Radio stars rule the airwaves

SINGAPORE - Kiss92 and Hot FM91.3 are gaining more listeners, thanks in part to two DJs manning the decks in an age where music is easily available over the Internet, radio still has its fans.

English-language radio stations Kiss92 and Hot FM91.3, both owned by SPH UnionWorks, have seen a rise in listenership, according to the latest Nielsen Radio Diary Survey released last month.

Kiss92, which targets women aged 30 to 50, pulled in 419,000 listeners a week, up 177 per cent from 151,000 last September when it launched. It is now the No. 3 English-language radio station in Singapore, behind MediaCorp's Class 95 and Gold 90.5FM.

Hot FM91.3, which now has 331,000 listeners, had 20,000 more people tuning in, a 6 per cent rise from 311,000 last year. It is now the most popular English- language station for listeners under 20, and ranks fourth overall.

It beat competitor 987FM, which also plays contemporary hit music. The MediaCorp station has 304,000 listeners and is the fifth most popular English-language radio station here.

Hot FM91.3's achievement is noteworthy because its young fan base can be influential, says Mr Jamie Meldrum, 43, programme director for the two SPH UnionWorks stations.

"While the under-20s may not have the disposable income of older listeners, they certainly have influence - just ask any parent how much he spends on his kids."

He adds that the success of Kiss92 and Hot FM91.3 can be attributed to the people behind the stations, especially the personalities.

Kiss92's Maddy Barber, 39, for instance, is a familiar voice who began working in radio in the mid-1990s. Meanwhile, Hot FM91.3's Charmaine Yee, 26, is popular among younger radio listeners, thanks to her hits countdown show on weeknights.

SundayLife! catches up with the two to find out more about the people behind the voices. MADDY BARBER

Maddy Barber has a colourful resume - she has been a property agent in Thailand, acted in a home-grown movie and television series and worked as a software consultant in India, among other things.

Most folks these days probably know her best as the chirpy and chatty voice on Kiss92's morning show.

"This is the best time I've ever had, career-wise," says the 39-year-old DJ, who is also the station's assistant programme director. "I'm enjoying radio the way I never did before. I'm in a station that I believe in, I have great colleagues and superb bosses... Everything is aligned for the first time."

She co-hosts In The Morning with presenters Jason Johnson and Arnold Gay, which airs Mondays to Fridays from 6 to 10am.

Long-time radio listeners will remember her from her days as a DJ for MediaCorp's Perfect 10 - now known as 987FM - in the mid-1990s. In 1998, she joined a competitor Top 40s station, Heart 91.3, now called Hot FM91.3 and owned by SPH UnionWorks.

Known then as Madeline or Maddy Tan, she also starred in retro home- grown movie Forever Fever in 1998 and Spin, a teen drama on Channel 5, in 1999.

She left Singapore in 2001 to work as a radio software consultant in India for a year before moving to Thailand, where she spent more than six years as a programme director for Virgin Radio, as well as in the real estate business.

There, she also married Englishman Wez Barber, 35, in 2005 and came back to Singapore four years later. He is a director in an IT firm. The couple have a seven-year-old daughter, Alicia. Maddy Barber also has an older daughter Elizabeth, 16.

She worked briefly as a property agent here before returning to her first love, by joining Hot FM91.3, in 2009. She made the switch to Kiss92 when it started last September. Both stations come under SPH UnionWorks.

Getting up before dawn to get ready for the show might be difficult sometimes but it has its advantages, she says. "When you wake up at 4am, your day is rather long because you finish a lot earlier. I finish by noon so I have the rest of the day to do what I want."

Even though she reveals her family has plans to move to England or France in the future, Barber says she is relishing her time on air.

"Radio DJs are like fine wine - you really get better as you age. You have more life experiences and it gives you more interesting things to talk about. I can engage the listeners better."

Her style has definitely changed over the years, especially now that she has to share the microphone with two co-hosts.

"I had to learn to listen more and that's something which I think most DJs have a problem with," she says. "Being a DJ means you love to talk, right? But when you are thrown into a show with co-hosts, you have to learn to slow down and interact more. It's like a dance and you have to learn the rhythm."


Hot FM91.3 DJ Charmaine Yee does not just connect with her young listeners over the airwaves. As the host of its Hot 30 Countdown show, which draws mostly teenagers, she is also constantly communicating with them via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the good old SMS.

The show airs Mondays to Fridays from 7.30pm to midnight.

"That's the beauty of being on radio now. You get feedback instantly. You know when people are listening to you and you know what they feel," says the chirpy 26-year-old Singaporean.

She also keeps the show lively by holding games and contests through social media. One of the most popular segments on her show is Where In The World?!, where her listeners have to guess where the pictures posted on her Instagram account were taken.

She believes the interactivity is what helped the station become the most popular among listeners aged below 20.

Yee, who studied at CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School, also takes pride in the fact that her countdown show is quick to play the latest hit songs. "The minute we get new music, bam, it's got to be out.

We cannot be a second later because the kids are on it and we have to be just as fast."

While she is popular among today's teen listeners, her first foray into local radio saw her presenting to an older crowd.

At 22, she started out as a part-time weekend DJ on MediaCorp's classic hits radio station, Gold 90.5FM. "Let's put it this way, on Gold 90.5FM, I was telling the listeners about where to take their kids on weekends. Now on Hot FM91.3, I'm telling the kids where they can go party over the weekend."

Yee, who graduated from the University of Melbourne with a double degree in media and communications and international relations, was asked to try out for Hot FM91.3 in 2011 and offered the afternoon show slot. She began hosting the nightly countdown show in January this year.

She says she used to be keen on being a TV newsreader but later decided that her bubbly personality was more suited for radio.

Despite having chalked up five years of experience in the radio industry here, she still feels a buzz whenever she goes on air.

"Every time I go on air, there is a certain adrenaline rush when I turn on the microphone," says Yee, who is single. "The day that you hit the button and don't feel anything, no adrenaline, you should reconsider your job."

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