Jonesy & Amanda’s history-making year (Pt 2)

Radio Consultancy

In part 1 the ACRA-winning Jonesy & Amanda were surprised to hear their ratings year has been one for the record books – an achievement unmatched by any other Sydney breakfast show of the last decade. Read part 1 here.

In part 2 they talk to Scott Muller about how they got there, how they stay fresh, their approach to making a great show every day, and they pay tribute to some unsung heroes…

Scott: So tell us about how you came to team up as the breakfast show on WSFM…

Jonesy: When I came to Sydney I worked (at Triple M) with Amanda in the morning shift and I ended up filling in for Andrew (Denton). That was a week in 2000 but I remember at the end of that week … I thought “oh god – out of all those years I’d been looking to do a team show with someone, I never realised this would be the one”. But unfortunately no radio executive had any brains to hear that the show was good – (so it was never) going to happen. It was quite frustrating at the time and I remember saying to Amanda, “it’d be great to actually do a radio show with you” and she was “oh yeah, one day”.

(Then a few years later) when I was over here at WS and I found out Amanda was leaving Triple M I thought “if only I could get Amanda to come and work with me”. So I was so pleased when it actually happened. ARN management were really good, John Williamson left it to me to woo Amanda to come over.

Amanda: He dressed up as a chicken (laugh)

Jonesy: I was like a broker to get Amanda over.

Amanda: But I wouldn’t have come if it wasn’t for you

Jonesy: I went into management and said … "I guarantee that if we get her we’ll go number 1 this time next year – and if we don’t, don’t renew my contract – I’m so sure of this”. Exactly a year later we went number 1 over Kyle & Jackie O, that was the only time we’d beaten them. I remember getting the call saying “about the results, looks like you’re going to be sticking around for a bit longer, you guys have just gone number 1". It was such a great feeling.

Scott: Listening to your show, you have a very different connection with each other and with your audience than many other shows …

Amanda: When you talk about us forging a connection with the audience I love the fact that, I don’t know if it’s because we’ve been doing it this long but we don’t have to consciously think about that anymore. We don’t have to have a picture of our target audience on a whiteboard because we are one of the rare shows that is actually living the audience’s life. We both have kids, we live in suburban homes, we do the stuff our audience does. So we don’t have to pretend to be other people. I think we’re lucky enough that the stuff that amuses us, amuses our audience and we don’t have to second guess ourselves and that’s what makes us feel natural.

Scott: “Natural” is a good choice of words. Listening to the show you get the sense that it is a show done by people from the audience….

Amanda: Yes, often we’ll be in a coffee shop and we’ll be laughing, or bickering, and people come up and say “gee, you really do talk like this”. We’re the same off-air as we are on-air and I think people get a sense of that. I love it when people come up and feel that they’re our friend, that’s such a compliment.

Scott: I’m sure lots of planning goes into your show – but it doesn’t sound like the planning is being “forced down the ears” of the person listening – some shows you can really feel the weight of the prep becoming a burden to the listener (to paraphrase Tony Martin, here) –  with your show it’s much more “invisible” than that…

Jonesy: Radio has changed so much. When we started doing the show, youtube didn’t exist, Facebook didn’t exist…

Amanda: I couldn’t pre-emptive text (laughs)

Jonesy: All that sort of stuff, we’ve seen the evolution of that. I listen to old radio shows like Doug Mulray’s 10th anniversary show (pictured left) which, at the time, I thought was the greatest radio show I had ever heard in my life. I listened to it the other day and … there’s no way that show would stand up now. I’m not saying that Doug Mulray wouldn’t stand up now, but that particular show … because people expect more, the days of having big talk-breaks are over.

* hear Doug Mulray's 10th anniversary show – it starts here

We used to do that. In 2005 there were a lot of times on the show we’d say “what are we doing here?” and we’d go on-air without knowing what we’re doing. We don’t do that anymore. The show is mapped out but it doesn’t sound like that.

Amanda: Charlie Fox used to say he could tell when we hit this spot where we forget that we’re on the radio and I love that! That’s why I love this job, come in and talk to my friend. Some days are harder than others when you are scrambling a bit but many days you kinda forget that you’ve been on the radio. That’s how comfortable it is.

Jonesy: I listened to a breakfast show the other morning and it was saying “why don’t we get the listeners to call through”. Come on guys, you haven’t evolved. No one refers to listeners as listeners. It’s as ridiculous as talkback radio when they say “it’s 26 and 3 quarter minutes past the hour” (laughs). There has to be an evolution of what you say on-air I suppose.

Like when I (used to) panel – Charlie Fox said to me 5 years ago “do you want to get a panel op?”. At first I was so outraged. The problem with the NexGen and Klotz setup is you are constantly looking at it to see what’s going on – so what would happen is Amanda would say “I jumped out of a plane today and had a baby” and I’d say “alright it’s 26 past 7”. You don’t actually listen to what’s being said so I’ve really found it quite cathartic to let go of the panel.

Amanda: And that (Jonesy not panelling) has made the difference because what we wanted to achieve was '2 people in a coffee shop talking to each other'.

Jonesy: There’s also a skill to it. Out of all the people that do breakfast radio, there’s not many of us old school DJ’s doing it (this way).

Amanda: Most have got anchors.

Jonesy: Yes, (on many shows) there’s the nameless anchor that chimes in a time call but doesn’t say anything. It’s so formulaic and so flawed.

Scott: As a general rule, that’s management imposing an anchor to help retain a feeling of a sense of control over the show.

Amanda: And they pull the anchor aside and say ‘tighten them up’ and there’s some poor anchor trying to tell us all to shutup.

Scott: Yep, no surprises that that’s pretty much the idea of sticking the eleventeen year old kid in there with you. What’s funny is sometimes they think the shows don’t know that! One of the things I’ve encountered with many shows is they have a different talk topic every 10 minutes – 6 or more different phoners in one hour…

Amanda: I find that’s really lazy radio. It’s like here’s an interesting topic, we don’t know what to do with it so we’ll make it a phoner. We’re very conscious not doing that. We’ll pick one topic, some days we won’t have a phoner if we think we’ve got better stuff than a phoner. I think a lot of shows use it too much as a crutch.

Jonesy: My own feelings on phoners is I think they’re dead. When I was working at B105 I used to panel Martin Molloy (pictured) and they did Radio Gladiators. They were the pre-cursor to the phoner. They were the guys that gave us the radio phoner. Then all of a sudden (name withheld) would say “okay we want people to ring up, Friends was on last night, have you ever ended up with a friend you weren’t supposed to” and then the TV show phoner became a huge thing.

Scott: That same era in the 1990s saw the start of a lot of American consultants preaching about “being primal” – which, unfortunately, a lot of shows pretty much dumbed down to simply “boys and girls fighting on-air about relationships and sex”…

Amanda: I’m grateful that we don’t have to be the boy and the girl. We have very distinct character definitions but that’s just by nature of who we are, we haven’t had to pretend to be that. There are some things where Jonesy likes something soft and I’ll be the other way. So it’s not just “he said, she said”, which I find so predictable.

Scott: So, as a combined ACRAs / “WSFM’s Historic 2012” thankyou speech, who would you most like to thank…

Jonesy: I’d like to thank Amanda for taking the chance in 2005, that was pretty cool. Our people are incredible, like Laura Viglino our Executive Producer – just a gun. Mindy who answers the phones and David Post.

Scott: You’ve got Postie? Awesome producer…

Amanda: Postie is a genius.

Jonesy: I worked with him at B105 in Brisbane and Charlie Fox brought him into the station, we were looking for a new production/imaging guy and up until then we had no-one. He said “you know this guy?” and I said “yes”, he said “we’re thinking of getting him as our image guy” and I just said “no, Charlie, you’re not going to get him – we can’t afford him coz he’s too good”.

I was so pleased when we got him. Dave is like a third brain to us. I always love when he comes up “guys, I’ve just been working on something, what do you reckon?”. And the stuff he brings us is just killer. I don’t know what we’d do without him to be honest.

Amanda: Also Sarah Crabb and Jim Dolan. If you could put a team in amber, it’d be this one, they are absolutely brilliant.

When Jonesy asked me to come over here – and this is big accolades to my friend here, we were friends before I worked here – I said I’d do 2 years of breakfast radio. And I said to my husband “put the money away for the kids school fees, I’m doing 2 years and that’s it”. And Jonesy promised me it would never be hard and it would always be fun. To his credit, most days that’s absolutely true. Here I am 8 years later – and I say no to a lot of television so I can keep doing this job coz I absolutely love it.

For us to have this ACRA together it means a lot. We’ve had a little team baby with a rough head.

Jonesy: and it came out sideways so there’s gonna be some stitches.



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

Click here to contact him.

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