Sam Cavanagh on why radio hosts don’t need to be friends
He may have worked with one of Australia’s most iconic and ‘friendly’ radio duos, Hamish & Andy, but Sam Cavanagh says radio hosts don’t need to be friends.
In fact, he said, tension is often necessary to get the job done.
“This isn’t about us always agreeing and never annoying each other. And also, let’s not forget we’re professionals. This is a job. So it’s not about us being best friends and always saying something, not saying something if it’s going to hurt someone’s feelings. But it is about being a professional and showing up and doing a job,” he said at last week’s Australian Audio Summit about his philosophy and approach when working with creative teams in radio and audio.
He was speaking to former head of content as Southern Cross Austereo (SCA), Craig Bruce, who agreed there certainly didn’t need to be a friendship there, but there did need to be trust and respect.
Cavanagh added that sometimes the parameters of what makes a healthy and successful team can be misunderstood.
“I think sometimes focusing on having a really healthy, well-functioning team can be misunderstood as ‘No one’s allowed to say anything mean’. And, you know, I think it might be subtle, but there’s a huge difference. Yes, we should have robust conversations where we disagree in a respectful way. Yes, we should really protect the thing.
“But those moments – well, you hear them on the air – but those moments where the audience lean into, are often when something is unexpected, or if people are clashing over something. So, protect that. And the way to protect that is having a really, a clear understanding of how we deal with things when we’re frustrated with each other.”
Cavanagh said he resents wasting energy on personality clashes within teams, because it steers his focus away from creativity and good ideas. It’s about balance between the clash and the outcome, he said.
“All good creative teams also have an element of tension about them, and that’s often where the good ideas come from,” he said. “You know, like, great ideas come from people having different opinions and coming together to make something new.
“So, a really well-functioning creative team doesn’t mean we get along all the time, it doesn’t mean we never disagree. It doesn’t mean we agree about everything. It means we’ve got this tension, this creative tension, and we really protect it, we really look after it, and we respect it. And we focus it in the right areas, you know. We sort of, we take the thing that makes us special – which is ‘When you think X, I think Y, and we make this thing that’s unique’, and we’re going to respect and protect that, and not get the shits with each other and not talk about it.”
Cavanagh worked on the Hamish & Andy show during its prime, and later became executive producer of Triple M’s Kennedy Molloy. He then left radio, to take on a role at creative agency Thinkerbell as head of production.
He then returned to SCA, and is now head of entertainment and news content – digital audio. He works on PodcastOne’s Matt & Alex All Day Breakfast, featuring former triple J Breakfast duo Matt Okine and Alex Dyson, as well as assisting on Hamish Blake and Andy Lee’s retrospective radio podcast, Hamish & Andy’s Remembering Project.