Beyond Radio : Dan Bessant
In 'Beyond Radio' we profile people who have translated successful careers in radio into spectacular ventures beyond radio.
Dan Bessant (or Westo) was the launch Music Director at Nova 969 but has now moved out of radio, "but not that far", he says.
Find out where Dan worked in radio, his advice for those in regional wanting to take the metro step, and what he's doing now that has him feeling 'invigorated and ready to get stuck into another day of musical awesomeness' every day.
Mark: What radio stations did you work at ?
- Triple 6LN Carnarvon, 1995-96
- Radiowest Esperance, 1996
- Radiowest/HotFM Bunbury, 1996-98
- HotFM Townsville 98-2001
- Nova 969 2001-2008
- Then to the Foxtel Music channels 2009-current
Mark: We get comments from readers from time to time that it is difficult to make that step from regional radio to metro. You made probably one of the great jumps, going from being Music Director in Townsville to Music Director at Nova 969 for its launch. Any advice?
Dan: Work really hard, do whatever is asked of you as quickly as possible with the best job you can (detail matters). Get to know the right people and touch base with them regularly (even if it’s just to say hi so you’re on their radar), have an opinion but ask questions too.
Mark: What are your favourite memories from your radio career ?
Dan: Being offered the gig to help launch Nova, April 1st 2001 – the day Nova launched, the first time Nova Sydney went number 1 and then the next 13 surveys it stayed there! (can you tell I loved my Nova time! Ha – great memories). Many amazing life experiences along the way too including meeting great people through regional Australia, some unreal shows and parties in Sydney, and some unforgettable trips overseas to meet and interview artists.
Mark: You’ve moved out of radio now, what do you do these days ?
Dan: I’ve moved…but not that far. Programming [V], [V] Hits and MAX for Foxtel has been a truly amazing experience to date. I’ve learnt so much, we continue to grow and achieve great things, and after nearly 4 years it’s great to wake up each day feeling challenged, invigorated and ready to get stuck into another day of musical awesomeness.
Mark: What lessons did you learn from radio that you have been able to transfer to TV ?
Dan: There are many similarities between radio and music television – creating entertaining and relevant content every day is the core of what we do and so bringing a ‘radio’ sense of urgency to music TV has been one of the biggest things. This coupled with well thought out and planned ‘tentpole’ activations through the year is key.
Whilst channel ratings is just one part of each brand’s success, it’s still a key measure and cume vs tsl (or tsv in our case) is a similar game….however much of the strategy around getting the results are different which has been a refreshing challenge.
Mark: What are the differences between considering a song for radio play and for music television play ?
Dan: Timing and visual are two of the main differences. On the timing front, often the clip comes later than the song so you need to factor in a) how long the song has been in market for regarding placement and rotation and b) the introduction of the visual element gives an additional factor for consideration.
Mark: In the music television world, can an awesome video save a terrible song ? If the song is crap, but the video is compelling, is it a shot ?
Dan: Ideally it’ll be an awesome song with an awesome video! The visual is certainly a consideration though and so if the clip has a special something – compelling, entertaining, clever, interesting theme…then it can impact the exposure a song and video may get. The audio and visual do go hand in hand though so I’d suggest a good song with an amazing video may have a better chance than a crap song with an amazing video!
Mark: For young bands, how important is a video ?
Dan: If a band or artist are serious and treating themselves as a brand (and they should be) then it comes with the territory. A video helps bring a song to life, giving it and the artist further depth, personality and context. I would suggest creativity prioritises over budget too – take the Sick Puppies clip for example….winner (and a good example of a ‘good song’ with an ‘amazing video’ too!)
Mark: What was the last radio station you listened to ?
Dan: Flicked between 2Day, Nova and triple j on the way home last night.
Mark: Has radio changed from when you were part of it do you think ? and if so how ?
Dan: As the media landscape continues to change so does radio’s approach. It’s not just what you hear on the radio anymore (or what you see on the tele!). It’s about brands connecting with listeners/viewers in new, exciting and relevant ways.
There are new divisions that didn’t exist or get the energy 4-5 years ago and we’re seeing further brand extension. On ground properties like Nova’s Red Room and 2Day’s Rooftop, Nova’s ‘Scoopon’ type extension, TV and video divisions, the heavy social media and online approach and new ‘content factory’, creative and integration divisions that never existed before.
Creating entertaining and relevant unique content hasn’t changed though, what‘s changing is the way you can access it and experience it. We’ve seen the ‘kind of’ come and now we’re seeing the ‘kind of’ go of digital radio too.
Mark: Do you listen to radio differently now ?
Dan: I find it hard to take my ‘programming hat’ off when listening still…but that’s what I enjoy. I have found that not being so close to it has its advantages though as you get a much more ‘unclouded’ perspective on things when you aren’t knee deep in them, it’s quite refreshing!
Mark: Do you miss the immediacy of getting your hands on a song and being able to race it into the studio and play it straight away ?
Dan: We are working harder than ever (with [V] in-particular) for immediacy – relevance matters! So whilst we might not be able to walk straight in and hit play, we can get clips on within the hour give or take and, as well as getting it to air, we have our 800,000 strong Facebook fans and vmusic.com.au to reflect new music and music news as it happens. [V]’s benchmark live shows like The Riff and same day turnaround shows like WTF continue to drive immediacy as well as giving ability to reflect pop culture as it happens with our own unique and entertaining approach.
Mark: Any plans to get back into radio or is TV your thing now ?
Dan: I’ll never say never, who knows what may come, but right now I have plenty to still achieve in the TV world….and I’m loving it!