the Secret


Development of annual listening figures in the Netherlands

Qmusic had a banner 2021, both in the Netherlands and Belgium. In the Netherlands, the radio station became the undisputed market leader. Here’s what employees – and a listener – have to say about the appeal of the number one radio station.

Robert Bernink (44)



ow does it feel to become market leader? “Very good,” says Robert Bernink, managing director of Qmusic Netherlands & Entertainment. “It’s a bit like winning the Champions League.”

In recent years, the station’s main goal was to become market leader among 20- to 49-year-old listeners, a key commercial demographic. To achieve this, Qmusic’s strategy focused on fresh new programming. “We wanted to present a more mature sound.”

“It’s a bit like winning the Champions League”

The strategy’s pillars: Mattie & Marieke in the morning, Domien Verschuuren in the afternoon and the Top 40 on Friday afternoons. Het Foute Uur every week- day, strong programming during office hours and evening shows that spotlight talented new artists. The weekend roster was reinforced with Tom van der Weerd and Bram Krikke. “As a result of all that, we’re actually number one now. First we became market leader for our 20-49 key demographic, and since August 2021 the figures show that we’ve also taken the top spot in the 10+ demographic, which means all ages.”

The numbers are almost staggering. Qmusic Netherlands had a towering 19.7 percent market share in 2021 in the 20-49 demographic, the highest share of any station this century. The last time a radio station achieved a similar annual figure was in 1999. Another milestone was reached
in December when, for the first time since 2015, Qmusic beat out NPO Radio 2 and its popular Top 2000. The station’s market share was 18.7 percent overall and 18.1 percent in the 20-49 key demographic.

Listen to Qmusic Nederland

Listen to Qmusic België

Marlies Hartendorf (42)


Martijn de Vente (40)



A big part of the reason behind the new programming’s success is the content of the shows. “We make a show with lots of personal stories,” says Marlies Hartendorf, final editor at the morning show Mattie & Marieke. “Mattie, Marieke, our newscaster Annemarie and characters like Intercom Tom and Joe the Intern – they all become part of the show’s story world. It’s like an addictive soap opera. That’s also clear from the response to the show: every day we get messages from lis- teners saying how much they enjoy it.”

Martijn de Vente, a Qmusic listener since day one, can attest to that. He always looks forward to hearing the DJs’ personal stories, which he can listen to all day while working as a coach driver. “Stories about Marieke’s evil cat, Kai’s pregnancy or Menno’s weekend away at Disneyland Paris. It almost feels like I know them personally.”

He also really likes the interaction between the DJs and the listeners, who are actually involved in the show. “You can send them messages and they will read them out or call you back, and there are also games and special events... When I’ve got Q on, time just flies by.”


Qmusic has been on the air in the Netherlands since 2005. In Belgium, where the station was founded, it all started back in 2001. There, Qmusic is now market leader in the key commercial demographic and the second largest station in Flanders. “That’s a comfortable position to be in,” says Michael Dujardin, who’s been Qmusic Belgium’s station manager for over a year now.

The secret behind the station’s success in Belgium? Dujardin: “We made sure we had a clear, recognisable programme schedule on the one hand, and surprising stunts and campaigns on the other.”

“We make a show with lots of personal stories

Michael Dujardin (45)


familiar voices

Talking about the programme schedule, Dujardin explains that people are creatures of habit. “For our listeners, the DJs are familiar voices that accompany them throughout the day. That’s why we’ve built our programming around those familiar voices.” Like Maarten & Dorothee in the morning and Vincent Fierens in the afternoon, Tom De Cock late at night, Regi – the country’s best-known DJ – on Saturdays and, in cooperation with Qmusic Netherlands, Armin van Buuren’s show.

Dorothee Dauwe has co-hosted the morning show Maarten & Dorothee together with Maarten Vancoillie since September 2020. As someone who has been with Qmusic since 2010, she has witnessed the station’s development up close. She started out as a newscaster and producer, and later went on to become a DJ.

“Over the years, I’ve seen Qmusic change from a steady radio station to a brand that seemed a bit unsure of itself,” she says. “But we always kept faith that it would all work out in the end. It took a while, but now we’ve got the perfect mix of jingles, music and shows, which is why we keep attracting more and more lis- teners. We’re back on the right track, and we’ve got a solid foundation that we’ll be able to build on for years to come.”

Dorothee Dauwe (32)



And then there are all those surprising stunts and campaigns. These are partly the result of creative partnerships: all the advertising outside the commercial breaks. These can be weekly integrations, such as the Birthday Wheel (a collaboration with M-Line Mattresses) and Shower Singing Star (with X2O Bathrooms). But there are also spectacular, creative promotional stunts that are tailor-made for commercial partners. And with revenue from creative partnerships up by 30 percent, these efforts have been paying off.

“The success is mainly the result of Q DJs incorporating ads into their content in a way that feels authentic,” says Manu De Coninck, audio-visual sales expert at Qmusic Belgium. “And meanwhile, we’re making a positive change in Flanders. We really try to galvanise our listeners. A campaign we did toge- ther with Hyundai during the thousandth episode of Maarten & Dorothee was so successful that we received 1.9 million calls, overloading the network of Belgium’s largest telecom company – which also generated lots of free publicity. That was priceless.”

Manu De Coninck (38)