10 Questions with Hit105 music director Jack Ball

Hit 105’s Jack Ball recently featured on The Music Network‘s list of the 15 most influential radio music minds in Australia.

Compiled by Radio Today‘s sister site TMN in consultation with music industry figures, it took into consideration reputation, credibility, market size, experience and format competitiveness.

As assistant content director and music director, Ball has been champion for home-grown music and has helped shine the spotlight onto Aussie artists at Hit105 Brisbane.

The first of a five-part series with the top music minds in Australian radio, TMN caught up with Ball to chat about Brisbane’s unique sound and what he looks for when hunting for the next “big thing”.

How did you fall into radio and become music director for Hit105?

In 2006, family friend Donna Puechmarin asked if I wanted to learn how to panel at 4MMM and I just sort of stuck around after that.

I had no interest in Uni at the time and figured I’d rather work for free to learn something I enjoy than pay to get a degree in something I wasn’t sure about pursuing as a career.

I worked my way up from there, moving to Newcastle, Adelaide, Melbourne and then back home to Brisbane again.

How much influence do you have on the music played on Hit?

I’d say little, and that may sound strange but I think it’s accurate…and also the correct amount of influence a music director should have.

I give my thoughts on network strategies and in four playlist meetings each week, but the outcomes of those meetings need to be a reflection of what we believe our audience wants to hear.

So I’d say I have little influence, and our audience has a large influence.

What do you look for when hunting the ‘next big thing’?

How does it sound after I’ve listened to it 10 times? That’s my gauge. I can’t pick a hit just from listening to it once. Haha, I’m so awful at it. And anyone can ‘pick’ the next single from an already huge artist, there is no skill in that.

I’ll know if I’ll want to bring a song into a music meeting if I still really like it after half a dozen listens.

Is it ‘gut instinct’ or other factors that guide you?

It’s so easy to get bogged down in charts and research and day-parts and competitor spins that you come dangerously close to an algorithm being able to do your job for you.

I’m guided by a number of factors, gut is probably the most important factor and it’s more of a reflection of what all the data is telling you.

Does Brisbane have a ‘sound’ that differs from the rest of the country?

Absolutely it does. I think collectively, we (us who contribute to the music scene) embody the whole mantra of Brisbane being a big country town.

Our local music scene would be the most collaborative of all the cities. Brisbane radio is more supportive of new music, and new Australian because that’s where we’ve driven the scene to be.

We don’t have to compete with the likes of Gold or Smooth or WSFM. So it’s not that unusual to see Hit105 / Nova / 4mmm / 973 add new (and Australian) music ATB.

What is it in the music you play that sets it apart from your rivals?

We play more new Australian and new RNB, that would be our slight POD to our rivals.  Except for triple j, who are obviously the biggest supporters of new Australian music in total.

Every station in town is playing basically the same old school songs, so there’s no real difference there between us.

7. Which artists are you most excited about this year?

As of this moment, I’m most excited for Dean LewisClovesAlison WonderlandRuelGLADESThandi PhoenixAmy Shark‘s album, Ziggy Alberts has an absolute ripper out at the moment too.

What excites you about the local music scene?

I’m most excited by the sound that so many of our local and Australian artists are creating.

There’s this dated argument that still floats around that says “Australian artists aren’t supported on Australian radio (or on Australian Streaming playlists) because the songs aren’t good enough”, and these artists are completely discrediting that. And I love it.

Do you ever suffer from ‘ear worm’… anything stuck in your head at the moment?

Yeah but it’s never songs that I’m too proud of. Natasha Bedingfield’s ‘Unwritten’ was the last to get stuck in there, and I really enjoyed that haha.

Has there been an artist or artists that have taken you by surprise?

Ivy Adara was the last artist who had me pretty speechless after watching her perform live.

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