JV: Any other highlights come to mind?
Andrew: Back in 2003 we held like a reality radio competition where we sent three teams down to Sidney to do a bunch of challenges, and we were sending everything back over the net, all of the audio, and that was all pre-produced as that went along, so it was a slightly delayed telecast. That was a lot of fun.
Then, once a year here we have a benchmark where we give away a car, but the idea is, whoever can keep their hand on the car the longest wins it. So after 72 hours without sleep, we get some pretty nutty contestants in that.
But perhaps one of the most memorable was the Tunnel Project. The Land Transport Authority had setup this huge tunnel basically from one side of the country to the other, and the grand plan was to have a radio station within the tunnel promoting safety messages, things like that. And they actually commissioned an album to be done. Again, it was Don and I, and we had another chap called Jason. So an album was produced, and a radio show was going to be put together.
Now here was the concept: I had accidentally stumbled across a nice little feature within RDS in radio transmission. I was driving through the central business district in Singapore one day when my radio suddenly switched over from the station I was listening to, to a competitor’s. I made a number of irate phone calls and discovered that they were actually doing a little bit of adjustments to the RDS data that was being streamed across. I found out you can actually use that to change stations on people’s radios. So the plan was, as people entered the tunnel, their radio, as long as it was on, would automatically be switched over to the station that was broadcasting in the tunnel.
So we did that. We had the entire radio station all set up. We had all of the transmitters in place, all of the money had been spent, and literally at the eleventh hour, the Media Development Authority came in and said, “You know what? We’re not so comfortable doing this after all.” So the upshot of it was that, first of all, I got paid, so that’s okay. But in the process, I’d actually developed my own little automation system which I could control remotely — very simple, bare bones, but it allowed me full functionality. I also could do music and commercial insertion via a web interface from anywhere in the world on a secure line. I had a guy who I worked with out of China writing all of the backend for me, and it’s that which I have decided to take into the mobile sphere, which is another story. So that was the positive side of it.
JV: Well, you didn’t get to travel to as many places in your career as you intended 13 years ago, but what advice would give some of our readers who might have the thought about leaving their home to work in radio in other countries?
Andrew: Radio aside, for anyone to pick up and leave home, there has to be the push and the pull factor to do it. I mean, if you really want to go overseas, I’d say be fully aware that whatever country you’re going to, particularly if it’s somewhere like Asia, that things will be different, that there will be a rather large period of adjustment. Even to this day, I’m still adjusting.
One of the main things I find, especially when you’re doing radio, is something as simple as sense of humor. It’s been 13 years, and I’m still trying to get a handle on sense of humor. What’s happened in the end is I’ve decided just to kind of let go and do my own thing and hopefully somebody catches on. Back to Don again, we did a radio show called “The Don and Drew Show,” a once a week program kind of like a pre-produced “Whose Line Is It?” We would accept musical challenges for people who wanted to write songs about certain topics or do mash-ups or remix certain songs. So once a week, we’d take everyone through the whole production process of that. We developed a bit of a following, and then podcasting has kind of taken off here. So we did a series of TV commercials, one where I am kind of singing a song in Chinese about my sister who had a cat. The cat goes missing, and we find it in somebody’s backside. For some reason, that just struck a nerve and went down well here. I still don’t quite understand it, but it’s been fun.
JV: What’s down the road for you, any plans?
Andrew: For the moment, things are fine as they are. Life’s been quite good, although one can never stay stagnant for too long. I’ve been traveling to India a lot recently, and you’d never think of radio as a booming industry anywhere in the world, but over there it is. I was over there twice last year doing consulting work for two of the networks. Actually, it was funny; you had a “Q it Up” question not too long ago about, “What have you learned recently?” Going over there, it was the first time for me running these large summits where you’ve got about 50 people in the room and it’s just you up there speaking for two or three days and taking them through radio. It’s only when you do that that you realize how much you know. So what I’ve learned recently is how much I’ve learned over the last 13 years or so being here in Singapore.
So India is going very well. I’m also over there to teach a lot of voice workshops later on this year. Aside from that, on a personal level, I’m looking at developing some software just to enable mobile broadcasting. I’m hooking up with a couple of the telcos here and some of the record companies. What I love doing is creating radio stations from scratch, just having that blank canvas after the good experience I’ve had in the past. So creating customized radio stations for clients is a goal. At the moment it’s record companies, but we’re talking with the other multi-nationals — your Coca-Cola, some of your alcohol companies — to setup radio for them not only online but also on mobile phones. I’m thinking five, ten years down the track, as data plans come down, as entire countries become WiMAX enabled. I’ve developed a small Java application for phones so you can tune into the radio stream wherever you are in partnership with the telcos. That’s where they come in handy in that they’ve managed to keep the costs down. So that’s the other thing that I’m working on at the moment.
JV: If you could start your career all over again, would you do anything differently?
Andrew: No, I can’t say that I would. It’s been quite a wild ride so far, the ability to be here to experience the different culture. There’s nothing that stops me now from being able to hear what’s going on in the rest of the world. There’s nothing that’s stopping me from traveling out there to meet the people and say hi. Singapore is also a hub for a lot of cable TV stations, and I’ve been very blessed to have the opportunity to be one of the voices for CNN International here. I do Discovery Channel, Animax, AXN, a whole bunch of them. I never thought in my wildest dreams that that would all happen. So no, I don’t think I would want to change anything.