Brad March Talks Talent .. with Craig Bruce (pt 1)
If you’re looking to kick your on-air career into hyper drive, these articles are for you!
During his stellar career Brad March has ‘discovered’, developed and mentored more great on-air talent than virtually anyone in Australian media – the Sydney Morning Herald wrote of Brad: "March developed the radio potential of such comic talent as Andrew Denton, Amanda Keller, Peter Moon, Tony Martin, Mick Molloy, Judith Lucy, Jamie Dunn and, of course, (Wendy) Harmer".
In the first of a series, Brad ‘Talks Talent’ with another of Australia’s great ‘talent developers’, Craig Bruce – Head of Content for Australia’s biggest commercial radio network, Southern Cross Austereo. Here they discuss:
– how talent is the lifeblood of the industry
– how to develop your own ‘talent brand’
– the pros and cons of Reality TV
– the ‘Talent Pipeline’
– … and they give some great advice for new and rising talent…
Brad: We first met when I was the Program Director at Triple M Melbourne (then EON). You were the mid dawn announcer – and now you’re Head of Content for the biggest radio group in Australia, Southern Cross Austereo. So, once again – congratulations!
Craig: Thanks Brad. You were a pretty massive influence during the early stages of my career – it's hard to top the success we had at B105 when you were at the helm.
The Lifeblood of the Industry: Talent
Brad: Haha, thanks – and thanks for taking the time today to talk talent – the lifeblood of the industry. I’ve always thought that uniqueness, relatability, and “determination with drive” are important for talent to have. What do you look for in talent?
Craig: Certainly all of the above. The thing that normally stands out for me is a natural, unaffected delivery – because in the case of most young talent there is an expectation that they need to sound like an "announcer" rather than be themselves. So when you hear someone who's relaxed and comfortable with their delivery, you know you have something unique to work with. The other thing that stands out is an interesting turn-of-phrase. It normally suggests a level of intelligence and creativity that is so important.
Developing Your Own ‘Talent Brand’
Brad: How important do you think it is now for talent to create their own 'talent brand’?
Craig: I think it's important for people to understand how they can leverage their unique strengths as a performer. If you can work out what makes you different to others, and what it looks like when you're at your best, then you can start to build a strategy around your personal brand. In my experience all of the one-percenters get to this point – Eddie McGuire, Kyle Sandilands, Matty Johns, Dave Hughes – these people are all really clear on what they do that you and I can't.
Brad: No doubt it helps to have good people around you to help you do that – and nowadays social media is also an important medium for promotion. What do you expect from your talent at SCA in regard to the maintenance of their social media?
Craig: I don't have any expectation as such. Mick Molloy is one of radio's true superstars and he doesn't have a mobile phone. Matty Johns would rather give back his '97 Knights flag than have a twitter account. Some performers are comfortable with broadcast media being the focus and that's ok. What I would say is that having channels where you can engage with your fans outside of your normal shift is an incredible opportunity. We want all of our performers to be famous. Social media is a chance to amplify and extend your presence beyond the radio.
The Pros and Cons of Reality TV
Brad: There had been some criticism about taking on personalities from reality TV. Surely that’s a good head start, that someone has some profile, and the audience will already know and have some insight into them?
Craig: Having a profile helps in metro markets obviously. Put it this way, whenever that day comes in the future where we have to replace Kyle or Eddie, we won't be doing it with someone the audience isn't already aware of. I suspect that Fitzy and Chrissie Swan would have eventually found their way to breakfast radio even without Big Brother, and my point is this – good talent will always rise to the top. Let's not forget it took Kyle 10 years working in the regional markets before he landed his first metro gig. If you have the ability, someone will find you, it's just that TV can speed up that process.
Learning the Craft
Brad: Obviously they then have to learn the craft of radio. How do you and SCA approach that?
Craig: With the best content directors and talent coaches we can find. The combination of unique talent with the right coach is dynamite. Our best talent coaches, (CDs) are literally worth 2-3 ratings points – this can often be the difference between winning and losing. Not only losing on the Nielsen scoreboard, but eventually losing talent to your opposition if they feel they can't reach their potential.
The Talent Pipeline
Brad: Of course, there's still plenty of great talent who come through regional radio, or start in smaller markets and work up to capital city radio?
Craig: It's one of the amazing privileges of this job Brad. We get to help some really talented people at the start of their careers and working lives. We always celebrate the talent pipeline – I'm sure I'll never live that phrase down. From Keegan Bakker, to Burgo, to Matty Acton, Dani Pola, Heidi Anderson (right), Nick Gill…the list goes on, whenever anyone makes the leap from regional to metro we make a big deal of it.
Sports People as on-air Talent
Brad: I’ve had a lot of experience with talent who were originally sportsmen. People like James Brayshaw, Eddie McGuire, Fitzy are great examples – is this still an area where you look for talent?
Craig: Absolutely. As an example, the role that Luke Darcy plays on the Hot Breakfast can't be underestimated – his natural anchoring and hosting skills are extraordinary – it took me 15 years of practice to be nowhere near as good! Sporting people are normally very open to feedback; it's what they've become used to over the years. I suspect that one of the reasons Fitzy is so good on Nova is that he's had some really good CDs over the years that have taught him well and he's had the good sense to listen to those mentors along the way.
In part 2 here, Brad and Craig continue their conversation – and talk about:
- comedians as on-air talent
- the importance of developing a presence beyond your on-air work
- advice for new and rising on-air talent
- the intense competition for great talent
- … and Craig shares a little known fact about the secret of his success (you will never guess this!)
Whether you’re a hot, rising on-air talent or someone with a well-established career, if you’d like to ask Brad questions or discuss the article in more detail, feel free to contact him anytime here.
Brad March is a former CEO of the Austereo Network and is Managing Director of Marchmedia.