R.A.P. Interview: Steve Hunt

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R.A.P.: Do the jocks do anything more than just voice commercials and promos?
Steve: Not usually. They concentrate on their shifts and are out on the streets. They're concerned mainly with the programming and promotions of the radio station. Although, they do work for production and voice promos and the in-house, direct commercials. But, in the major markets, jocks aren't the production people.

Here's an example of the way we treat production in Australia. In Melbourne at FOX-FM, we're just about to put in our third 16-track. That's three 16-tracks in one radio station. We have one 16-track studio for programming which handles promos and crew jingles and stuff like that. Then we have a 16-track studio that will handle all the direct, in-house advertising for local clients as well as some agency work. The third studio is a studio we have called Austereo Productions, where we make our own syndicated shows. We have our own syndicated programs which we air throughout our group and also market to other radio stations across Australia. We make our own Top-40 countdown called The Rock-40 Countdown. This is a four hour show which goes to air every week on about forty radio stations. We have another show we call The Party Hard Club which is a nonstop, six-hour musical extravaganza that basically happens on stations on Saturday nights where we don't really run jocks. We run wild production tricks and sweepers and lots of music.

These are two syndicated shows that come out of Melbourne. They're also responsible for producing a series we have called the Word On series, like the Word On Motoring and the Word On Health. Austereo Productions is there to do stuff like this for our network as well as other radio stations in Australia.

In Sydney, we have a 16-track and an 8-track studio at 2DAY-FM. That's about to become two 16-track studios. In Brisbane, we have a 16-track and an 8-track. In Adelaide, a 16-track and an 8-track. In Canberra at FM104.7, a 16-track and an 8-track. On the Gold Coast at Sea-FM, there's a 16 and an 8. At Triple-T in Hobart we have a 16-track, and at HOT-100 in Darwin we run an 8-track. So, as you can see, we spend a lot of time and money on the technology to give us killer production. What we're after is killer production, all the time. And we don't cut any corners as far as providing the equipment, the backup, and the resources to give us the best possible production at all time.

R.A.P.: Tell us a little about your position as Group Production Director and how you work with the other Production Directors in the group.
Steve: We're the only network in Australia that has a Group Production Director. It's sort of a landmark thing in Australia because the other networks basically have Production Managers who are responsible for their own stations. I oversee production for all the stations within the group. The radio stations each run themselves, and each guy at each station is responsible for that station; but it's my job to keep in touch and make sure things are going the way they want them to. But I'm not someone who sits behind a desk all day; I'm still a hands on producer.

We share ideas, and it's up to me to get the best ideas out of all the guys. It's up to me to give them every opportunity to make the best stuff they can; and where and when it works, we share it around. They teach me things, and I try to teach them stuff. My role is more of a teacher now. I've been doing production for seventeen years, so I'd like to think I've got enough experience to be cast in a role like that. I'm also a support mechanism for what they're trying to achieve. I try to be across all the new technology. I do budgeting for stations. I advise on what we should be looking at spending money on in the next financial year, what production libraries we should be looking at. I work very hard to make sure the Production Directors in each of our stations are heard and understood and are given every opportunity to give the radio stations what it is that's most needed.

R.A.P.: Tell us a little about the Austereo philosophy as it relates to production.
Steve: Austereo considers production very important to the imagery and the way you position your radio station. The Production Directors in all of our radio stations have respect. They attend executive meetings. They're responsible for handling their own budgets which they are given and have to stick to.

One of the philosophies of Austereo is that we have teams, not departments. We have our own version of the RAP Cassette. It's our network production tape, and every month, or as close to every month as possible, we get the best promos, commercials, crew jingles and IDs from each station. They're all sent to me, and we put together a network tape. Then we just bounce the tapes around the network. All the Program Directors get them. All the Promotions Directors get them. Obviously, all the production guys get them. It's an idea sharing. We share script ideas. We share production techniques. If our guy in Sydney comes up with a great production trick, and I don't know how he did it, I can get on the phone to him and say, "How the hell did you do that?" The secret is to share and pool resources.

Production has changed so much since I first got into it. When I first got into radio, the production guy was the weird guy who was deaf, who always walked in dressed in sand shoes, jeans, and a T-shirt. He was the first to arrive and the last to leave, the least thanked, and usually wandered out of the building at about two o'clock in the morning mumbling to himself, "What a great edit I just pulled off!"

Now, production is so important in radio, and my philosophy on it is this: the production guy in any radio station is responsible for up to eight to twelve minutes per hour of the way your radio station sounds. Your hottest breakfast jock doesn't get that much time. Elton John doesn't get that much time. John Cougar Mellencamp doesn't. Those guys aren't getting that much time on the radio, but production does. And back to the artists -- John Cougar Mellencamp or Bruce Springsteen or Def Leppard or whoever -- they sound exactly the same on your FM station as they do on another FM station. It's the part you do in between that separates you. And if your jocks are right, your promotions are right, and your packaging is right, you must win, providing all the key issues fall into place. So, production is something we take very seriously within our group, and we've got the results. I mean, we're number one in Sydney, number one in Melbourne, number one in Brisbane, number one in Adelaide, number one on the Gold Coast, number one in Hobart, and number one in Darwin. And we're number one because we try, and we get every area right -- programming, promotions, sales.... That's not meant to sound conceited. It's just meant to show how serious we are about trying to do radio right.

R.A.P.: Are the other stations in Australia, outside of the Austereo group, equipped with 16-track studios? Is that pretty common?
Steve: It is. Multi-tracks are pretty much the order of the day for nearly every station in every major market, including news/talk stations.

R.A.P.: And are these studios more 16-track than 8-track?
Steve: There are probably more 8-tracks around than 16-tracks.

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