The show has been very Canada-centric for the last few weeks, so it felt like there was no better time to bring on a broadcast legend from another part of the world. This week's guest, Nails Mahoney, has been hosting top-rated radio shows in Ireland and the UK for decades. He's also worked as a TV presenter in Ireland, and performed onstage as a stand-up comedian and keynote/guest speaker at more than 30 workshops like TEDx Dublin. But don't drift away yet, our Canadian audience! Nails has also spent time in Canadian radio, including several years at Q107.
On this episode, we talk about his path through radio, and some of the differences between Irish/UK radio and the scene in Canada. For example, did you know that the rock and grunge movement of the 90's never really made it over to Ireland? We also talk about Nails' current projects and future plans, including ONAIRCOACH, his private coaching service for on-air personalities. Nails shares a lot of insight about how he coaches different types of talent and why he felt the need to start the service in the first place.
Later in the show, we touch on two of his biggest and most recent endeavours:
The 5th annual RadioStar contest, a tournament between up-and-coming broadcasters to bring some notoriety to their name, and The Radio Space, a social media site designed specifically for people in the broadcast industry to mix and mingle. If you're in radio and sick of using Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook (and all the unrelated crud that comes with those sites), this is the place to be. As their website says, "Think Facebook but ONLY for radio! No Algorithm. No ads. YOU are in charge of what you see."
Also a thanks to our latest sponsor, The CHR Prep Service. Click to get a free trial.
The Sound Off Podcast. The podcast about broadcast with Matt Cundill... Starts now.
This week, a long overdue talk with Nails Mahoney. Along with Tracy Lee, he founded On Air Coach. Nails has been a radio presenter in Ireland, the UK and Canada since 1986. He's worked at licensed and unlicensed radio stations. More about that shortly. Since 2007, he's presented workshops and seminars for the radio industry, coached presenters, personalities and hosts across the planet. He just really lives and breathes radio, and that's the kind of person we want to have on this show. Nails Mahoney joins me from the home office of On Air Coach in Malta.
Tell me about Malta. Why do you live there and why do you love it?
Live here? Because my partner Tracy lives here. She's been living here for about twelve years. So she hopped on board the On Air Coach bus about six years ago. And it was either stay in Ireland. When I came back from Toronto, I stayed in Ireland for a year and I just thought I needed somewhere new to refresh everything. And I thought, you know what? Tracy is based in Malta, so why don't we go down there and see how it works out. So that was four and a half years ago and just kind of stayed because it's a very easy place to live. It's small, the weather is nice, it's cheap, people are decent. So, I mean, there wasn't an awful lot to not like. And as you witnessed by even doing these podcasts, as you well know, you can be anywhere sitting in your underwear if you want to be, and still sound semi professional. So it was kind of a no brainer. And we've been here ever since. Will we stay forever? Who knows? We're here right now. We're still working it.
If I take a ferry boat from Malta, where can I go to?
Sicily is your first stop. Bing, Bing, all aboard for Sicily. And then you will then get another ferry to take you to Southern Italy, or you can go the opposite way and hit North Africa if you want. But it's a bit of a longer ferry ride, a bit more treacherous. So let's play it safe and go to Sicily first.
How did you ever get involved with radio in the first place?
Oh, man. You asked this of everybody, right? And do you ever get an original, a brand new story? Have you ever heard a brand new one where you go, what? I can't believe that's how that happened. Has that ever happened to you?
Yeah, actually, especially younger people. They say they kind of fumbled into it from the side, so they would go to school and take a course and it would be a little bit about content creation or they wanted to do advertising or television and then they fell into radio.
I still hear that a lot. You probably do as well still hear that a lot. I often wonder, though, I mean, I'll tell you how in a second but if you don't mind me rambling for one moment, it seems to be the same route for an awful lot of people as you say, went to school, studied this studied that, decided I liked this particular part of the medium, got a small job, interned, blah blah blah, then worked my way up. Is that the general step that people take?
That would be the normal path, yeah. It may or may not include radio school and it may involve campus radio instead.
Yeah, my one is slightly different. I suppose that's not going to blow your mind or anything. My first experience on radio. Now you have to imagine this innocent little Irish boy aged about twelve. I was a boy soprano. You wouldn't know what to hear me now but voice of an Angel, Matt, voice of an angel. And we used to go around a little tours around the UK and Ireland and we were in a town called Leicester in the Midlands in England when I was about twelve years old and they said does anybody want to go on the radio and talk about the choir and the tour? We're in the entertainment business because we're slight show off so it was a bit of a show off in regard that I like to just talk and chat and try and be funny. So the hand went right up and we were brought into BBC Radio Leicester and I was just fascinated by all the people running around. This was back on real to real days. People are splicing tape and everybody had a job, a specific job and I just thought it was fascinating and then they put these headphones on your head and you get to speak and it was like wow, that sounds mental. That's not me. Wow. And I just love the sound of it. I just thought it was great. So I thought I'm going to try and do this if I can. And then when I was growing up pirate radio was really big in Ireland. So I got a gig on a pirate radio station called DCR and just started fumbling my way through things and copying everybody that I like listening to like people on Radio Luxembourg entertainers. I got into radio to entertain, not to play music, it was to entertain primarily. So I always wanted to be that guy that I heard on Radio Luxembourg, on BBC Radio One or any of these entertainment stations rather than that was this is kind of presenter that was the tow in legitimate radio with BBC and then pirate radio, all the illegal Pirates and then back into legitimate radio again about five years later.
How do you find a pirate radio station?
You don't now. They're pretty much dead in the water now. Then you see there was a loophole. Ireland is a funny little country right? There was a loophole that said pirate radio was legal pending legislation. They weren't actually illegal. They just were never qualified as legal. So you could set up a radio station without a license and they could try and shut you down, but you could start again because strictly speaking, they weren't illegal. They just weren't officially legal, if that makes sense. It's an Irish solution to an Irish problem, right? So every second person in the country, in the city, in Dublin where I was, was a DJ on the radio because there were so many radio stations, your friend would set up a radio station next door and you do a show for an hour. So it was really easy. But then the big boys came in. There were two guys in particular, Robbie Robinson and Chris Carey, who worked all the pirate ships, like in the boat that rocked these kind of shows. These guys came in and they spruced it up. They gave a professional feel. And then there was another man from the States called Bill Cunningham, who was my mentor. Bill came into the station. I was in Sunshine 101, and he formatted it properly for the first time. We had format radio in Ireland, and it just kicked the heck out of everybody else. It was the number one station within about three months, and I was lucky enough to do breakfast on that. So how do you find them? They were everywhere. But like with Internet radio, now you'll find an Internet station everywhere. Just look for one and go find 100. Right. So it was the same with pirate radio back then.
What about Radio Luxembourg? Because I remember being in Dusseldorf in the summer of 1984, and I managed to pull it in, and I knew it had a reputation. But what does Radio Luxembourg mean to anybody who's listening to radio in Europe?
Well, you're going back a tiny bit right now. It's gone 15 years or so. I don't know how long it's gone. It's gone at least a decade and a half. When I was growing up, I lived in Brussels when I was a little kid for about four years. And it was the only English speaking radio station that we could pick up, and it was only next door. Brussels is down the road from Luxembourg. So we'd hear Rob Jones, I'd hear Benny Brown. I'd hear all the great on Luxembourg. They were again entertainers. No, two songs in a row. They come on, they crack the mic open after every song. Entertain, have characters, have stories of jokes, whatever they were doing back then at the time. And there was a very special feel about it because it was almost the first pan European event that I remember. I remember thinking, wow, everybody's listening to this station everywhere. I just thought that was an amazing thing. And again, that sparked my kind of interest in, wow, these guys have got so much. There's the ability to entertain so many people just by sitting in one room and that's magic, right? To be able to sit in a room and have millions of people hear you is pretty crazy. So as a little kid, I thought that was pretty special. And Luxembourg was a very special place, but it was of its time, like everything of its time, right? It wouldn't survive now. It just wouldn't work. The format wouldn't work. It's on the Am, it would never work. So it was very much of its time, which is nice. I like things that are of their time. Then they know when to bow out gracefully. It's always good to know when to bow out. Luxembourg bowed out very gracefully.
Thinking back to when you were twelve and you got behind the microphone, you must have had at least another 35 minutes before you departed from being a choir boy and a soprano to something completely different. I always find that the best Sopranos just completely lose their ability to sing by the time they get to the age of 13. But what was the next time that you got behind a microphone and started to work in radio?
Yeah. There was a community station that opened up very local to me for like a pop up station for a couple of weeks, and I was the entertainment reporter on that one. It was an RTE station, the national broadcaster. They just popped it up like a CBC kind of thing. So I was not working. I was volunteering for that because you don't work when you're 15, really. You just volunteering. You take whatever's going. And then the pirate stations. The big break was Sunshine 101. And I ended up doing breakfast there for three years until December 88, when all the Pirates, they brought in legislation. The government finally brought in legislation to say, Listen, this whole loophole thing, we're closing it, so you all have to close, otherwise you're going to jail. Basically, it's kind of, oh, really? Oh, that's a bummer. So everything closed. All the pirate radio stations closed down and they advertised for new licenses. Luckily, I didn't have to wait. I got a gig with RTE, National Two FM. It was called the national pop music station. I would stay and I was doing evenings and weekends and stuff there. That was a big deal at the time because I think I was 21. And to get on national radio without wanting to sound like, oh, yeah, I knew that would happen. You know, when you're good at something like, you know, you're good at this, right? You wouldn't do it. If you thought you were crap at this, you wouldn't do it. So, you know, you're good at it. And I felt I was good enough to do national radio. So when it came along, I thought, first of all, I was delighted. It's like, wow, brilliant, fantastic. But at the back of my mind, I'm going, I had a feeling I might be able to get this. So that was kind of a nice way back in that emotional, you know what I mean by that? We always say when we're coaching people, what are you great at? We ask people, what are you great at? And it takes us about 2345 minutes to get the grade because most people go, well, I'm pretty good at this and I like this and I'm okay with that. And you can't build a career on. I'm okay and I'm pretty good at. You have to be great because especially in our business, so many people are going to be great and you really need to have your stuff together. So what are you great at? And I felt I could be great at radio if I just put my mind to it. So long winded answer to when I got behind the mic.
Next, what was the legacy, though, of pirate radio? Because I think to 1989, the licenses come out, the radio dial gets cleaned up. Was there any pirate radio legacy that found its way into the commercial space?
Yeah. Most pirate presenters who are good ended up getting obviously regular gigs, fully legal gigs in the new station. The problem was for about six, seven, eight months. I'm not a historian on it. There are people who are well, more versed than me on what happened afterwards. But the dial was empty, if you can imagine. You've got FM just pranked with power stations one day and then you tune in the next day and there's only three stations and they're all the national broadcaster. And one of them is very boring when you're young. It's all talk shows and politics. The other one was semiokay. And then there was a local temporary station that was put on air just to make up for the slack of the Piratesman gone. So it was really boring and quite uninteresting. So for the average listener it was a real because radio was King back then. It was everything. People protested outside government buildings for weeks on end. When the Pirates were closed, it was a big deal. So it was very boring, but most of the jocks ended up getting gigs on local stations. The problem was they licensed the local stations so slowly. I mean, Dublin was a city of just over a million and a half back then and they licensed two FM stations and that was the situation for not nearly a decade. So it was very disappointing and it was kind of boring and regulated now. So 20% news and current affairs, 30% Irish content like Cancom they have all the stipulations were with Pirates, you can do whatever the heck you wanted. So it was a pity.
What is the difference between the radio in Ireland and the radio in the UK? And I ask this because I'm a Canadian and the only difference I can hear is the accents.
Yeah. Okay. Well, first of all, because of two separate countries the same way Canada and the States are two separate countries. You got two separate governing bodies. So Offcom it runs UK and the broadcast association of Ireland. The Bai runs the Irish station. So two completely different territories, two completely different countries. So different rules, different regulations. Everything is different because they're two different sovereign States. Right. So a lot of what you're finding now, there was companies like Barr Wireless Communicor are buying up stations in both countries. For example, I think Barr is the biggest company in the UK. They run five stations in Ireland now, two of them national. So the crossover is happening put that way, which only makes sense because Ireland is a small country. It's only 5 million people, so it's a small place. So it was only a matter of time before they got bought out, I would imagine. How did you get to Canada on a plane? Well, hey, my ex wife at the time, Paula, is a Canadian citizen and she was always going back and I always wanted to work somewhere in North America just to prove that I could do it to myself. Her plan was I'm going to go back and I'm going to live there for a while. We were engaged. I went to where I'll go, I'll go and we end up in Vancouver. That's where she's from. And I remember at the time being told, yeah, good luck with that kid. You're getting a gig here. But I remember knocking on doors everywhere. And eventually JJ Jim Johnson opened up One and Pat Cardinal was behind it. He was assistant program director at LG 73 and Pat, in his insanity, put me on an overnight to see how I sounded. This guy fresh off the boat and it just kind of I wouldn't say a balloon from there, but it was the start right in LG 73 and you couldn't ask for a better station to start off with an LG. Even at the time, it was even when a. M. Was on the slippy slope, it was still an amazing station to work with amazing people.
How long were you in Vancouver for?
Most of the 90s. Came back a couple of times on short stints to Ireland. I worked in for a station in the UK called Atlantic two, five two. So Atlantic was run between RTE Irish radio and RTL radio television Luxembourg and a broadcast of the UK, all at national station in the UK, CHR tough 40 station. So I spent about wasn't even a year, maybe during midday there and then just hadn't finished in Vancouver. So we went back for another couple of years. You have a job to do. Hadn't done it. Hadn't finished it yet. So went back and ended up with Z 95 and 650 Sea aisle for a couple of years before throwing in the towel and heading back to Dublin again, where we stayed for eight more years. Ten more years. Eight years at the One station 98 FM. So most of the 90s in Vancouver.
But you weren't done with Canada because you also worked in Toronto.
Yeah, well, it was a weird one again, because radio was radio. I got the eight years out of 98 FM in Dublin doing an afternoon drive, then moved to a brand new national station called Four FM doing afternoons. And three years later, can we have a quick chat in the office, nails conversation, you know where that one goes. And then you go, oh, crap. Okay, I need a gig. So I was out of a gig. They go, right, what do I do? So I thought you do what everybody does, you start looking. So I remember seeing an ad in Milkman and I said Q and Seven looking for presenters. And I thought, screw it, why not? I know that station. I knew Harry Cogan, Howie the hitman Kogan, Hungry Man, Colin. I remember how he worked in there and him saying it was a good place. So I thought I'd go for it. And then about three months later I got an email out of the blue saying, Hi, my name is Blair. I'd like to chat with you about the gig, the job that you applied for. What job was that? I'd forgotten about it. And then I looked at his email address and I was like, right, okay. And two weeks later I had a contract signed and heading off to Toronto to do Q and seven for a couple of years.
So we're going to call that Canada round two?
Pretty much. Yeah, I guess so. I guess so. Yeah, we'll do that. That's got a nice ring to it. That's the next chapter in the book, my part of the book.
What would you say is the difference between radio in Toronto and radio in Vancouver? I know it might be tough to compare given that these are in separate decades, but just from your view.
Well, overall, first of all, radio in the two markets that I worked in in Canada, the level of professionalism was beautiful. I just enjoyed it. I enjoyed the fact that great things were expected of you in Irish radio at the time. If you did great things, that was nice. But it's okay, don't worry about it. You're doing fine kind of thing. Whereas especially in Toronto, I remember having an air check with Blair, one of the first air checks with Blair Bartim, problem director of Q 107 at the time. And I was about three weeks at the end of the gig. And I knew the talk break that was coming up wasn't fantastic. So I was getting my excuse ready. So player plays the audio he stops it and I looked at him with that smile and went, hey, I wasn't going for the award with that one. Hahaha trying to brush it off. Switch Player very nicely said, Nails, we're always going for the award here. And he just kept playing the next piece of audio. And I thought, yeah, okay, I got it. The bar is super high and it never lowers, right? So I had to up my game more than I ever did before, which was fantastic because it made me sharpen everything that I had and really think about what I was doing. Whereas sometimes, especially in the Irish radio, I was used to look you could wing at some shows if you weren't in the mood. That's okay, don't worry about it. I was told, no, every time we crack the mic open, you're going for the award. So up your game. And that was great. I really appreciate that.
I'm thinking of some of the people that you've come into contact with, and you mentioned JJ and you mentioned Pat and you mentioned Blair and some great radio stations, like said, 95 and LG and Q 107. These are some pretty big radio stations that you got to work with and some, I guess, radio stations that are really all about great performance.
Don't ask me how it happened, because I still don't understand. And I think you need to have that ability to. Yeah, think you're good. It's nice. Like I was saying, it's nice to think you're good, but still be humbled by the fact that somebody wants to pay you to talk on their radio station, to perform for their format and their call letters. It's just such a huge privilege. And sometimes you do have to pinch yourself. And even if I was working for a station that was struggling, still, the fact that somebody thinks I'm good enough to hire is, to me, an amazing thing. And yeah, the bigger the station fantastic. I mean, Atlantic Two Five two that I mentioned, I know that will be alien to most Canadian listeners or Canadian radio people. It's average quarter at the time was a quarter of a million people. We're talking an absolute monster of a radio station. And the great thing was when you're not on air, it was just run like a little family enterprise. Everybody got on, everybody was happy, everybody was just doing their thing, and they're just all good friends. There was no ego, there was no we're the greatest thing in the world. Because that's not what it's about. It's about just enjoying the fact that you're part of something special. In 2007, when I was there, I really felt I mean, I felt really honored to be part of that station because I'd known all about it. I've heard it's a legend. It's like C 100, Kiss La. It's just known. The name is just known. Even across the other side of the world, people know Q 107. So to be able to say that you did, that was one of the things Sycophantic. But it was a great honor to open the mic in a market that size on a station that legendary and say the name pretty cool, pretty cool.
In just a second: More with Nails as we talk about air checks and feedback. Oh, those uncomfortable conversations. Also, his projects like Radio Star and the Radio Space. And if you are in radio, you should join the Radio Space. The link is in the show notes of this episode. And there's more. There's always more on our episode page at soundoffpodcast.com.
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The Sound Off Podcast.
You've been air checked?
Many before you. What would you tell anybody who sort of lows air checks or doesn't look forward to going into them, doesn't like to hear the sound of their own voice or gets nervous before them? What feedback can you offer them about the process?
It's funny. Tracy and myself did a call with Rogers Media, all their program directors across the country a few months ago. They were all on board the calls with 30 different program directors. And we were talking about air checking because we did a survey with presenters. And one of the survey questions was, what do you think of air checking? And of course, every presenter says, don't like them? And there was this roar of laughter down the line and we were thinking, why is everybody laughing? And the general consensus back to the programmers where we don't like them either, we don't like doing them. So we're kind of, oh, really? Okay, that's interesting. We didn't know that the whole point. What they were saying was when you're presenting, you're nervous because you're being air checked. Program directors, content controllers, whatever you call them nowadays are also nervous because they don't want to screw up. And when you think about it, it's only when we started coaching and air checking, we realized what a responsibility it is because if I screw up and give wrong advice or give wrong direction to somebody who needs direction, you're responsible for how they move next, where they go next, what they do next. So it's a big deal. So I would say to first of all, to presenters who are being air checked, understand the person air checking you is also feeling it. They're also maybe not nervous, but very aware that this is something that they need to get right as well as you, unless, of course, your program director happens to be a Dick, excuse the expression, and just gets off and giving people a hard time. But they are less and less in the industry now. Thankfully, there are way less of those people in the industry now. Most people who air check do it out of a desire to help and desire to bring you forward. The best air checks that I've ever had are generally not show air checks, as in we listen to the whole show, they'll take one talk break and we'll talk about that. And to me, they're the best because it takes the pressure off and we're going to listen to this break. I like this. I didn't like this, or there was something I heard in this that I think we could chat about, play the talk break, play the audio, and then talk about it. If it's a ten minute air check or an hour, it doesn't matter. Once the conversation is over, it's over. It takes all the pressure off everybody and we can all go about our business and feel good and learn something about what we just spoke about. To me, that's a better way to air checks need to be reinvented. That's my thinking on it.
If you ask talent what their number one complaint is, it could be I don't like air checks, but at the same time, I don't get air checked enough. So they do crave feedback.
And I'm telling you, one of the reasons we always say, Tracy myself always say our job should not exist. We should not be able to make a living out of what we do. Because what we do is we work with presenters who have program directors and content directors, and we asked them, why did you come to us? And that's one of the top answers. I don't get feedback. And we're like, okay, well, we'll give you feedback and we'll do that. Or I don't get attention or I don't know how I'm doing or I'm just told I'm good, yeah, great, that kind of thing. So, yeah, we complain and I say we because I consider myself a presenter in my bones. We complain about not getting air checked and we complain during the air check and we squirm on our seat, but afterwards we're pleased we got that air check. We're pleased we got that connection. It's like anything else. I mean, when you put yourself out there and presenters are on air, people are always putting themselves out there. Whether you're trying to be funny, controversial, stimulate new thoughts, whatever it is you're putting you out there for criticism. So when you sit down to be purposely critiqued, it can put a lot of pressure on you. It can't go, crap, here we go. What are they going to say? So obviously we don't like that. It's like somebody wearing a pair of trousers and everybody comments on them walking down the street like your trousers don't like your trousers. They're nice trousers. Where did you get Jesus Christ in the home, just a pair of trousers. But you become very aware of you. And with an air check, you become very aware of what you're saying and what you're putting out there, obviously it's under the microscope. But if we can take that pressure away by just chatting and just conversing and not analyzing so much and I'm talking analyzing as in nitpicking, because everybody's got their style. I mean, if you're new to the business, you need to learn the rules. You need to learn how formats work. I'm talking they're checking actual content and personality and emotion because it's all about emotion. Right. Everything you say on the radio has to emotionally connect with the listener. Otherwise they're not going to feel it. The listener has to feel it. They can't see you, so they have to feel it as well as hear it. So that's what I'm talking about. When I talk about air checks.
I'm going to think back right to the beginning of the show when what are you good at? What are you great at? But isn't that the whole purpose of bringing in what you do for a living is to really sort of read the label from outside the pickle jar, because when you're inside a radio station, it's very tough to read it. It's almost like you're in a bit of a fishbowl. So I would say that this is why we need you and that's to come in and really give that big overview into what somebody is really good at in order that they could do more of that and maybe less of what they're not strong at.
Yes, I totally agree. Whether we're needed or not, I don't know that we're still here. So obviously there's some sort of a need. What we find is we've been told in the past that one of the reasons radio stations, for example, will bring us on board to listen to and work with the panel of presenters is exactly like you said, sometimes the program director is too close to the coal face and can't see the coal. So you need somebody who's a bit further back to see what's going on and hear what's going on. We've just been working with a station in Glasgow in Scotland over the last few weeks, and the feedback from the programmer there and the CEO there was exactly what you said. That's the thing about it. We're not reinventing anything here, but we're trying to basically get people to see what again, the word great, what they're great at. And if somebody hires us, we will extract that from them. The difference between a consultant and a coach. We don't call ourselves consultants because we're not. We're coaches. A consultant, to me, knows pretty much everything there is to know about the radio industry. We know presentation. That's what we know. That's our thing, that's our niche, that's our strength. That's what we deal with. So we will coach a person to be the best presenter they can be and the best presenter on a particular radio station that they can be. And we take it personally when it's not working. That's why we will do extra sessions with people. We'll say, listen, we're out of time or we've done our six weeks or three weeks. Will you come back in a couple of weeks time, because we want to do some more stuff with you, because it's very important. You get very emotionally involved with people, especially new people who will ask us. You got to remember, a lot of people who want to get into radio aren't in radio yet or have lost a job. And in order to hire us, ultimately they need to put their hand in their pocket, money they've earned. They've gone out and worked for money and they're handing that to us to help them. So for us to kind of take that anything but incredibly seriously would be a disgrace. So we really feel that, all right, this person has come to us. We have to get them what they want or close to it. And until we do, we don't give up on them. And that's why we do this. It's more than just consulting. It's coaching and coaching is very personal. I mean, we got an email. I can't say the guy yet because it's not official, but he just got a morning show in the UK. He's been out of work for three years. He's been working with us for the last year, and he finally got a morning show last week. He hasn't signed the contract yet. But, man, I mean, we were on a high for about an hour after that. It was so great. That's the real reward, to be honest with you. That sounds really corny, doesn't it? That's the real reward. But it kind of is, yeah, we have to eat. But the feeling that somebody has a better life now that they've achieved what they want to do because they came to us is amazing.
Who does come to you? Is it programmers, general managers or presenters?
Mostly programmers and presenters, number one. Right. If you're going to do a list of presenters, number one, just individuals who want help or want to get into the industry or want air checking or want to move on or been in the same job for the same shift for too long and feel they have more to offer than programmers who want us to look at certain presenters, a group of presenters or their entire roster. And then the bottom is not the bottom. The third on the list. Bottom makes it sound like it's important, isn't it? Third on the list will be people who are new to radio. It's like everybody says, or you hear people say, oh, everybody's got a book inside them. Well, we get the people who are told, you've got a radio show inside you, and they'll come to us and we'll tell them, listen, you either have it or you don't or start off really small or start off doing this or that or the other. So they're the three students will come to us as well, but they'll be part of something else. They'll be part of a course or something that they've been sent to us usually. So they're usually the three presenters and program directors and people who want to get into the industry.
How do you know when a radio performer has it you hear it?
First of all, you really do. This guy was telling me about the just got landed that morning show when we first heard him because actually, it's always funny. We say before we hear anybody, we say, yeah, okay, listen, before we do anything, send us over your audio and we'll see if we're a good match because there's no point in us working if we're not a good fit. It's happened before. We'll give somebody a 30 minutes call and we just don't connect. We just don't our personalities clash. There's no point in us talking to each other or working because we'll send them to someone else. We literally will save them. Listen, this person will be better for you. But this guy in particular, I'll give you that example. We said, okay, listen, send us your audio. We'll have a listen. We'll see what the problem is, why you're not able to get a new gig. Let's figure it out. The email lands and you'll see MP3 attached and you go, all right, here we go. Let's see what we got here. And then you click play and it's either, okay, I see what the problem is or it's, wow, okay, we're onto something here. And this guy was, oh, boy, this guy is good. Wow. Okay, that's original. And it keeps playing. The audio is playing and it's like didn't see, okay, yeah, he's got something. So you know immediately and you know what you have to do with them immediately. A lot of the time, you don't have to do very much with their on air product. They're just not marketing themselves properly. They're just not using social media properly. They're not connected with the right people yet. It could be something as simple as that. Or you'll hear the person, you go, you've definitely got something, but we need to work on it. It's like taking a jewel and it's covered in mud and dirt and everything. You got to get rid of all that stuff first to find the jewel underneath. Right? So that's what we do. We try and just get rid of all the dirt that's run in the talk breaks and crutches and cliches and all the nonsense radio speak that we picked up and everybody has picked up along the way. All of those cliches that we've heard in the past, they all come out when somebody is working hard at trying to get where they want to get to. So we've got to knock all that off them. And you just know what to do. Put it that way, when you've been in radio as long as you have and as long as we have, you just know what to do. I'm sure you've coached people in the past, Matt. People have come to you for advice and you can just tell I know exactly what you need to do to start off, to just clean up your act.
Tell me about Radiostar. Why did you start it?
Well, I didn't. Tracy started that about five years ago. The initial spark for Radiostar was kind of what I was saying about the last guy, as in not connecting with people. One big complaint we got was I send my audio, my resume, my CV, my cover letter off, and I never hear back from programmers, ever. I never hear back. I've sent off 20 applications, nothing. So we thought, well, is there a way to do something about that? Well, Tracy was working on this for quite a while. And eventually she thought, well, why not have a competition, get people to send us their audio? And then we will literally say to program directors, listen to the audio and judge the audio as a way to get people heard. So that's how it started off. So the first year was small, as you can imagine. Nobody ever heard of the damn thing. So it was kind of what's this? And we had about 20, 1520 programmers and radio people up till last year when we had 250 programmers and consultants and radio presenters and radio people, industry people from all around the world. We're talking from Honolulu to Auckland, from Singapore to London, from Toronto to Rio, all over the place, all across the planet. We've got judges and it ballooned into this thing. And now it starts again this month, June 15, as a cut off for entries. And the whole idea now is to create stars. That's what we're saying. Are you the next radio star? Because the whole plan is to get you your dream gig. Last year's winner, Rosa from Leicestershire in England is in Melbourne. Now she's talking to radio stations in Melbourne. She literally upsticks and moved country because most of her great feedback came from program directors in Australia. They said they loved her. And she said, would it be worth my while traveling and moving to Australia? They said, yes, move here. So she moved to Australia. A year before that, Alice Vickery Alice was doing a small podcast in Cornwall in England. On the back of winning radio Star got a gig with BBC and networks for BFBS, which is a national network. And she just moved to Cyprus now, where she does a national radio show, an English speaking national radio show in Cyprus. So the whole point was getting noticed. And now it's turned out that it's become a great way to get noticed, which is really nice.
And you just recently created Radio Space. What is it? Why do I want to join it?
You don't want to join that, Matt. Why do you want to join it? Okay, again, the reason we set up Radio Space. Radio Space. We call it social media for Radio. Because I go on LinkedIn like anybody. I go on Facebook like anybody, and I see the same posts all the time. Number one, repeat, repeat, repeat. And then on LinkedIn especially, I'm seeing posts that don't interest me because I'm following all these radio people. But naturally, these other radio people know nonradio people in their lives. They have these people in their lives who post stuff up on LinkedIn. And when the radio person that I'm connected to likes it, I see that third person's post. And it could be about their cat. It could be about what they're making for dinner, it could be about a new car that they drove. And I'm not interested. I'm on LinkedIn for radio. I want to talk radio, and I'm on Facebook for the same thing. So we thought and again, we had this conversation years ago. Wouldn't it be great if there was some social media just for radio? And we just decided to do it a couple of months ago, we looked into ways of doing it, and we found a network that lets you launch your own social media. So we did. And it's up there now called the Radio Space. And at the moment, it's not invite only, but you have to find the link. It's not the radiospace.com because we don't want anybody just joining. We want just radio people. So you need to look for us. You need to find the link on LinkedIn, on Facebook, on Twitter. Sorry, I don't know. We're making it difficult, but you need to find it. You need to actually want this in order to be in it. We're not looking for a million members. If we have 5000 in the next five years, we'll be happy. So long as it's working, as long as the idea is working, we're not all about getting massive quantities of people and selling it in ten years. We want a place where radio people can go and know it literally is only going to be about radio. There's nothing else here because we need it. I think it's nice for the industry to have that.
So you're not about a mass audience. You're about the right audience.
Correct. Thank you for doing that, for putting that so succinctly. Yes, exactly.
Is it okay if I put a link to this in the show notes of this episode?
Absolutely, man. Of course you can. Yeah. That's selected that. We refuse people. We're not bounces at the door saying, you can come in, you're not getting in. It's just we want to make it so that people who want to find it will find it. That's the only reason we keep it like it is.
All right, so there's a link for that in the Show notes of this episode. And because I know that you listen to a lot of radio around the world, tell me about a country I should be paying attention to who's doing radio really well. Or it could be a radio station somewhere on the planet that I should put as a preset to listen to.
What type of format do you like?
I like rock music, but I know that there's not a lot of rock over in Europe necessarily. It could be just mainstream or Top 40 for all it is.
Okay. You're right about the rock format. I often wondered why that is, why it didn't take so much over this side of the world. I'm not sure what that's all about.
Oh, I do.
Tell me, tell me.
I think it happened in 1981 or 82. With the advent of MTV and radio in Europe went off into keyboards, electro, and sort of continued on. They sort of evolved the dance sound a little bit more. And Meanwhile, in America, Steve Doll had blown up disco records in 1979. I think that's where it split. What happens in America is that the music begins to go into the Crapper. And it really took Duran Duran and a bunch of artists like Soft Sell to come over and sort of change the sound of the radio and really revitalize that. And at the same time, MTV really did propel the rock sound, where in Europe they didn't have that.
It's crazy because excuse me, I'll be having conversations here with Tracy about music or something will come on the radio or whatever, and I won't know what it is. I go, that's a good song or whatever, and say, yeah, you know this, right? I got to know what? How do you not know this? I don't know what this is. What year was it released? Say, 91 92, whatever. Go, yeah, I was in Vancouver, 91 92. It sounds really strange now, doesn't it? The songs that weren't heard in one part of the world but were in the other. And as you said, it's always an electronic dance kind of tune or something. It's a non guitar drum based song. So, yeah, now I can see that makes sense.
I think also I asked people in the said, what are you listening to? I go, Robbie Williams. I said, well, we're all about Pearl Jam. I don't know what planet you're on. And they didn't know what planet I was on, but Grunge didn't cross the ocean very fast.
That is so true. There was one Pearl Jamsaw that made it over here, Jeremy. That's it. That's it. And I knew all of them. I knew them all. Yeah. I get you here's a station in Dublin, my hometown, that allows bashed the drum for a Spin 138, which I like, which is a Cross 40 station, but they have an afternoon drive there one of my favorite presenters called Steve Kay. The reason I like Steve K on Spin 138, because Steve is the master of word economy and I love word economy. I built a career on word economy at the start, and I just think it's probably the greatest skill a presenter can have. When you have great word economy, everything else just flows perfectly. And Steve can do it better than anybody I've ever heard in that part of the world. He's got the enthusiasm. He's got the excitement he's been doing it about 30 years now. He's done the rounds, he's paid his dues. He's got the number one drive time show in that market. He's an award winner. Yada yada, yada, yada. But I would definitely listen to Steve K on Spin 138 just to hear number one. Nice, beautiful, tight format, lovely, tight format. But the way he works it in particular is just seamless. I worked in the same building with Steve years back and we were having a jocks meeting. All the jocks are in the room and the doors open and Steve was walking past and we were talking about word economy. And the program director at the time, Tony Tonalia, Tony Networks. She does mid days in Melbourne with gold in Melbourne. But Tony turned around and saw Steve. She goes, Steve, quick question for you. This is when Britney Spears was doing something what it was. She goes, how would you introduce the new Britney Spears song on Spin? And he goes, how do you mean? Give me your link. And he goes, okay, new Britney spin. And he walks off and starts laughing. And we all started laughing because that was the ultimate word, economy. Three words and it sums it all up. New Britney spin. Bam, done. Now, he doesn't do that every week, but I just thought that's exactly the type of how to get to the damn point as quickly as succinctly as possible. And he does it better than anybody. So there's a station for you, Spin 138.
Where can we find you on the internet to connect with you and everything you have to offer?
Hey, there's this new social media site called the Radio Space. We're on that quite a bit. Linkedin is where I usually am, just nails Mahoney on LinkedIn, Twitter, at, onaircoach. And if you want to email us, we're firstname.lastname@example.org and you'll either get myself or you'll get Tracy, depending on who's on desk duty that particular hour, because we take it in shifts a lot of the time when we're not coaching. But, yeah, listen, the thing about it is, as we say, we're not consultants. So as coaches, we're always open to even just having a quick chat with anybody. You don't have to hire us, you don't have to make it a big official. We're doing a six week course. Just send us a note and we'll answer your back or we'll listen to your audio or whatever. That's what it's all about. Because if you're better on the radio, then radio is better. And radio at the moment needs to be better than it ever was and stop competing with itself. Radio is competing with itself more than it's competing with Spotify and YouTube. It's still competing with radio. We need to all come together and work to make radio as great as it can be. And if we can do 1% to help make that better, then that's what we'll do because it's very important. It's how we all make a living, it's how we eat, it's how we put roofs overhead, feed our families, send their kids through College. This is how we do it, through this thing called radio. So we're all about making it better for everybody- if we're asked.
Nails, thanks so much for doing this. My best to Tracey, and carry on.
Matt, thank you for asking. Absolute pleasure. Good to talk to you.
The Sound Off Podcast is written and hosted by Matt Cundill. Produced by Evan Surminski. Social media by Courtney Krebsbach. Another great creation from the Soundoff Media Company. There's always more at Soundoffpodcast.com.