Brad March Talks Talent .. with Craig Bruce (pt 2)
If you’re looking to kick your on-air career into hyper drive, these articles are for you!
In the first of a series, Brad March ‘Talks Talent’ with Craig Bruce – Head of Content for Australia’s biggest commercial radio network, Southern Cross Austereo. In part 1, Brad and Craig discussed how talent is the lifeblood of the industry, how to develop your own ‘talent brand’, the pros and cons of Reality TV, learning the craft, and the Talent Pipeline.
Here, in part 2, Brad and Craig 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!)
Comedians as On-air Talent
Brad: A lot of great radio talent I’ve worked with came from comedy. Over the years, too many talent to list came from that background, often as stand-ups – Wendy Harmer, Mick Molloy, Adam Hills, Marty Sheargold (below right) – and now talent like Tommy Little (left), Merrick, Paul Hogan (below left). I take it you still look towards the comedy area for radio talent?
Craig: Definitely. As you know Brad, if you can be the funny breakfast show in your market, you're unstoppable.
Brad: Yes, but for many comedians it can be a difficult transition to make…
Craig: It's a really good point. The transition can be difficult because the skill set is different. Comedy on radio is about multiple reactions across the course of a break, where the performer is looking for opportunities to take a moment and turn it into something memorable. The names you've mentioned above – and people like Stav, Dave Hughes and Matt Tilley – have been able to train themselves to think quickly and trust their first reactions.
Developing a Presence Beyond Your Show
Brad: Would you agree that what talent do 'off the air' is nearly as important as what they do 'on the air'. You even look at politicians – they are out doing appearances daily – shaking hands and kissing babies!
Craig: You certainly need a presence above and beyond the shift, whether it's through your social platforms or other media. Once again, the goal is to be famous. I don't mean that to sound vacuous – the reality is we're competing for people's attention in the morning and on the way home. The stars find a way to make their audience care about them. (For example) … I remember a conversation I had with a breaky host in Sydney a few years ago that said to me that his goal was to do breakfast for 5 years and then go back to his hometown – but the key was he wanted to walk through the Sydney airport and no one would know who he was. The show failed.
Advice for New and Rising Talent
Brad: What advice would you give new talent who are thinking about getting into radio?
Craig: The first thing you can do is study your favourite announcers. Just make sure you're listening to their technique, not their style. The point being: it's important to understand the basics, but you need to do it in your own style.
Brad: And what advice do you give to those in regional markets who are trying to get into cap cities?
Craig: My advice would be that someone who is just as good as you (and) is just as determined as you to get that next job. Getting a job in the metros is like recall in the diary system – if you're sending your work to the best Content Directors and engaging with them in the feedback process, guess who they're going to think of when a spot comes up?
Managers and Agents
Brad: I believe talent should nowadays virtually manage themselves – though obviously they need guidance, direction, coaching, and help on the business side of things … How do you handle that relationship – talent and their managers ?
Craig: We try to have 99% of our communication face to face with the talent, but obviously we're respectful of their relationship with outside management. The best relationships we have with talent managers is where we're both on the same page in terms of outcomes for the individual and the station.
Competition for Talent – and Creating the Great Environment
Brad: It's super competitive for talent. You have SCA, DMG, ARN – but also a lot of shows like The Project, This Week Live, breakfast television – and television in general… what’s important in getting talent and keeping them?
Craig: We try to create an environment where people and shows can thrive. In that respect nothing has changed – everyone wants the next hit show. Everything changes when you find the next hit show. You would have seen it first hand with Wendy (Harmer), and (Tony) Martin and (Mick) Molloy. We have certainly experienced it in recent years with Kyle and Jackie, Hamish and Andy, and now the Hot Breakfast (on Triple M Melbourne). There's nothing like a hit show – and when you've been a part of one, you just can't wait to find that next needle in a haystack.
The Talent / Program Director Relationship
Brad: And finally the relationship with a Program Director, Content Director, or Executive Producer is incredibly important.
Craig: Great EPs can become great Content Directors and the reason is their attributes and skill sets are virtually the same. If only I could clone Sam Cavanagh (left)….
The Secret of Craig’s Success: Being Sacked
Brad: What’s been the secret to your success – how did you get to the role you have today?
Craig: I was a failure at 30. I had wasted most of my 20's being a lazy announcer with lots of potential who contributed little to the good of the station. Then I got taken off the breakfast show at SA-FM – you may have even sacked me! It was the best thing that could have happened to me. I decided from that moment that I would not waste another day. I guess I've been trying to make up for lost ground ever since.
Brad: Thanks for the chat Craig.
Craig: You're most welcome Brad.
Radio Today would like to thank Craig Bruce for being generous with his time and for being so open with his answers.
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.