JV: Radio stations using video on the web — is that pretty much throughout UK radio now or is that just starting to flourish?
Ian: I think what’s happened at the moment is people have run their websites as just extensions of the radio — you know, the stuff that we couldn’t fit on the radio, we’re putting on the web. I think what’s going to start happening now is that people are going to develop websites to be almost stand-alone things to visit. I think at Chrysalis, we’re kind of the first to be thinking about what content we can put on that, and how we can use visual imaging to complement our audio imaging and our audio content, and I think it’s fairly new at the moment. I think in the last few years it’s traditionally been just a bolt onto the radio station. We’re now looking towards this fully functional, first port-of-call website that happens to be related to a radio station.

JV: How many people are working on the website? There’s you, and you must have a web designer of some kind.
Ian: Yeah, we do. We have a local webmaster who updates content daily. He’s full time and works for our marketing department. Then we have a few people down at the head office in London who are working on design and content. And we’re working now with a new company to come up with the whole look of the websites.

JV: There are several people working on your site.
Ian: Lots of people. And it’s more than it was a year ago. I think what’s really telling is that I have a Program Director here at Heart, Andrew Robson, and there’s a Program Director in the East Midlands station, but we also have a Brand Program Director, Francis Currie, who kind of oversees the whole Heart brand. What’s really telling is that he’s been very heavily involved in the development and the look of the websites. It’s been really interesting to see that coming together, the programming side and the web side, and to create a unified look and feel to both products.

JV: Sounds like you have a few Program Directors to keep you busy!
Ian: Yes. Andrew has only been with us less than a year, but he’s got a background as a producer, which has been amazing for me. I’ve never had a PD with that kind of knowledge of what I do, and that’s been absolutely incredible. He comes in and sits in the studio with me, and we’ll spend an hour and a half, two hours going through how we’re going to image the music. And it’s great that he knows compression, EQ and everything else. So yes, I have one direct PD that I work with, which is Andrew, and then Francis, the Brand PD, and sometimes I deal direct with Francis as well. But most of the time day-to-day I’m talking with Andrew at the local level. We also have a PD over at the East Midlands Heart who I deal with as well, so, three PDs to keep happy. What an enviable position to be in!

JV: We’ve featured some “Live Lunch” promos of yours on recent RAP CDs which promoted these artist road shows you mentioned earlier – further incorporation of your live sound experience from years ago. Tell us a little more about these events.
Ian: Well, they came about because we were doing these acoustic sessions with artists, and we were doing really well. Tour managers would phone up and say, “I need an SM58…” and a this and a this, and I’d be like, “oh yeah, I can get all that and have it all set up for you.” And my colleague Mike Zeller, who’s the Head of Presentation here, came up with this idea of rather than just doing these acoustic sessions, why don’t we take them out on the road? Instead of just doing private acoustic sessions in the studio or sometimes in front of a few staff, why don’t we do a contest on air where somebody can win a fairly big name artist to come to their workplace and perform for them. I was like, “That’s great! Let’s do that!”

We’ve done some really good shows. We have big name artists here in the UK like Ronan Keating, and Simon Webbe, and Daniel Bedingfield; and we literally say on air, “If you’d like Ronan Keating to come to your workplace, send us an email.” We go through and we choose somewhere to go. We go down and my crew and I put in a stage and lighting and sound, and we do the performance. So far, we’ve done four or five, and every time the local news and press have come down and covered it fully. We’ve had thousands of pounds worth of publicity from it. It’s been really good for us.

JV: How long does it take to set up for one of those?
Ian: It varies really, but if it’s just the artist and the guitarist, it’s quite quick. For Ronan Keating we decided to go to the local Air Force base. There are a lot of people from there working out in Iraq and involved with all that, so a lot of families were kind of home alone for Christmas. So we thought this would be great. We’ll go up there and take Ronan Keating along. We did a big concert with Ronan and his full band in one of the hangars with a Harrier Jump Jet on either side of the stage. That took about nine or ten hours to rig for that, but it was amazing.

JV: And I understand you’re a photographer too.
Ian: Well, yeah. I’m a photographer, and this kind of ties in with the TV and the video thing. You know, one has moving pictures, one has still, but the same kind of thing applies. I started taking photos when we went out on “staff night out” or if we had a client party or something. I’d do some photos and it kind of progressed. Now the press department here uses me to do photos of the presenters and the artists that come to visit and all kinds of stuff. So yeah, I really get to exercise all my skills. It’s a great, great way to earn a living really, isn’t it?

JV: You have quite a skill package there – the production skills, the engineering experience, the web experience, the photography, video, live sound. That’s a lot of skills to bring to the table!
Ian: I always try and think of how I can use my skills, and how it can relate to radio. And I guess I’ve developed those skills that have been useful along the way as part of what I do in radio. Producing is definitely my first love, but those things like photography, like video, like engineering, I’ve kind of stayed with because they really do add something to my satisfaction of doing the job. Also, it’s a useful thing to bring to the station that I work for. It was a conscious decision several years ago to kind of really build up my skills package and not just be a guy who can work Pro Tools, but be a writer, operate Pro Tools, be a photographer, do video, whatever I can do to really enhance my employability, I guess.

JV: What’s down the road for you?
Ian: Well, it’s a big question. I would love to come and work in America at some point in the future. I’ve holidayed out there several times, and I know a few people in the industry out there. I love the fact that American radio is such a big part of the American media scene. UK radio is still a relatively young media compared to press and TV. And I love the fact that in America, radio is on very much an equal footing with those other media. So I’d love to spend some time out there, doing what I can and just experiencing what it’s like to live and work in a different part of the world. That’s definitely kind of in the future for me at some point.

At the moment, I’m really just loving what I do. We’re the market leading radio station, and it’s hard to know where to go from here in the UK. We’re one of the biggest stations in the country. Outside of London, certainly we’re one of the biggest stations, and it’s kind of hard to know what else to do. I just really want to get better at what I do and learn more about what I do. I find this whole convergence of different media through podcasting, and internet, and radio, and digital, and satellite radio — I find it all fascinating, and I think I really want to be a part of that next stage of development in radio.

JV: How’s podcasting taking off in the UK?
Ian: It’s big actually. There’s a few podcasts by radio people over here that regularly hit the top chart of downloads, and it’s definitely something that we’re going to be looking at as part of our arsenal on the websites. It’s also now something that our sales guys are starting to look at — offering clients the opportunity to have a professionally created downloadable feature, and obviously, it needs to offer the listener something other than just the chance to listen to an advert. But there’s loads of opportunity there for sales to get together with a client and create. Maybe a travel company could do a guide to the hidden gems and the secret attractions of America. And you make it a download instead of making a minute and a half long ad on air. Make it a download with a 30 second promo for that. So it’s definitely something exciting that’s happening, and I think rather than being too scared of it, we’re very much going, “Wow, how can we really make this work for us? How can we really be involved with this?”

JV: Any parting thoughts for our readers?
Ian: I’d really love to mention that since joining RAP mag, it has been so great to get emails from people from all around the world commenting on your work or asking questions or suggesting you look at this website or do that. It’s been really good to have that communication startup with other producers around the world. At the end of all your interviews, and at the end of any pieces people do, you say “so and so welcomes your comments,” and you put their email addresses in there. I love that, and I want you to put my email address at the end of this because I really would like to hear from people. It’s a great way to share ideas and network and get to know people.

On the Soundstage

Her VERY FIRST commercial...ever!
Ashley Pierce, Kaden Hawkins

ICYMI...

March 01, 2001 3114
Paul Fey, President/Chief Creative Officer, and Stuart Sloke, Senior VP/Production Director, World Wide Wadio, Hollywood, California By Jerry Vigil It’s the dream of many reading this to leave the radio station, build that cool...