest technology to be able to compete with local and foreign disrupters who challenge the status quo. “This is what I hope Vibe will continue to do – I genuinely hope that we never get comfortable.”
Acknowledging the exceptional backing he’s received in this regard, he continues, “the company owners and shareholders fully endorse the vision and I feel privileged to have been trusted by them to spearhead this next phase. They have encouraged me to dream big, even if it comes at a cost – because they too share the ambition to see Vibe reach new heights!”
Looking positively toward the horizon, Frank’s only frustration, he admits, is wanting to get there quickly – with that not always being possible! Despite this, he smiles, “I’m seeing big steps in the right direction, and with the right people and the right investment in the right places, I see a very bright future for Vibe.”
Photos by Inigo Taylor / Shot on location at Farsons Brewhouse
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