The Life & Times of Rod Brice
Rod Brice has had a remarkable career in radio as a programmer & researcher. When you look at what he has achieved, there’s a lot of sixes in there.
Rod spent 16 years with the Southern Cross Media / RG Capital Radio Group. He managed all the programming operations for the 66 regional radio stations across Australia, including on-air talent recruitment, placement and development. He successfully merged the regional base into the main capital city radio-broadcasting network efficiently achieving the integration within a 6 month period. He built 6 entirely new commercial stations in fresh markets and 6 sister stations in existing markets.
Greg Smith: Rod, what is it about you and the number 6?
Rod Brice: As always Greg you pick up on things others often don’t see, having said that, the full term of working with 92.5 GOLD FM Gold Coast, SEA FM Ltd, RG Capital, Macquarie Regional Radioworks, Southern Cross media and SCA was 20 years. Actually that’s 6 company ownership changes in that time though. Spooky!
GS: Rod, tell us about your teenage years. What kind of teenager were you?
RB: I was number 7 of 8 children so I considered myself lucky, plenty of people around all the time, learning social skills wasn’t an issue, you had to be loud to be noticed. I had a strong church upbringing which I think helped as well. I had left home by the time I was 17 for my first big job in radio at 7BU in Burnie, it was a few years after you started there Greg and a great training ground.
GS: When did you know that radio was going become a major part of your life?
RB: I mentioned my family, 4 boys in that group and I was the youngest and all of my brothers had worked in radio, David started at 3SR in the days of Mike Walsh, then moved into TV for a time, Neil worked in Canadian radio for a period in the 60’s, my closest sibling Phil started at 2VM, 3NE and 4GG before eventually moving to the UK where he was involved in the commercial radio start up in the mid 70’s, he is still there in TV production. We ruined many a turntable at home playing disc jockeys on mum and dad’s stereo. I always had the desire. We had supportive parents who realised you could actually make a living from media and it was a “real” job.
GS: What do you remember about your first day in radio?
RB: I was trained by an icon of the industry – the late Lee Murray. Mr Murray, as he was always referred, didn’t teach the practical aspects of a studio…it was all voice and personality, a smart man, he knew you could pick up the studio pretty quickly. However I didn’t realise the sum total of training in my first station was going to be 4 hours sitting with the afternoon announcer looking over his shoulder watching, then at 6pm, shoving me in the chair reminding me the cue switch was to the left, program switch to the right a quick “good luck” and leaving me to stumble on. A nightmare for me and the listener…..
GS: What were the important lessons you learnt early on in your career?
RB: “Keep it tight and keep it bright” was the first catch phrase, but I also learnt don’t step into a break expecting you can “wing it”, that prior preparation really does prevent poor performance, grab every opportunity to be seen in the market you work in; compering, appearances etc. to lift your profile., treat your fellow workers with respect, you will be staggered who you run into on the way up and on the way down. Arrogance is a sign of insecurity, to be pitied.
GS: At GOLD FM on the Gold Coast who did you look to for advice?
RB: When I finally moved into my first programming job which was 2AY just prior to the launch of its FM sister station I was very green so I would seek out those with a proven track record with things to say and experience to draw on. I have been fortunate to have worked with the best in consultants along the way. At 92.5 GOLD FM when I moved there fortunately the manager Craig Denyer understood that outside assistance benefits everyone. I had a raft of great consultants along the way. Bill Clemens and Peter Don from BP&R who taught a lot about research and implementation, Dave Charles from ESP who taught me about developing talent,
Guy Dobson who was the PD of SEA FM for a time who taught me about getting in early, staying late and creative promo writing, Brad March who taught me about leadership, Tracy Johnson from the USA who taught me about embracing change and seizing the moment, yourself Greg, who taught me about listening, strategy development and implementation and great Tasmanian Pinot Noir. Very few people know it all, you learn from others. You should seek out and listen to all ideas and you will eventually develop your own style.
GS: During your time in radio you experienced numerous highs & lows. What did you learn from that experience?
RB: That the world doesn’t owe you a living and that you will have some great wins along the way. Pause a bit to enjoy them but keep moving forward, there is always something else to learn. Learn from mistakes, the old line about the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result really hit home. Be pragmatic about how decisions that affect you are made by others. Everyone is paid to do the best job they can, you won’t always agree with all decisions but do the best you can to implement the strategy. Observe others mistakes as well as successes and learn.
GS: Being responsible for that many stations must have sharpened your time management skills.
When everyone wanted a piece of you, how did you get it all done?
RB: There was never a dull moment however you count on the staff in place in network locations, most markets I dealt with had a Content Director and a State based Group Content Director so the expectation and practice in the group was don’t just come with a problem but also come with some options or solutions. The team was always set up to help each other but major issues you always made time for by prioritising and were solved with considered conversation between those involved.
GS: What are the key things you learnt over the years that you still use today?
RB: I have been through a few already, but as corny as it may sound “tomorrow is another day” and it will bring opportunities, develop skills to recognise those opportunities. You work in the media and creativity means just that, create, try things, consider fresh options, learn from others’ execution of great content and make it better, make it your own. As a leader you must have a vision that can be easily translated to the team. There is a 3000 year old saying “Where there is no vision the people perish” it’s spot on.
GS: What did a typical work day look like when you were the Programming Operations & Regional Research Manager for Southern Cross Austereo?
RB: The last 2 years with the company as SCA I was responsible for the Regional research department under the leadership of John Musgrove the SCA Research Manager, leading the team tracking regional markets. I did the interpretation of tracking reports for regional and national Content Management, what some considered the boring stuff of regional ACMA compliance for the 66 regional radio stations, that included the annual reports and checking through the internal SCA online compliance system. I assisted in the connection of regional and national strategy between what were two very different areas in the company on a daily basis to bring them closer together. Never a dull moment.
GS: What advice can you give PDs or Content Directors on how to get the best out of their breakfast show?
RB: First of all listen to them, not just listen to the show…., listen to them! I remember overhearing a national breakfast talent explaining to a listener that “every morning they would go into this person called the Program Directors office for an hour of what he called “the criticism session” where the PD would tell us why a joke at 7.23am wasn’t funny”. Now the talent wasn’t talking about me (I actually heard it on a flight between Melbourne and Brisbane) but it had a profound effect on me, I was determined that wouldn’t be me. Comedy is subjective for a start but how can you expect the talent to understand what you want for them if you don’t understand what they want from you. It should be a partnership.
GS: We all get excited or relieved when our strategic plans are delivered as we hoped. What were some of your best outcomes? Are there many career highlights. Is there a stand out moment that you really cherish?
RB: A couple spring to mind. The launch of 105.7 The River, In survey 1 the station won 10+ and when the market couldn’t believe it and demanded another survey three months later 105.7 The River went even higher and won again. Also the first time 92.5 GOLD FM beat sister station SEA FM. It was vigorous competition between both stations with separate PD’s, actually both SEA and GOLD lifted to the highest number either of them have ever got 10+ to this day, a huge win for both stations. It taught me about planning, execution and momentum, I LOVE momentum when it’s with you.
The launching of my own consultancy business has been my latest highlight. I work with the MIX / SEA team on the Sunshine Coast, Xtra research in Brisbane, the ACE network with some of their talent and SCA doing compliance as well. It’s been incredibly exciting.
GS: You must be proud of how you developed “Give me five for kids” from a single market to a national campaign across regional Australia.
How much money has been raised?
RB: I would love to take credit for developing the idea however that goes firmly to the 2GO breakfast show at the time Cameron and Sarah in the 1990’s. Just after RG Capital had purchased the station and I was visiting they told me how the previous year a simple conversation about how useless 5 cent pieces were had developed through listener conversation and feedback into a charity drive to give five cent pieces to the local children’s ward. I thought it was a brilliant example of the listeners driving an agenda and a positive one for local Children’s wards so I began the roll out to the stations we had at the time. Each year it grew as the network grew and this year it’s on all the Localworks and some HIT stations of SCA and also EON Broadcasters. So far I believe it’s raised around $15 Million for regional Children’s wards. While I am not directly involved in it I am a Give Me Five for Kids “Ambassador” and I am still very proud of everyone who works hard to get those results each year.
GS: Over the past few years there have been an increasing number of Australian radio programmers who have decided to become consultants.
How are you different in the services that you offer?
RB: I would like to consider myself a specialist in a few areas, particularly regional radio and the nuances you have to take into consideration when programming in smaller markets. That includes talent development and regular airchecking of smaller market talent who may not have access to regular local airchecking.
On the research side of things I have a solid background and understanding of the new CRA endorsed Regional Radio rating system a service which few others would offer and I work closely with what I consider the best Radio and Music researchers in Australia, Paul Amos at Xtra Research.
The feedback I get is, I am hired because it’s not just the one thing but the sum of parts I bring to the table to help grow the business.
GS: Rod can be contacted at www.rodbriceconsulting.com