R.A.P. Interview: Steve Hunt

R.A.P.: What happened after 2-Triple-M?
Steve: By this time I was about thirty years old, and I thought I had something to offer as a Program Director. There were no real opportunities for me within the group that I was working with. The company I now work for, Austereo, had known of me, so I rang the Group General Manager of Programming, Greg Smith, who is now my boss. At that stage, their group was becoming involved in a new FM station that was opening up on the Gold Coast called SEA-FM. I said, "If you're looking for a Program Director up there, I'd like the job." He rang the Managing Director of the company that afternoon, I think, and about two weeks later I was employed as Program come Production Director at SEA-FM on the Gold Coast; I wore two hats. We went number one first survey -- from zero to about a 24 share. In the second book, we went from 24 to 33.3, and I was getting less and less time in the production studio and more and more time behind selector screens, buried in research, music logs, jock rosters and talking with promoters.

All that sort of stuff is great fun, but my true love, my real skill, is in the production studio. I was missing it. At that period, Austereo had just bought an AM station in Brisbane called 4BK, and they were converting it to FM. It's now B105-FM. Greg Smith said to me, "Why don't you come work for Austereo as Group Production Director based out of B105 in Brisbane?" I said, "You got me." So, I took my 33.3 percent and ran like hell and went to do production.

We had about four months to set up B105 before conversion, and we basically rebuilt everything. We put in all new philosophies. We were up against a radio station that had been the sole FM-er in the marketplace for about ten years. They had been up to about a 30 percent share in a seven station market. When we arrived, they were at about a 27 percent share. These figures could be a little out, but they're pretty close. Within about two surveys after we converted B105, we had 28 percent and they had 14. We ran them out of town, and the station's success has gotten better since. It now has about a 31 percent share, and our main opposition is down to about a 7 or 8.

B105 was a magic radio station and still is. We had a guy who is easily one of the best Program Directors in the country now. His name is Brad March. We had a great music man and great promotions people. The production area was working well, and all the jocks were and are fantastic. It's just one of those magic formulas that fell together and was destined to succeed, and thankfully, it has kept going.

I spent about eighteen months in Brisbane at B105-FM. Austereo, the company who owns B105, is run out of Adelaide in South Australia. They asked me to move down here at the head office and the flagship station which is SA-FM, and I've been here for about a year now.

R.A.P.: It sounds like your career has been full of a lot of fun and a lot of success.
Steve: I've been very lucky to work, most of the time in my career, at great radio stations. And hopefully, I've been a part of helping make them great, but it's never one person. It's always a group of people.

R.A.P.: Let's touch on your programming stint for a minute. A thirty-three share in two books is something we're not real familiar with in U.S. radio. What kind of programming philosophy do you feel is responsible for that kind of success?
Steve: Well, it's very simple. It's listener driven. It's giving the people what they want and telling them that you care about what they want. It's about as simple as that. That's the philosophy of Austereo. Let's face it; you can go into long-winded explanations about this and that, burn factors and all sorts of stuff, but if it's not listener driven, then in the nineties, you're dead.

R.A.P.: You mentioned that FM was new to Australia around the time you were at 2-Triple-M. When did FM come to Australia?
Steve: FM hit Australia sometime around the commencement of the eighties.

R.A.P.: When FM first came on in the U.S., particularly in the fifties and early sixties, primary formats were classical music and news with few commercials. Then came rock and roll on FM with an "underground" approach that targeted an almost cult-like audience. Was it the same in Australia in the beginning?
Steve: No. FM started out as a commercial, money making venture. People were hungry for the new technology, and FM wasn't there to accommodate people with alternative music tastes. It was mainstream FM. At first, it had a perception of being a bit cooler and more elitist than AM was. It was a little more album track oriented initially, but people soon realized that radio is radio is radio.

R.A.P.: What stations are in the Austereo group?
Steve: We have 2DAY-FM in Sydney, FOX-FM in Melbourne, B105-FM in Brisbane, SA-FM in Adelaide, FM104.7 in Canberra, SEA-FM on the Gold Coast, Triple-T FM in Hobart, and HOT 100 in Darwin.

R.A.P.: You visited the U.S. not too long ago. When was that, and how long were you here?
Steve: I was there for about two weeks in 1987. It was an educational visit to check things out. Some of the stations I visited were KIIS-FM and KHJ in L.A., KOME in San Diego, KFOG and K101 in San Francisco, and WNEW in New York.

R.A.P.: What knowledge did you take home with you?
Steve: I discovered a few things. As far as production technology goes, Australia definitely leads America in the way we equip our production studios. When I was in the U.S., very few stations were running multi-tracks, and the way I understand it now, multi-tracks are still not in all stations. In Australia, having multi-tracks is like having jocks -- you've got 'em.

To give you an example, the only station I saw a multi-track in while I was there was KIIS-FM, and they had an 8-track. As successful as they were, with Rick Dees and everybody, I would have thought they would have had an amazing setup. It probably has changed now, but at the time, I noticed a lot of the production was basically being done on 2-track in a spare on-air studio with maybe one piece of outboard gear at an on-air console, and the guys would go in and read the spot themselves then add some music or a sound effect or whatever.

We do production totally differently here. We have producers, and we have jocks. Most of the time, we don't double up on that. Our night jock won't be our Production Director.

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