Kurt Hanson: Report from Singapore

kh singapore selfieMy memories of Singapore when I last visited about 15 years ago are of a city that was a mix of the best of Honolulu and the best of modern Manhattan. But I was not prepared for a city that seems to have tripled in size and sophistication since then!

At any rate, as you may know, one of the best-known attractions of Singapore was, and is, what are called “hawker centres” — each of which is a giant collection of dozens of small food booths, each booth owned by a different entrepreneur and offering a specific speciality, but utilizing shared infrastructure (seating, dishes and silverware, etc.).

On Wednesday, looking for a good place to fine-tine the BroadcastAsia2015 radio conference keynote speech I was scheduled to give on Thursday, I sat in the lobby of the hotel that I found on Booking.com (Park Regis) checked Yelp for the highest-rated hawker centre (Maxwell Food Centre), and called for an UberX to take me there.

kh singapore crabsAnd while I was enjoying my Hainanese chicken & rice from one vendor paired with a watermelon-banana juice from another, I was struck by this thought:

While a six-foot-by-six-foot-booth specializing in a “long-tail” food item like, say, fish head soup, is probably going to have a rough go of it as a standalone venture, if it’s part of a location that’s known for having EVERYTHING, that’s a different story entirely!

To bring this back to online radio, about eight or ten years ago, Bonneville tried launching an Internet radio brand of vocal-based classical music aimed at the Washington, DC market.

That was the equivalent of a standalone booth offering a specific regional style of dumpling soup. Too narrow to work. (And it didn’t.)

Yes, Pandora and I Heart and Slacker and AccuRadio and your own multi-genre brand of online radio, if you have one, all ought to at least one channel devoted to vocal-based classical music. (And also ’50s Broadway, St. Louis-based indie rock, barbershop quartets, Cantonese pop, space-age bachelor-pad lounge music, and more.)

But it will only work, I believe, when it’s part of a much bigger context. Housed within a large and popular hawker centre (figuratively speaking), it can work.

Kurt Hanson


  1. Sort of like a streaming location with hundreds of channels…such as iHeartradio?
    This “Hawk-ear Center” would need to be a collection of different station streams, no duplicates! A huge collection of vertically-formatted long-tail streams. Nice!

  2. I get the whole multi-genre thing, but I have a hard time finding one hit wonders – like New Colony Six Live at Milwaukee Coliseum. Somethings haven’t existed since, say…1972.

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