The Aussie company making waves overseas

Staff Writer

Resonate Broadcasting is an Australian radio company that own numerous stations here but have now expanded into Hawaii.

Sally Dobson chats about the two stations they have launched and how radio in Hawaii compares to Australia. But first, a little bit about her.

Sally: My first job in radio was as a producer for the breakfast show at 4BK, which became B105. I then went on to work as a mid-dawner and panel operator at Sea FM on the Gold Coast, followed by Gold FM in Melbourne where I worked as the breakfast show producer and as a co-ordinator in the promotions and marketing department.

From Melbourne I returned to Brisbane and joined Greg Smith’s newly formed Consultancy Company ESP. I worked with ESP for 15 years before leaving to focus solely on Resonate Broadcasting.

Mark: How did Resonate Broadcasting start and who is involved ?

Sally: Resonate Broadcasting began in 2008 when we successfully secured the licences for Charters Towers and Warragul in the MACSC auction. It's a (Guy) Dobson / (Rex) Morris concern. I am responsible for overseeing the day to day operations.

Mark: Resonate Broadcasting hold 5 radio licences in Australia – 4LG and West FM in Longreach, 3GG Warragul and 4GC/Hot FM Charters Towers. Now you’ve extended to Hawaii. How did that come about and why Hawaii ?

Sally: We wanted to grow the Resonate business, the opportunities just weren’t available in Australia so we decided to look overseas. We searched through Europe, Asia and the east coast of the USA. With the Australian dollar at parity with the US it made the American market affordable. Hawaii made the most practical sense. It’s an easy plane ride from Australia, the surfing culture is well known to Australians and the time difference isn’t an issue. The big island is also a high growth area and Hawaii seemed to have weathered the GFC somewhat better than the mainland states. There's potential for upside with the two licences we bought.

Mark: Describe the 2 stations you have built and launched in Hawaii.

Sally: The Wave@92FM is a mainstream Hot AC and is broadly targeted under 40 with the core being 18 – 34.

102.7 The Beach is a very "local -centric" alternate station. It is built around a mix of contemporary "jawaiian", surf rock, reggae and alt rock. The Beach is also broadly targeted under 40 but with a male skewed 18 – 34 core.

Mark: How have both been received in the market by listeners and clients ?

Sally: We have been overwhelmed by the response to The Wave in such a short time. I remember visiting the Big Island not long after we launched and finding the hire car already tuned to the station. Listeners and clients alike talk passionately about how much they love the Wave. We hear the station everywhere. It’s early days for The Beach, but we are confident that we will receive the same level of interest from The Beach’s audience.

Mark: What role do you play in the Hawaii operations ?

Sally: We have Australian radio legend Keith 'Chooky' Fowler (left) on the ground for us in Hawaii. It has been a steep learning curve, building stations from the ground up and we really needed someone across it 24/7. Having Keith there has really helped to move things along and he is a great ambassador for the Resonate family.

I manage the ‘business’ side of the business. Essentially, the financials, budgets, staffing costs, and admin issues etc. I work closely with Keith and our sales and programming teams to ensure we are developing great entertainment and client solutions.

Mark: Listening online to both stations during an afternoon Hawaii time, both brands seem to be only music / basic imaging and ads. Is this a launch strategy or the plan for the formats ?

Sally: Both stations are in launch phase and, given the challenges we face with our signals on the Big Island, it was critical for us to get the engineering right and to make sure that the signals were clean and stable. Hence the stripped back formats during this time. We have a lot of very exciting plans and lots of activity ready to go. Much of this will coincide with the official media launches we will be hosting in Hilo and Kona.

Mark: Do either stations have a breakfast show ?

Sally: We have a breakfast show ready to go for the WAVE. Our host Yisa Var is born and bred on the Big Island. She is a well known entertainer and singer and has worked in radio previously. We are very excited to have her on board. The show will launch as soon as the studio’s in Hilo and Kona can talk to each other, which should be within the next couple of weeks.

The Beach has launched in Hilo only so far, we still have some technical stuff to take care of for it to be heard in Kona. Once this has been resolved we will launch the breakfast show for the Beach too. If anyone wants to apply we're happy to hear from you.

Mark: You are a big advocate for the power of social media in radio. It seems both The Wave and The Beach are active on Facebook and Twitter but both station websites are very basic. Is this a strategic move to communicate with listeners via existing social networks rather than sending them to your website ?

Sally: Facebook and Twitter are such quick and efficient avenues to spread the word that you have arrived. Both stations are targeting a young audience and our very talented Program Director Matt Stone (right) is in that demo too.

I think with our target audiences there is a ‘presumption’ towards social media and listeners will naturally gravitate to Facebook and Twitter to find you. It’s definitely a major focus for us especially as our websites can only develop as we do. The templates for our websites are ‘ready to go’ if you will.  As our content, marketing and talent grows so will our sites.

Mark: Who are your main competitors in the Hawaiian market ?

Sally: The Big Island of Hawaii has 31 signals, so it is a competitive radio market. Not all of those signals are commercial and some beam in from Maui. We have identified the stations which are most likely to share our audiences. Whilst we are respectful of what they do, our focus has really been on developing our own unique brands.

Mark: The Beach is an alternative format to The Wave’s hit position. If you could compare The Beach to another format in the world, which would it be ?

Sally: It probably sounds a bit bizarre to say this but I don’t think there is a station that I could compare The Beach to. The reason for this is that we specifically designed the format to reflect the community, culture and lifestyle of the Big Island and its people. The Big Island is unique in many ways, hopefully we reflect and respect this.

Mark: What are the major challenges facing The Wave and The Beach ?

Sally: The most immediate challenge that we face is the topography of the Island. Our studios are in Hilo and Kona. They are two and half hours apart and separated by a couple of volcanoes! in fact the largest mountain in the world Mt Mauna Kea. A lot of clever people have had to work out some interesting and complicated logistics to give us the coverage we have. We have enlisted the help of some wonderful tech heads to help us including Warraguls’ own Greg Spencer.

Mark: Can you shed some light on the teams that work on the 2 stations and how numbers/positions to compare to metro radio in Australia.

Sally: The Big Island of Hawaii would not be comparable to a metro radio market in Australia. It would be considered a large regional market as the population on the Big Island is around 185,000.

The numbers swell considerably during peak holiday times. We currently have a full-time staff of seven, four contract staff members, 3 external voice over providers. Production is done locally and off shore. We anticipate our full-time staffing levels will grow to 10 over the next 6 months. We have 15 staff in Australia.

Mark: Does Resonate Broadcasting have any plans to extend further into other overseas markets ?

Sally: We are always looking, certainly here in Australia. We are also looking for further signals on the Hawaiian Islands to compliment what we already have.

Bali / Indonesia is interesting for us as we have amazing radio contacts in that country that know how to put together winning formats. Indonesia would be more vocational for us and I like the idea of operating a radio station where all profits go to charity. We might just do it there.

So you can get a feel for what the stations sound like, below is an example hour from each brand. You can hear The Beach here or The Wave here.


The Beach – 2pm to 3pm Monday July 22  
Pompeii Bastille
The Man Who Sold The World Nirvana
Pumped Up Kicks Foster The People
All My Life Foo Fighters
Automatic Iration
Laid James
The Sound of Sunshine Michael Franti
Time of your Life Greenday
Out of my league Fitz & The Tantrums
Oz of love Rome
Santa Monica Everclear
Rockstar Nickelback
Spread too thin The Dirty Heads
Flagpole Sitta Harvey Danger
Lonely Boy The Black Keys
Uprising Muse
I'll be here awhile 311
The Wave – 3pm to 4pm Monday July 22  
Last Friday Night Katy Perry
The Other Side Jason Derulo
Get Low Lil Jon
We can't stop Miley Cyrus
Mirrors Justin Timberlake
Don't you worry child Swedish House Mafia
True Love Pink
Don't stop the music Rihanna
Same Love Macklemore
Tonight Enrique Iglesias
Still into you Paramore
Cups Anna Kendrick
Starships Nicki Minaj
Some nights Fun

An interview with Matt Stone, PD of The Wave and The Beach has just appeared in All Access. Read it here.

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