Jonesy & Amanda’s history-making year (Pt 1)

Radio Consultancy

In their 8th year as WSFM’s breakfast stars, Jonesy & Amanda won the ACRA for Best On-Air Team, Metro – and have enjoyed a truly spectacular year of ratings success.

Here they talk to Scott Muller about how they got there, how they stay fresh, their approach to making a great show every day – and are happy to hear that in 2012 they’ve made ratings history in a way no other Sydney breakfast show of the last decade has come close to achieving …

Scott: Congratulations on winning the ACRA for Best On-Air Team – that winning photo seems to be on websites everywhere.

Amanda: Is that the one with my mouth wide open?

Scott: Yes, this one…


Jonesy: We are beside ourselves, we’re thrilled. I was always concerned that we weren’t going to be able to do it. The last ACRA I won was at Triple M … (for) being able to say “26 degreeees, here’s some Nickelback”. But this one is about doing a good show – and the shows that we were up against (in the category) were no slouches. So, to beat Kyle & Jackie O, in particular, was really good 'coz those guys are a very good radio show.

Amanda: Absolutely!

Jonesy: … and the history that Kyle and I have – we‘ve sorta shared the same stations in the past and pretty much had the same career development I guess, although he probably makes more money than me. It’s not about money…..

Amanda: Isn’t it? You brought it up!

Scott: ARN must be over the moon, not just with the ACRA win, but with such a spectacular ratings year. I’m sure Duncan (Campbell) and everyone else has been pointing out what a spectacular year it’s been, not only for your breakfast show, but also for WSFM.

Did you know this year for WSFM is historically significant in that it is the only FM station – and it’s also the only breakfast show – that is rating better now than before the last two FM licences (Nova 969 and 95.3fm) were introduced – in other words: 2012 is WSFM’s best ratings year in well over a decade!

Amanda: (Genuine surprise) Really?!?!?

Scott: Yes – if I was to take one stat out of any station or show in Australia for this year, that would be the one to highlight. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen. It doesn’t matter what industry you work in, when new competition is introduced, in the long run everyone inevitably loses share – but your show and your station are the only ones in Sydney now doing better than when there were only 4 commercial FM licenses.

Amanda: Really?!? 

Editor’s note: All statistics sourced from Nielsen, Mon-Fri 05.30-9.00am, 10+ share. The black bars highlight the station’s breakfast show share in the 2001 surveys prior to Nova 969’s launch. The blue bars highlight the station’s average breakfast show share for 2012 – except WSFM’s Jonesy & Amanda, which is highlighted in red. The grey columns show each station’s average breakfast share for each year 2002-2011.

Jonesy: I’m still optimistic about the next book (released Tuesday October 30th). Considering this time last year we went down to a 5 (share), that was that horrible book. For some reason we always have a bad survey 6 and I don’t know why – then we make it back in Survey 7 or 8.

Scott: Amanda, so how do you approach the rollercoaster ride of the ratings?

Amanda: I’ve been doing this for so long, and the same with television ratings. I love the success and I love the feeling when Charlie comes in and tells us we had a good one. And I hate when he comes in and says it hasn’t been a good one for us. To be honest, I know that we’ll go up and we’ll go down. I take a lot of it with a grain of salt. I know people that get really anxious about this stuff and I get caught up in it, too, but it’s swings and roundabouts. I never compare this (WSFM) to having worked at Triple M with Andrew (Denton). When I’m doing television I don’t compare that experience with Beyond 2000. Each is its own thing. I’m daggy in the way that I like my life and I love this job, and when it’s over I go home and I try not to be more stressed than that if I can help it.

Jonesy: What if we were rating a 3 (share)?

Amanda: Then that would be shithouse (laugh)

Scott: Jonesy, you mentioned Kyle and, looking back at your careers, there has been a parallel path with working in smaller and regional markets. You started in commercial radio at 6KA Karratha, which was also one of the first stations Brad March worked at, in the remote north-west of WA not far from where I grew up…

Jonesy: Haha, yeah, Karratha was the only place that would give me a job! So to move from (living in) Sydney to Karratha it was a real eye opener, it was quite amazing.

Amanda: But (then) you didn’t go straight from Karratha back to Sydney ?

Jonesy: Oh god no, there were about 5 stations in between, I think. Like Muswellbrook, I remember  that was like the big time. I thought “I could retire in Muswellbrook and I’d be happy here” – but then Wollongong came along and I thought that’s it. It was the first time I had to deal with ratings and I remember that, I just thought ‘Wow!’ 1993 was my first year of actually going through radio ratings and it was such an anxious time. Coz Wollongong only had 2 survey’s a year, so if you sucked, you sucked for 6 months, it was terrible.

Amanda: But if you had a good one how great’s that!!!

Jonesy: Yeah, when you had a good one you were kings of the world.

Scott: And, Amanda, your career has been completely different. I didn’t realise until recently that you once worked with the legendary Richard Neville-pictured right (author, “futurist”, and co-editor of the counterculture magazine, Oz, in the 1960s and 1970s. Richard gave an inspiring and thought-provoking presentation at the Commercial Radio Australia conference a couple of years ago).

Amanda: Yes, that’s right. I was working on the Midday Show with Ray Martin and Richard was a contributor and was this most enigmatic, smart, interesting person. I was doing a couple of stories on air with Ray but I discovered by then that I wanted to move more into the on-air because I had been a producer. I got a job as a reporter on Extra Dimensions. I wasn’t big on the new age movement but it was a chance to be a reporter. I guess that’s part of the thing too, I wasn’t big on science but then went onto work at Beyond 2000 so it was about you telling a story where the subject matter isn’t the important focus necessarily, it was learning how to produce a story.

Scott: Did that (producing / telling a story) set a foundation for how you approach what you do now?

Amanda: In a way. We did a talk the other day at AFTRS and we were asked “should you hold out for a job you really want, or do you take what’s being offered?” For me I’ve loved that my career has gone all over the place because I didn’t have a dream as to where I wanted to be. I was envious when Jonesy said he knew exactly what he wanted – he wanted breakfast radio. I’ve never had a game plan and I used to wish I did but when I look back now at my career I am glad I didn’t because if a door opened at the side that was where I went. Even though I was fearful going into a subject I knew nothing about, they’ve all been great moves I think. I’ve discovered the journey is the important bit – not nailing the destination.

Jonesy: All my life all I wanted to do is work at Triple M and that was my dream, to do breakfast like my hero Doug Mulray. By the time I got to Triple M it wasn’t about being on the breakfast show, it was about back announcing Nickelback and saying how great the breakfast show was. The thing about that is that being a daytime DJ still used to be about (great) panelling. But with NexGen and Maestro … it became really about stitching the stuff together between the songs. So you’re really in a situation where the job became semi-redundant. They certainly couldn’t justify what they were paying me back in the 90’s, I don’t think that sort of money is around for daytime DJ’s anymore.

Scott: Oh, god no – absolutely it isn’t. The technology has taken away a lot of the artistry that, say, someone legendary like Rob Duckworth (left) had to put into his show when he was at Triple M in the earlier days – versus what he probably gets a chance to do now. It’s a very different gig in many ways. But as one of the all-time great music DJs, Duck still has something going that is very special and unique.

Jonesy: I remember when I was in Karratha I’d get people to send me over tapes of Triple M to hear how Ron E Sparks was panelling (laugh). No one does that anymore coz NexGen can panel better than anyone. It’s sad in a way. I heard that Kyle makes some poor lacky get all the CD’s and he panels them himself, which is a little mental. It’s like getting a Pajero and getting a horse to pull it around the place. The days of when you used to listen to the radio and you went “oh mate, great crossfade, did you hear that!” (laughs)

Amanda: But I think the skillsets are different now, the Duck still sounds amazing because he still has a verbal skill. He’s got this wonderful charm and this ability to pull you in. He’s brilliant at being on-air. Radio is no longer your jukebox and those people that were technically gifted, but weren’t as good on-air, that job has changed. Like Ron E and Duck, if you’ve got the verbal skills the job’s still there.

Scott: Yes, I agree – and that’s probably not celebrated enough now – with the technology-led changes going on in all media, the job of being a great communicator is even more rare and precious.

Amanda: I think so – and I think in the future, along with all those changes, there’ll still be a place for human contact and human storytelling and human connection. The immediacy that you get from people you feel you know that are talking to you on the radio. It is one of those things where if you find a connection, you can’t surpass that, you can’t replace that, and that’s what it’s about.

In part 2 Jonesy & Amanda tell Scott the unusual way the show first came about, how they stay fresh, their approach to making a great show every day, and they pay tribute to some unsung heroes…read it here


Scott Muller is Director of MBOS Consulting Group, a media management and consulting firm.

Click here to contact him.

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