This week we were greeted with the sad news that Phantom are to go through another round of redundancies and leave just three full time presenters. It will basically be left as a shell of a radio station and most of the original or interesting output will disappear at this point. For all intensive purposes, this is the end of Phantom as I knew and loved it, and yes, I did just use that word.
I’m not saying it was perfect or that I’m secretly a Kings of Leon or Oasis fan. There were 15,000 daily listeners to Phantom, and I was one of this motley crew. I listened to that station with a fast hand, waiting to skip away to Lyric or RTE1 when the Red Hot Chili Peppers or U2 were introduced (cutting edge alternative music if I’ve ever heard it!).
In August of 2012, the first round of redundancies hit Phantom, and in that cull we lost the wonderful Pearl from her Sunday Morning slot. She was possibly my favourite DJ on the airwaves at that point, and it hurt seeing her disappear from my Sunday morning routine.
As a friend recently said, a radio station earns its ratings in the daytime and its reputation at night, and this was still the case at Phantom. There were many shows that were still really good, playing quirky diverse sounds and emphasising the best of Irish music. The Richie and Richie show is very impressive. I remember happening upon a ‘Northern Soul’ night they had recently, which showed the depth and interest these guys had in music, and they were not alone with Nadine O’Regan’s great Saturday Morning Arts show, Derek Byrne and Cathal Funge, to name but a few. This was still a very interesting station, and was doing something different from its competitors. They achieved a huge amount for new Irish music, and its no shock that so many young bands have made the break through in recent years, and many will thank Phantom for playing their music before it was cool or profitable.
Many have blamed it for becoming too similar to its competitors over the last couple of years, and its daytime slot had lost its edge. The listening figures had fallen heavily from 30,000 to the afore mentioned 15,000, but the sad fact is that even its earlier incarnation as a clever, smart music station, it was not generating enough listeners to continue its existence. Is there a place for a music station in our small country playing exclusively quirky, off beat music on the national airwaves? Possibly not.They tried two business models, one as an exclusively indie station, playing whatever their DJ’s loved, and the other was a heavily play listed (during the day time at least) station playing main stream music with an edge, and neither worked for them.
I can’t see how the new station with just three DJ’s and a robo-jock can have any merit, and I’m sure its existence will be short lived from this point, with talk of a name change in the offing. We can tip the hat to something that was fun, interesting and diverse, and mourn its passing. Thank you Phantom, for the good times!