Expat Files : Jamie Meldrum
With so many Australian and New Zealand radio professionals around the world doing great work, we like to get in touch and discover what they used to do here and what they now do in another country.
In today's Expat Files we chat to Jamie Meldrum who spent his early radio career in Brisbane and the Gold Coast working with a long list of Aussie radio legends.
He's now working in Singapore as Senior Program Director of 3 stations.
Let's start by going back to the beginning and find out which stations he worked at here ….
Jamie: My first paid gig was when I was about 12 at 4BC manning the phones for the Saturday Morning Boating & Fishing Show, then Radio 2UW (Now Mix Sydney) in Promotions & Marketing, 90.9 Sea FM Gold Coast Nights with Paul Stevens as The Budskis (right), Triple M Brisbane as The Budskis, also did a stint on Late Nights/Dawns and as Cart Boy, produced and appeared in The Rob Elliot Breakfast Show, was Local Guy for Brisbane when Richard Stubbs was being Networked, and finally with Mike Goldman in "The Rubber Room", then back to Sea FM on the Gold Coast for a stint on Breakfast before I joined Disney Channel.
Mark: Who were some of the people you worked with and who did you look up to at that time ?
Jamie: I was very fortunate to work with some really great people starting on the Gold Coast where The Budskis Production was done by Grant Buckerfield, who went on to huge success in the UK and is now based in LA, Irene Hulme, Jeff Allis, Dean Miller, Ian "Lofty" Fulton, BBQ Bob Gallagher, Barry Drinkwater, and Queensland Radio Legend John Knox.
Then at the M's in Brisbane it was like a who's who – Guy Dobson, Duncan Campbell, Rob Duckworth, Dave Gibson, Shirley Strachan, Gary Belcher, Mark Irvine, Brendon Jones, Rob McCasker, Mike Perso, Mike Goldman, Bogart Torelli, Seth Clancy, Des Poeling Oer, Ian Strachan, Dan Bradley, Gregg Easton, Clare Blake, Loretta Ryan, Sheridan Stewart, Dave Andrews, Rob Doorey, Joe Bovalino, Chris "Bomber" Bombolas, Ray Peters, Matt Nikolic, Rick Wade, and probably a bunch more I've forgotten, but it was an honor and a pleasure to have worked with every single one of them. My heroes at the time were Doug Mulray, Gibbo & Duck, and Club Veg.
Mark: What are some memories of your time as part of the 'Budski's' in the early 90s ?
Jamie: The Gold Coast was great, it was my first on air gig and we won the RAWARD for best new talent, stirred things up a bit, and managed to make it onto A Current Affair a couple of times before Ian Grace took us over to the M's in Brisbane.
Things were pretty Rock & Roll there and it was great to work with so many passionate & talented people. There was also plenty happening on the business side of things too with the M's going from Hoyts to Village Roadshow to Austereo and the early attempts at Networking, all in all some pretty exciting times.
Mark: You then took some time out of radio to pursue full-time voice work in Asia, why did you do that, and how did that lead you overseas ?
Jamie: I was offered a position with Disney Channel based in Singapore where I was the main Image Voice for Disney Channel Australia in my normal Aussie accent, and also for South East Asia & The Middle East in North American Accent. It was a great opportunity to work for a great company and I was up for a new challenge so it was really a no-brainer. It was only about 10 days from the time I submitted my demo till I touched down at Changi.
Mark: You're now a programmer in Singapore. Does that require a different approach to Australia and what are some of the cultural differences ?
Jamie: Singapore's a very interesting market, roughly the same size as Sydney with 18 stations run by 3 players; SPH Unionworks with 3 Stations whom I'm Senior Program Director for, SAFRA who run 2 stations, and the Government Broadcaster Mediacorp with 13 stations, then amongst those you've got stations broadcasting in English, Mandarin, Malay & Tamil.
The English & Chinese Stations have the biggest cume, and there are some fairly strict guidelines for the broadcasters to adhere to. There's an interesting dichotomy at work too as there's a very traditional, conservative element which you need to take into account, while at the same time Singapore is also all about the newest, the latest, the hottest, and the fastest, so there's still plenty of scope for creativity.
The main thing is to be respectful of the culture and the people and work with them, because there are plenty of talented & passionate radio people here too, but the industry up to this point hasn't been super-competitive with Mediacorp basically dominating the entire scene, so it's still a fairly immature market, but we're doing our best to move things forward.
Mark: What have been your greatest achievements working where you are ?
Jamie: With Disney Channel I voiced a bunch of Gold Promax winning 'Hidden Mickey's' and numerous other Promos, and also voiced a New York Award winning animated character.
For Radio I think they've both come this year actually, during my time here we've tripled the cume of our CHR HOT FM91.3 and it finally took down Mediacorp's 987FM for the first time in that station's 20 year history. Our new Female AC Kiss 92 has gone from launch on September 2nd 2012 to a cume of 419,000 and #3 English Station in the 9 months to Survey ended May 19th this year. We've just wrapped up the last Survey of the year and results are out end of November, so we're very interested to see how it's going to play out.
Mark: What’s the greatest challenge you had to overcome when you first started working overseas ?
Jamie: I think just getting used to the different pace things happen at, and understanding the different cultural nuances that come in to play when you're trying to raise the bar and push things harder.
Mark: Outline a typical day for you.
Jamie: I'm usually awake around 6:30-7. AM Drive is slightly longer here as most retail outlets don't open till 10am or later and they're all open till 10pm 7 days a week, so all the Breakfast Shows are 6-10am and I usually listen to as much of our stations and the competitors as I can every morning. While I do that I knock out a few Promos for CNBC Australia & Asia Pacific and Biography Channel from my home studio before I head into the station between 9 & 10, where we do a debrief with the Breakfast Shows and I make sure I'm up to speed with what's hot for the day. Then as I'm Head of Creative as well I usually pump out a bunch of ads and promos, voice a bunch of stuff, spend some time with the teams from all the other shifts, keep an eye on our digital platforms, and try to do as few meetings as possible as I endeavour to get out of the office before 7pm.
Mark: You have an Aussie on daytimes on Hot FM 91.3 Singapore, how has the market accepted him ?
Jamie: We've got former B105 team member Greg Burridge doing that shift under the moniker "JJ", and he's done well (top right in group shot). Greg was married to a Singaporean and we were very lucky he came along just when we were looking for an Imaging Producer as he's a great all-rounder, and he's proven to be pretty popular on the local DJ circuit too, so I think that's given him some good street-cred in the market. In fact he just played as the opening act for One Republic here last week, so no probs there. The biggest challenge for him I think was learning the pronunciation of the local place names, which is a little tricky considering most of them are either Chinese or Malay!
We've got some more Aussies working behind the scenes too, we're using Xtra Research so Paul Amos is my Programming & Research Consultant.
Mark: Tell us how the ratings work over there, diaries? PPM? Online?
Jamie: We're on Nielsen Diaries still at this point.
Mark: How often are the survey sweeps and how are you doing ?
Jamie: Only 2 books a year which makes it a bit tough to see how your changes affect things. The Survey periods are usually 8 weeks in March/April/May for "Wave 1", and "Wave 2" is another 8 weeks in Sept/Oct.
HOT FM is #1 CHR, #1 Under 20, and #4 English Station Overall, while Kiss 92 is #3. We're pretty keen to see the Sept/Oct result as the #1 station made some changes to its Breakfast Show, and our Digital numbers are showing a nice improvement, so there's potential for Kiss to go to #2 or even #1 this book which would be the first time a non-Mediacorp Station has ever held either of those 2 positions. Topline Results are out November 28th.
Mark: Good luck. We look forward to hearing how you go. Do you still listen to Australian radio online ?
Jamie: Not as much as I used to, but running 2 stations it's tough to find the time. I watch a lot of stuff on YouTube from Hamish & Andy, Fitzy & Wippa, and Kyle & Jackie O, and I think there's some really great stuff being done on all those shows. But honestly it can be a little frustrating for me at times because we just can't get the kind of great guests here that you can get fairly regularly back home. I think the best thing I've seen from Radio in Australia recently though was Sam Cavanagh's 'Fans Not Listeners' session at Radio Days Europe in Berlin, really great, inspiring stuff.
Mark: Would you ever consider working in Australia again ?
Jamie: Absolutely! If the right offer came along!
If you are an Aussie or Kiwi working overseas and want to be profiled in Radio Today's Expat Files, get in touch here.