Hamish & Andy are no doubt the biggest stars in the history of Australian radio. But would they have made it had they been born just five years later?

Recently, radio stations have changed the way they recruit “talent”. And it’s all thanks to the Internet.

“Talent” refers to personalities like Tony Martin or Derryn Hinch, who entertain us with their wit or opinion, as opposed to straight “announcers”, who rarely stray away from informing us the current temperature or how many Lady Gaga songs they’re about to play back-to-back.

Back in the old days (up until the late ‘00s) if someone wanted to be radio “talent”, assuming they had the talent to begin with, all they had to do was get enough practice to scrape a demo tape together and hope that someone with influence and the power to hire can spot quality.

That’s how Hamish & Andy did it. The man to thank is Austereo Head of Content Craig Bruce. Star-maker.

But now, a radio station won’t touch you unless you have a legion of loyal online fans ready to follow you to your new frequency on the radio spectrum.

The advantages are obvious. Why would a radio station risk pouring resources into building up a new unknown star, when they can just choose from the local YouTube channels with the most subscribers? The grassroots promotion work is already done. And there’s a greater likelihood they’re onto a winner.

But don’t think it’s just the commercial stations that do this now. Triple J does it too.

As a radio comedian myself, I’ve been trying for years to get my sketches on Triple J. The other day I finally got to talk to someone from the programming hierarchy, and she said I had all the right qualities, except the audience! Silly me. I thought Triple J already had an audience?

Do you think a comedian as alternative and inaccessible as Sam Simmons – the comedy poster boy of Triple J – could have found his niche audience without the pulling power of the national broadcaster?

Someone who’s doing it right is Adelaide comedian (and my good friend) Alex Williamson. With more than 9000 Facebook fans and 2 million views on YouTube, his fresh blend of mainstream Internet comedy and devoted followers recently landed him a gig in Los Angeles interviewing celebrities on the red carpet for Austereo’s “The Hot Hits Live From L.A.”

My measly 182 Facebook fans dwindle by comparison… And even THEY rarely like my posts…

As the Internet becomes the main breeding ground for wannabe radio and TV stars, it’s getting harder and harder for new people to stand out and build their own audience.

Think of how many YouTube videos are up there today compared to back in 2006. Every day, users around the world upload hundreds of thousands of new videos to YouTube, many of them featuring cats.

For every Rebecca Black that slips through the cracks and becomes an overnight superstar there are about 100,000 other teenagers diluting the Internet with seven-minute videos – in the wrong aspect ratio – featuring dancing or pointless babble.

Most will be lucky to break 100 views.

An Internet following is like the property market. It’s great if you’re already in the game, but for the rest of us it can seem a hopelessly futile exercise. Although fittingly, if you do have a swarm of devoted Internet fans you’ll probably find it easier to afford a house.

There are a lot of people out there trying to be the next Hamish & Andy: Ant & Becks, Stefan & Craig, Tom & Alex. And those are just the ones who have already made it!

There are hundreds of Hamish & Andys you’ve never heard of, out there right now, trapped in suburbia, recording podcasts in their rumpus rooms and filming web videos in their share houses.

Imagine if the actual Hamish & Andy were still among them? Would you “subscribe”? Would you “like”? Would Craig Bruce sign them up? Maybe.

But maybe not.

Kind regards,
David M. Green
Some guy on the Internet.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 3.8/5 (5 votes cast)
Internet makes radio stars, 3.8 out of 5 based on 5 ratings