Andrew McMillen

An interview with Richard Kingsmill, triple j Music Director

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I was in Perth last week, covering an event called One Movement For Music for its official blog, One Movement Word. It was the second year I’d blogged for the five-day event, which includes a music conference component (called MUSEXPO Asia Pacific), a three-day music festival, and nightly music showcases.

In one of the most popular MUSEXPO sessions, Richard Kingsmill – Music Director of triple j, Australia’s national youth radio station – was interviewed by Brisbane-based journalist Lars Brandle for a half-hour, including some audience Q+A.

Here is what Richard and Lars spoke about.

Lars Brandle: We only have 30 minutes, which isn’t enough time for what I really wanted to achieve. I wanted to do two main things; I wanted to discuss the machinery of triple j, and I want to learn a little bit about you. Let’s kick this thing off.

Richard Kingsmill: I’m happy to take questions from the floor as well, because one thing I gauged when I was here last year was that there is a lot of interest in how triple j works as a radio station, and obviously we are a big player in the Australian music scene, but also from international guests as well, and probably triple j and the role we play here. So Lars and I talked, and I’m happy for any suggestions or any questions at any point, just to clarify things.

I think the key word is interactivity; triple j is interactive and we’re going to try to be today. If you have questions, put your hand up and we’ll do it. Million dollar question; how do you identify the good from the bad?

There is absolutely no formula to how it works. It’s just a lot of hard work and basically a lot of years of experience, I find, really helps. And it’s really just listening to a lot of stuff and listening to as much stuff as you can, because the good stuff will really shine through.

We obviously get inundated with music. We get so much music that it’s really hard for all of us to get through it. Seven years ago when I became Music Director of the station, I didn’t want to be a megalomaniac. I wanted to open it up, basically canvassing as many thoughts within the station is really crucial, I think, to the success of the station as well. It’s healthy for the station to be diverse and also reflect a lot of different opinions.

I kind of came into the role with something which had always been in the back of my mind; if two people in the station thought something was worth having, seriously consider it, even if you don’t get it, you don’t see it yourself; do the homework, do the research, see what these people are seeing and then give it a shot, give it a go. Trust the people that you’ve got around you.

And that’s what we try to do as much as possible within the station. We want every song that we pick to play on the radio… what we want to do is make every addition count. There are a lot of good songs out there and there are a lot of talented artists. We want to try to pick the artists that we think the audience is really going to connect with, the ones that are really making a difference, the ones that are really special, and the ones that are just going to keep on rolling out those songs. We don’t want to just get the fluke good songs; we want to get the artists who have got a lot of good songs.

How much do you rely on the internet to provide you with that knowledge on new bands? Are you spending a lot of time, or is it word of mouth?

Word of mouth is still a really big part of it, and there’s obviously a whole bunch of people in the music industry that you learn to trust the word of. It’s like any industry, and it’s like working in any domain, I would imagine; you get to know the people who are reliable, who give you good stuff, and who you can trust. You keep listening to them. The ones that try to sell you shit; you listen and you hear them out, but at the end of the day you go “the track record’s not great here, so why should we trust you on this one?” So word of mouth is still a viable part of it.

Obviously the internet is a huge resource of finding music. We still get music sent to us in packages, through Unearthed of course. We get stuff sent to us as files, and we source stuff as well. We’ll hear whispers around, “This band’s really good, blah, blah…” and if they’re not on Unearthed, we’ll go to MySpace. If they haven’t’ got anything there we’ll try to get a contact and get in touch with them. So we can chase it from alternate angles and I think that’s the best way of doing it…


To read the full interview transcript, visit One Movement For Music.

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