Exploring Music

A branding and activation project focused on turning a long-standing radio program into an interactive online experience, strengthening and growing the listenership and audience engagement.

Dmitry Sandal, Laurence Minsky, Steve Robinson, Tony Macaluso, Alena Tsimis, Erin Walgamuth

In July of 2012, the I Imagine team combined their technology-savvy with WFMT’s passion for classical music to create a fresh perspective of an old favorite. From concept to execution, the team developed Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin, a subscription-based, music-streaming website, and helped achieve its yearly membership goal within three months of launching.

The project was designed to achieve four objectives:

  • Increase engagement of current listeners of Exploring Music, as well as grow its audience through a new outlet for the show
  • Allow users to stream their favorite programs 24/7 through an intuitive, user-friendly website that extends the Exploring Music brand
  • Become a resource for classical music students, as well as others interested in the genre, by developing an interactive system for research into classical music
  • Build revenue by driving new membership registrations

Despite the radio show having more than 400,000 listeners, there was not a platform that allowed listeners to play back shows they had missed. After sending out an email campaign that garnered a nearly 50% response rate, Exploring Music’s executive producer Steve Robinson reached out to I Imagine to answer the call of thousands of listeners who wanted to stream their favorite compositions on-demand.

We decided our best approach to achieving each objective would be to first develop a brand positioning for Exploring Music. Starting with foundational workshops, we worked with the WFMT team to learn how they perceive Exploring Music, as well as how they believe their listeners perceive Exploring Music.

Then, we developed a brand foundation, including a brand essence (Home-Spun Sophistication), a positioning statement, verbal and visual personalities, color usage, and more. To get there, we utilized the email survey and social media to gather information about Exploring Music fans. We looked at the profiles of fans who follow Exploring Music on Facebook, learning demographic information and what they say about Exploring Music. From there, we developed personas of the target audience, which varied from students and university professors, to music enthusiasts and composers. Because of the range, we decided there should be three membership levels in order to address the usage needs—and wants—of each group.

With the foundation established, we moved to designing and developing the website, which included developing a strategic platform for creating the program and strategies to overcome the legal and technical issues that come along with streaming musical compositions.

With search engine marketing techniques in place, design completed, and testing concluded, the new Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin website launched on May 6, 2013. As part of the program, I Imagine also helped in getting the word out about the new website.

Exploring Music
Exploring Music
Exploring Music
Exploring Music
The reaction to the new website was exceptional:
“We’re all completely bowled over by how robust the response has been. And there isn’t any evidence that it will be slowing down soon.”
— S.R. | Executive Producer, Exploring Music & General Manager, WFMT & WFMT 98.7 FM

“Your show has helped open my mind and heart to this world of music. Every show I hear confirms my place in music and gives me new ideas for where I’d like to go with it in the future. I grew up with classical music as a child and always held it in my heart, but I didn’t have the confidence to be a good student (or a good violinist).”
—C.A. | Exploring Music User

The initiative resulted in exceeding goals by more than 160%. In just six weeks, Exploring Music saw 300 new memberships and 3,858 engaged visitors. And within three months of launching, the website accomplished its yearlong goal of 1,000 new members. Additionally, 10% of those who signed up had never heard the radio show before. Some highlights:

  • Exploring Music is the only by-subscription show online in public broadcasting
  • Exploring Music brought classical music to new audience
  • Large educational companies are now in the process of making the show available to schools and libraries nationwide
  • Exploring Music became a source of education to local communities to provide access to high schools kids that otherwise would not be able to get access to classical music education
  • It’s offered to teachers via Mash Plant—a digital classroom and project workspace.

By combining WFMT’s passion for classical music with our dedication to continuous learning, we have been able to breathe new life into a radio classic.