Behind the scenes of the 5FM 5 Drive Heritage Tour
Planning a radio road trip is no small feat. It takes a commitment to awesome content, an A-team with a solid track record, a deep understanding of what listeners want, innovative technology, and the ability to think on your feet — or a set of wheels, so to speak.
Picture provided. The 5 FM 5 Drive team in Mossel Bay at a desalination plant during the heritage tour
Planning for 5FM’s 2022 5 Drive Heritage Tour began approximately four months before the tires hit the tarmac, with a vision to travel across SA, find the most amazing people and places SA has to offer – no matter where they are – and to share that with the rest of the country, while finding new and innovative ways to push the boundaries of quality broadcasting.
“It wasn’t our first rodeo and I’m sure it won’t be our last! We like to find things that can’t be done…and then do them. It’s part of our DNA. “At the start of this journey, we had over 100 outside shows (OB) under our belt, many with the show’s former producer, now program director, Michael Bossenger,” the 5 Drive host explains, Nick Hamman.
“As recently as May 2022, our current producer, Mike Bower, and I traveled to Zimbabwe and Zambia for Africa Month, with nothing more than a laptop, a sound card and a set. microphones and it worked like a charm,” he adds.
“It all comes down to planning everything down to the smallest detail, drawing heavily on previous years’ experiences shared by our staff, using all the resources at our disposal and making each year’s tour bigger and better than the previous years,” says Bower.
He explains that a big part of planning is knowing how things can go well and how they can increase levels of entertainment and engagement.
“But we also need to think about anything that can go wrong and put in place a process to address it, especially with the ever-present risk of load shedding and its massive impact on communications networks across South Africa,” says -he.
In one of the cities, for example, the team had to deal with a power cut for three hours, resulting in a very unstable 3G connection.
“We took it in their stride and came up with a plan – using a set of battery-powered connections, out-of-the-box content and audio produced on the fly. We aired what turned out to be an extremely fun, interesting and engaging radio show,” says Bower.
In terms of personnel, equipment and technology, the team travels in a large van, with a Suzuki-sponsored chase car as backup, and consists of Nick Hamman, Nadia Romanos on News, Jude van Wyk on Sport and Bibi Mbangula on trafficking.
Behind the scenes, Mike Bower is the show’s producer and logistics liaison. Audiovisual editor extraordinaire Dale Wolf is part of the crew’s camera crew.
Each team member travels with a laptop, connected smartphone and headphones. The on-air team connects to the 5FM studio in Auckland Park via an external soundcard mixer, which houses four microphones and five headphone outputs. The signal is sent, via a laptop using a 4G connection – either via Wi-Fi or mobile hotspot – to the studio.
“The system we use is an extremely versatile delivery mode. This mobility gives us the ability to go places that no Comrex-based OB van can,” says Bower.
However, the show’s unique content flow creates logistical factors that must be resolved well in advance.
The team has a limited time to travel, check into the accommodation, capture the content, pack it up, and get set up for the show. Carefully choosing the feature-based audio to be captured is in itself a very focused and intensive process.
The end goal of all of this remains the same: to be resolutely listener-centric.
While pushing the boundaries is their mantra, their main goal remains to keep an extremely diverse set of listeners glued to their radio sets.
“From the person stuck in traffic on the N1 who just wants the hits, news and traffic like any other day, to the person who would have packed up and joined us on the tour, who wants to experience it with us, and anyone in between,” says Bower.
This means anticipating what they want and finding the middle ground in terms of balanced content.
The 5 Drive Heritage Tour will run until September 30, stopping in all nine provinces, with a total of 20 consecutive outdoor broadcasts. Listeners can follow the tour on air, online, on all social media channels, as well as through the 5FM app, available for iOS and Android.