Content Kings: Jeff Allis
He may have left the industry over a decade ago, but Jeff Allis’ Australian radio legacy is still be felt to this day.
Like countless others, Jeff got his break in radio as an announcer doing graveyard shifts at SA-FM.
He would go on to become program director at Austereo in the late 1990s and became known for his “rate or die” approach. Jeff’s eye for talent was second to none, having brought Kyle Sandilands from regional radio to the city and given Hamish and Andy their first break.
Jeff recently featured on Radio Today’s list of the most successful programmers of all time in Australian metro FM radio.
Below he delves into the keys to success as a group PD, in part one of Radio Today‘s ‘Content Kings’ interview series.
What are the common factors you see when looking back on the great programmers of Australian radio?
This is best answered by some comments on some of the PDs I worked with, they all have very different strengths.
Brad (March) was the master chef at an expensive restaurant, only the finest ingredients (talent). He was a big spender but got results and had a great way with top talent, great will to win.
Greg (Smith) was the master general. He took everything in, developed strategy, covered his weakness‘ with his lieutenants. If there was no Greg, then would have been no Brad, no Jeff, Brian (Ford), Guy (Dobson) etc. So he was also the great teacher. He took risks on programming talent. The thoughtful calm strategist.
I had the most whatever it takes to win, obsessive-compulsive nature. On-air talent and the music was just a tool for me to get ratings. I would wake up every day and my first thought was how do I get more listeners today?
I loved identifying programming and on-air talent but after I had ‘discovered’ them it was up to them to rate or die. So a ruthless pursuit of winning the battle. Slightly mad and unpredictable.
Brian Ford is the master scientist, great brain, great music great balance for the other programming guys.
Guy Dobson is the master futurist, the Elon Musk of radio. Easily the most intelligent, least predictable programmer, would have been the programmer I’d have least wanted to go up against head-to-head. It’s a shame the corporate landscape changed so we never got to see the full extent of his profound ability.
So, in summary, focus on what you are great at and cover your weakness’ with great support, but you must be an amazing exponent of your best weapon.
If I had to use one word for being a great programmer, ‘COURAGE’.
What’s changes have you seen in the programmer role compared to when you first started out?
I haven’t been around for a while but I would say back in my day programmers were the kings. It was a programming company, so we had amazing power to try things and no creative idea was out of bounds.
How do you see the future of the programmer or group PD role developing?
I would say the smart money is on embracing turning sales promos into great listener promos and the age-old issue to identify great talent early.
What are your proudest moments developing talent?
I didn’t develop talent, I identified them.
Kyle (Sandilands); I gave him the right to push the boundaries and I had his back. I challenged him to try and scare me, he was full of bravado but he had to get it on the air, which he obviously did.
James Brayshaw great likeable talent, I just opened Melbourne’s door for him.
Hamish and Andy; I gave them their first radio gig on a Sunday night and paid for their petrol, then Saturday morning show. Then I got Boost to sponsor them so I could get them in Drive, but I was just the guy to open doors for them.
I think I helped a lot of young people on and off the air have a chance, then it was up to them to find their level.
Most people are good at telling you how good they are. Only the elite few put the effort into to reach their peak performance.
Great talent develop themselves because they are continually trying to find new ways to improve.
Who is the best programmer working right now?
Whoever has the best ratings… but obviously, for me the best I know, Guy Dobson is the master and Fitzy (Mike Fitzpatrick) is the rising star.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring programmers today?
Train the brave within you, be brave to try new things. Be brave enough to say no when it’s wrong and fight for the yes when you know it’s right (Brad was always good at getting his way).
Be obsessed with getting new listeners, always listen to your station as a listener, get Greg Smith to talk to you and listen intently to what he tells you.