Dan-O-Connel (1)

The Influence Room Podcast- Changing the dialogue: Dan O'Connell

Posted on Jan 6, 2020 5:51:41 PM

In this episode of our podcast we chat to the lovely Dan O'Connell, a radio DJ, about the journey he’s taken in his career and what the term ‘influencer’ means to him in the industry.


Overview

With an aspiration to be somebody on the radio and wanting to be a Dj at such a young age, Dan started his career doing unpaid work at a radio station. He continued his passion throughout university, which eventually landed him is first ever solo overnight show.

A clear message that he put across was that:

‘People who turn up because they are a celebrity or influencer only last if they have an authentic interest in what they are doing’.

They either get bored or realise there’s hard work involved. That’s why Dan has succeeded as he authentically has a passion for music and pushes past the resistance. 

When discussing the term influencer, Dan conveys that an influencer is a much broader commodity than just an instagram following. He may not see himself as an influencer but he is a part of something bigger, which has influence and makes a difference on others. He sees the radio as an ‘intimate medium that people fell in love with decades ago’. This form of influence will continue to be around and evolve, with social media playing an integral part to the progression of radio. 

Dan notes the importance of authenticity in creating a successful career. He recognises that the term ‘authenticity’ is slightly overused with social media, because it’s just too easy to fake. 

Five quick takeaways:

  1. The term ‘influencer’ has been owned by social media. Social media has created this new term of influencer, which has now highlighted the importance of remembering the broader meaning. 
  2. Social media, specifically Instagram, by its very nature has a lack of authenticity. It can be seen as an evolved form of show business, which in its nature is inauthentic. 
  3. The future in radio in terms of the app, is the creation of personalised playlists. 
  4. Advice for those wanting to get involved in radio is to ‘practice’.
  5. Having a small audience in terms of reach may been seen has a negative, but if the people listening listen for long periods and are engaged, it can be beneficial for the station.

If you enjoyed this episode and don’t want to miss the rest of the series, you can follow The Influence Room Podcast on Spotify and Apple iTunes podcasts.


 

Full audio transcription

- Bronagh

Hello and welcome to the Influence Room Podcast, presented by me, Bronagh Monahon, the head of talent, and...

- Alex

Me, Alex Payne. I'm still trying to work out what I'm doing in the business, but I suppose the seed of the idea was mine three years ago. And mad to be here now.

- Bronagh

And it's produced by the brilliant Entale, which is a very, very cool, interactive podcast production company. What we're really excited about is that you can see behind-the-scenes stuff, so you'll be able to see our lovely faces and our guest.

- Alex

Speak for yourself.

- Bronagh

And any articles that are mentioned in the show, you'll also be able to get the links for.

- Alex

And they're a client of the Influence Room.

- Bronagh

Exactly, a client of the Influence Room.

- Alex

Practicing what we preach in collaborations.

- Bronagh

Exactly. So yeah, let's get into the show. This is our first show.

- Bronagh

How exciting!

- Alex

I know. It's quite surreal actually to be here with you, Bronagh B, given that six, seven months ago we were... I don't know. We were all scratching our heads wondering where life was going. But I think we've made a huge amount of progress in a short amount of time, and yeah, I'm very excited to be up and running with this, and we've got a superstar first guest.

- Bronagh

Yeah, for anyone who's listening, obviously, hopefully you're already a fan of what The Influence Room does. We feel that we are changing the dialogue, I'd say.

- Alex

Changing it up, you wrote in our notes.

- Bronagh

Changing it up.

- Alex

Which I like.

- Bronagh

Yeah. The Influence Room, just to give you a little... Actually Alex, you should do this. Alex is the director of the Influence Room, so I think you should give us the top line, what is The Influence Room?

- Alex

I'm trying to work that out, I think. What is The Influence Room? That's a very good question.

- Alex

So we have created a cool contra economy, I got asked to describe it the other day in three words. Cool, contra economy. So there's a lot going on in the "influencer landscape", and I think influencer marketing is taking a bit of a battering at the moment. We are trying to do something a little bit different which is... someone described us as a cross between Tinder and LinkedIn. So we match-make interesting brands doing interesting things, with interesting people who tell interesting stories, if that's not too many interestings.

- Alex

But instead of people getting paid to promote, or gifted things that they don't necessarily want, and are scratching their heads working out what to do with it, we enable brands to say, "Hey! This is what we're doing!" And we enable people of influence to say, "I love what you're doing, and I'd love to talk about it, because I need it, I want it, or I'm interested in it."

- Alex

So there's no money changing hands, it's just a very simple meeting room, essentially, where people can discuss collaborations that are mutually beneficial to both parties, and essentially what it looks like is brands offering up interesting opportunities, and people of influence saying, "I'd love to be a part of that, and here's how I'll tell that story." And it's as simple as that, really.

- Alex

I think, it's come from actual learning, so my background is in sports broadcasting. And I was being thrown a lot of products and experiences that I wasn't hugely interested in and there were a lot of quite fun stories that I was telling where I'd love the help of a brand to amplify or because you know, I had a genuine need for it. But I'd got no idea how to get to the right people.

- Alex

And actually I think there are a lot of very interesting people out there, who are telling interesting stories, and the ability for brands to plug themselves into those stories on a handshake is exactly the space that we have created. So it's interesting, it's different; we're getting a bit of a pick-up, we've got really good buy-in from our members, which I love. We're quite a discreet place, we don't shout about the connections we make, we don't really talk about the people that use us. But hopefully it's just a slightly... I was going to say more mature, is that acceptable?

- Bronagh

I think that's acceptable.

- Alex

It's a slightly more mature space, where good brands and good people have good conversations.

- Bronagh

And both you and I are big fans of podcasts-

- Alex

We are.

- Bronagh

... And this is something that we really wanted to do for quite some time. And when it came to thinking about the objective of the podcast, we realized that there should be a space where people can talk about their careers, and what their form of influence is, because that's sort of what The Influence Room members; that's why they're so important, they all have different forms of influence. And we'll go onto talk about this with our guest; there is a perception of what an influencer is right now, and it's sort of been owned by the social media space. And we're really keen to broaden that definition and show that there are many forms of influence. And so, when it came to choosing the guests of our podcast series, we thought: why not use The Influence Room product and get our members to come on-board, so we can show all types of people that are members of the platform. And just get a sense of what influence means to them, and yeah, our first guest is a lovely man called Dan O'Connell. Dan is a radio DJ, and radio is a huge form of influence. And so we just really wanted to talk to him about how he got a start in radio, the influence around commercial radio. We talked a little bit about the types of content that Dan produces, we talk a little bit more about the future of radio and how technology has meant that you get a much more personalized access to radio. It was really exciting, when we first put the opportunity on the site, we were thinking, "Oh God, is anyone going to respond?" But the product works! It works!

- Alex

Believe in the platform, is what we always say.

- Bronagh

And so we got to experience what our brands experience. And it was really fulfilling to see people come forward and want to talk about how much they love the site. And also give us their perspective on this weird and wonderful industry. So I really hope you enjoy the show.

- Bronagh

We have our first guest on The Influence Room podcast.

- Dan

Am I actually the first guest?

- Bronagh

You are!

- Alex

You're opening the batting. Congratulations.

- Bronagh

And this is our first foray into podcasting as a business, which is really, really exciting. So Dan, I just wanted to do a quick intro to you. I'm a bit of a creep on the internet, and I've just pulled some facts about you.

- Dan

That's the way to do it.

- Bronagh

So I'm going to go through those for our hundreds of thousands of listeners. So you are a Northern lad, where in the Northern...?

- Dan

Are you just reading my bio from my website?

- Bronagh

No? No.

- Dan

My dad was in the RAF, so we moved around the world quite a lot. But I think for the majority of my life, I've either lived in Scotland or Yorkshire. I've been in London for 10 years. I think I've got a bit of Northern twang... what are you reading? Are you reading my website or are you reading my voiceover biography?

- Bronagh

Maybe a mix of both? So is that why you played the bagpipes? The Scottish thing.

- Dan

No, that was yeah, that was at school in Scotland, yeah.

- Bronagh

Okay, where in Scotland?

- Dan

I went to school in Dunblane-

- Bronagh

Oh, nice!

- Dan

... And I lived near Inverness.

- Alex

Really?

- Dan

Yeah. A little town called Forres. About 40 minutes east of Inverness.

- Bronagh

I know someone from Forres.

- Dan

Do you?

- Bronagh

Yes!

- Dan

Wow.

- Bronagh

He also plays the bagpipes.

- Dan

Is it Carol McKenzie?

- Bronagh

No, it's Gavin Tullock.

- Dan

Okay.

- Alex

Do you still play the bagpipes?

- Dan

I do, I can, I play the chanter every now and again, I don't have bagpipes. My pipe band, we used to play before every match at Murrayfield before every Scottish international match.

-  Alex

Did you really? Wow, they put pipers up on the roof now at Murrayfield. They turn off all the lights. It's quite dramatic.

- Dan

Yeah, they do that at [inaudible 00:08:11] as well. Very cool.

- Alex

Yes.

- Bronagh

So, have you always been into music?

- Dan

Pretty much, I think I fell in love with radio at the age of nine, and then by the age of 14, 15, I was starting to get into DJing and stuff like that.

- Bronagh

And what was it that appealed to you about radio at that age?

- Dan

I've said this quite often, I was a lonely child. Because I went to school in Dunblune, and then during the holidays I went to an army school, which was basically like a really, really bad boarding school. And during the holidays, I'd then go home. But because we'd moved, I didn't know anyone where we lived. So I'd spend weeks by myself, just sort of roaming around the Scottish highlands. I spent more time with deer and salmon than I did with people in the holidays.

- Alex

A mini Highlander, as it were.

- Dan

Basically, yeah. It was like Monarch of the Glen for 13 year olds. And so, the one thing I always identified with in radio was that there was an intimacy between the person on air, and the person listening. There was always someone there having fun, there was always someone there talking, and I think I connected with that, realistically. And I still use that on air, today. You can really have that intimacy with people.

- Dan

These days we don't often talk as much as we used to about that one to one of things like radio, because I think we're all aware that, you know, there's a big planet out there, and there's more than one person listening, and there'll be more than one person listening to this. But the old-school mentality in radio, and it still kind of exists in some way, is that you were only ever talking to one person.

- Alex

I always remember, was it Terry Wogan? When he signed off he said, "Thanks for having me in your homes."

- Dan

Yeah!

- Alex

Which was a brilliant line.

- Dan

But that's it, and it still exists, it's massive. Radio is still huge in the UK. The market's massive in America, Australia, it's still a massive, massive medium for people. It's everywhere. The only difference is; in London, we don't consume radio the same way we consume it anywhere else in the UK, or anywhere else in the world, because we have a different lifestyle here. For example, the big one is cars of course, not everybody has a car in London. So we don't listen to the radio in the same way that you would listen to it if you lived in Manchester, or Leeds, or Glasgow. You know, you're getting up for work, you get in the car, and you stick the radio on. And you're on a 20-30 minute journey in the car, and you've got 20-30 minutes of radio.

- Dan

That's the difference in London, and I think the media landscape sometimes really forgets that, in the UK especially. But outside of London, and the rest of the world, radio still is that intimate medium that people fell in love with decades ago.

- Alex

When you first started in radio, what channel was it, what was the station?

- Dan

So I was on local radio. In July 2000, I started on a station called Viking FM in Hull. And I started as like, the monkey boy character, the breakfast show sidekick, who'd go out...

- Alex

Psychic Simon.

- Dan

Yeah, basically, yeah! And I'd give out bacon sandwiches at roundabouts to commuters, and I'd give away tickets to different events, and things like that. And be the fool guy. I mean, I opened my A-level results on air, that sort of stuff. And I was 18 years old, and I loved it. That was unpaid, I wasn't getting paid, but then I'd go and work in the station during the day, and make a few quid. And then I went to university, and i did student radio, and I still worked in radio, and I got my own show there. Then my first proper job on air, was in 2003, when I got my first solo show. So I'd been working with other people, and I'd been doing other stuff, and I got my first solo show. And I got 2 overnight shows a week at weekends. £35 for four hours. £70 a week at Viking FM, and I did 2-6, the proper [inaudible 00:12:09] shift. Then, after about six months of doing that, I then got full time overnights.

- Bronagh

What's the audience like at that time of night?

- Dan

You're talking about minimal. It's a few people. If you can get on air before 10pm, or around 10pm, you'll notice that there are still people, on local radio, I'm talking about here, in the UK. You know there'll be people there, and they'll be texting and saying, "Hi Dan, loving the show, can you just give a shout-out to Barry, who's in HMP Hull. Tell him I love him, and I can't wait to see him in five years' time when he gets out, I'll always be here for you babe." You know, that kind of thing.

- Dan

So you're doing that sort of stuff, and then you get into overnight territory after sort of 2am, and then you're going into the Wild West. Because you're looking at insomniacs...

- Bronagh

Taxi homes.

- Dan

Taxi homes, the overnight workers, the shift workers in factories, and you know, everyone knows, the freaks come out at night, that's what happens, this madness just starts occurring. But it's fun, and again you can be more intimate there, because the audience is smaller. And it becomes quite possible to have regular listeners. And you do build up relationships in that way, because they become part of your life, and you're part of their life. For those three or four hours a night. So that's where I started.

- Bronagh

And then when did you get off the overnight shift?

- Dan

2005 I managed to move to a regional radio station then. So I went from local to regional, and at the time, it was a station called Galaxy. Which is now Capital. And I did afternoons there for a bit, and then I did the drive-time show, 4-7 then I did, four and a half years there. Then in 2009 I moved to X FM in London, which is now Radio X, and I've been there ever since. So I went through the brand evolution from X FM into Radio X. And yeah, that's 10 years actually, 10 years ago.

- Bronagh

So one of the reasons we wanted to have you on the show is we're really interested in what "influence" means to different people. My perspective of the radio industry is that you have a huge influence on popular culture. On the careers of emerging musicians, big musicians. Is that what you'd say your perspective is?

- Dan

Yeah, I mean look, I'm on a commercial radio station at the moment. With an audience of 1.5 million listeners a week.

- Dan

Now yesterday, the ASA said that if you've got 30000 followers on any social media platform, you are an influencer. You have influence.

- Alex

Didn't they define it "celebrity"?

- Dan

Celebrity, yeah.

- Bronagh

Oh, really?

- Alex

Yeah, so 30000 followers or more means you are a "celebrity".

- Dan

That's the ASA. So looking at something like, for example, commercial radio. I'm not going to overplay our role, we would be at the bottom end, realistically, of national radio, when it comes to listeners.

- Dan

Now if you start getting into Heart FM, Capital territory, you're up at 8, 9 million. But what we have down at 1.5 million listeners, is a very high listener length. We call them "listener hours". So they listen longer. And we've got incredible listener hours, we've got big personalities on the station that people want to listen to, people like Johnny Vaughn and Chris Moyles and all that lot.

- Dan

So we have a smaller audience in terms of reach, but the people who listen to us listen to us for so much longer. And also what we have, is higher ABC1 audience, than many of our competitors.

- Bronagh

Tell us what that is.

- Dan

An ABC1 audience is basically people who have money. They've got cash to spend. So when advertisers see that level of ABC1 like we have, and the fact that they listen for a long time, then it's a no-brainer, so if you're a Strongbow, if you're a Guinness, if you're a Red Bull, those kinds of people. If you're a British Airways, now I'm thinking of some of the people that we've worked with recently... Carphone Warehouse. It's a no-brainer.

- Dan

I'm part of this station realistically, that has 1.5 million listeners, which in the landscape is quite a small national figure compared to some of the big boys. But, we have this really passionate audience who love the station, and who love what we do. As part of that, I get to tap into that audience. They're not my personal followers on Twitter or Instagram, I don't have 1.5 million followers on Twitter or Instagram, but I'm part of something bigger, which has influence, which really does make a difference to musicians, festivals, concert promoters, and advertisers.

- Bronagh

Yeah. So I guess that's one of the things that you and Tanya talk about a lot, in terms of the way the brands can interact with all types of people of influence because I think some people are quite narrow-minded in terms of how they can collaborate with influencers; they think, "Oh, they'll just put it in an Instagram post, and that is a form of influence." But we talk about radio being such an important media that brands should explore.

- Alex

Yeah, absolutely. I think one of my frustrations is that if you ask people to define influencer nowadays, they just think, how many followers have you got on Instagram, and what's your engagement rate? But actually, if I was to say to you, "Who are the most influential people that you have known as you've grown up?" You'd talk about teachers, and you'd talk about politicians possibly, and you'd talk about sportspeople, and musicians, whatever it is. Influence is a much broader commodity than just an Instagram following. And I think what we're trying to do, is to unlock the ability for influential people to talk about collaborations across a multitude of channels.

- Alex

We were wittering away before we started recording about the power of the podcast. My view is, if you're going to be an influential person in 18 months, 2 years' time, you're going to have to talk to an engaged audience across a multitude of channels, it's not going to be enough just to say, "Pay me to post it on my Instagram." You'll have to say, "Yeah, I'll do you a bit of social. And actually I can also take you into print, or I can take you into my podcast, or I do YouTube content, I'll do personal appearances..." Whatever it is. Just being an Instagram influencer, I think, is going to whittle away quite soon.

- Alex

I'd be interested to know, who are the people when you look back now, who you would put into the top categories of people who have influenced you in your lifetime? We all say parents, and friends, things like that, but...

- Dan

No, it wouldn't be my parents. It would be people in radio.

- Alex

Yeah?

- Dan

Yeah. Because I grew up aspiring to be somebody who would be on the radio. And I grew up as somebody who wanted to be a DJ. So for me, it would be radio presenters, people who worked in dance music. It would be people like that, and I think as I've gone on in life, I've realized how lucky that I was that for some reason, for whatever reason that is, at a young age, I decided that that was what I wanted to do. And I got to follow that path, and I chased that dream.

- Dan

I think the term "influencer", has been owned, really, by social media. And the definition of a word is only really deemed by the way people use it. So effectively, social media has created this new term of influencer, because it had a broader meaning before, "to influence." But now, because it's used in the narrative of social media, people think the way you've just described, basically. And so, yeah, it's really important to remember that it actually does have a broader meaning. Right now, as we speak, it's used in the term of like, "Oh God!"

- Alex

It's a fairly toxic expression.

- Dan

Yeah, exactly! Someone's on bloody Love Island. You know, "You're an influencer, you've got 20000 followers on Instagram and a blog." That's kind of how its viewed. But it is a broader term, and it needs to be re-owned in its original sense.

- Dan

But unfortunately, a word's meaning is only how it's used, and that's how it's used at the moment, and that is what an influencer is.

- Alex

That is our crusade. Is to broaden it back out again. And I think, one of the other things I'm passionate about, is probably over-selling it, but one of the things that I believe is that: you become influential by telling authentic stories, you grow your social media following organically because you do interesting things, meet interesting people, head to interesting places. If you then take that to a point where you just flip it into commercializing, you're only paying to post commercial content, your audience is going to walk away quite quickly, I think. I don't want to be just advertised at by the people who I find interesting. Therefore, one of the things that I think we're trying very hard with The Influence Room is to give influential people the chance to talk about things they want to talk about, rather than sitting and waiting to be paid to talk about things. And that is in essence, returning social media to its original form; which is talking about the things you love, because you love them, rather than talking about the things you love because you are paid to post.

- Dan

Yeah. I've always thought, though, and I'd be interested to see what you guys think about the word "authenticity". Because it's the one thing that I often hear people on social media use, as some sort of like, qualification. And the thing about social media is, especially Instagram, is that: by its very nature, there is a lack of authenticity to it.

- Alex

Because you're putting everything through a filter.

- Dan

And everything's contrived. Secondly, the way I see social media now, is that it's an involved form of show business. And show business by its very nature, is inauthentic. I'm sure we've all met people who present themselves as one thing to the world, and actually, there is a bigger story, there's maybe a few untruths around that!

- Dan

And so while I agree with you, and I think it's very important that we all have an authentic story and how we deliver ourselves... it's important to be authentic, I completely agree. I think the term "authenticity" is slightly overused sometimes, because it's just too easy to fake. Because that is showbiz. People are giving you the show. You're giving people what they want to see. And so, while I totally, 100% agree with... me, for example, I won't talk about anybody else because that would be unfair, I'll talk about me. It's kind of like, music, travel and sports. So let's pick those three as a thing, okay?

- Dan

At the age of nine, I decide that I want to be on the radio, and I want to be a DJ. And I start trying to follow that dream from the age of 14. At 17 I make it happen, and here I am 20 years later, and I've been doing it for 20 years. We'd all agree that was somebody who was authentically into music.

- Alex

Living the dream.

- Dan

Living the dream, sure. Travel, okay. Now how do I deliver myself as someone who authentically likes to travel? This is a question, so how do I do that?

- Alex

Create amazing content on your travels. Is that...?

- Dan

No, I'm asking: how do I become somebody who brands would be perceived as somebody who's authentically a traveler?

- Bronagh

Well I guess the problem is you'd have to invest some money in the first instance. Because I think that that's the problem. I think there is an issue around privilege, there's a lot of people who have the privilege to be able to invest in a career in social media. Travel costs money. I was going to say earlier, to play devil's advocate: you do need aspiration in your life, everybody wants to have hopes and dreams and social media gives that to you in abundance. But then the problem with the influencer spaces, the reason it became so popular was because you saw someone who was like your next-door neighbour, becoming essentially, a celebrity. But then there was the whole backlash, because then your next-door neighbour is now a millionaire, and it no longer then becomes relatable. I even feel pressure, I work in social media, that's my job, and I think I'm crap at social media! And you end up feeling bad about yourself, and then you end up sort of... almost resenting it, in a way? And I guess for someone like you, working in radio, social media's become integral to radio now, everything has to have video assets, everything has to be online. Do you think that has benefited radio? Or do you think it hasn't?

- Dan

I genuinely think that anything that helps push something forward is of benefit. So, if radio didn't continue to evolve, then of course it would die. But as we consistently see in the UK, anyway, and in some other markets in the world; radio continues to grow, because it has evolved, because people have invested in it. And that's commercial, and BBC. I think it's difficult to not realize that we're living in a completely different world to what we were living in 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 5 years ago, because the world is evolving at such a rapid rate, that we can barely keep up.

- Alex

I heard an amazing... I can't remember his name, but he's in charge of Alibaba out in Asia, which is essentially the Google of Asia. He said several things, which I thought were really interesting. One of which is, "The pace of change will never be as slow as it is today." So that graph of change is just ramping up, every day we are getting faster. The other thing he said which was extraordinary is that "75% of the jobs that our children will do, do not yet exist." I think it's something like 8 million jobs that we currently have will not exist by the year 2030. I mean it's just highlighting exactly what you were saying about highlighting that rapid, rapid, rate of change.

- Alex

The other thing I was going to very quickly go back to, is your challenge around authenticity. So in my view, I sort of slightly step back from the filter of social media, for me, authenticity is when a person of influence chooses to do something because they want to do it, rather than being paid to. As soon as I say, "Will you do this for me, and I'm going to pay you too, I want to control the Story?" That is not an authentic relationship; I as the brand, am paying you to create the content I want you to create. Again, I'm not overselling it, but what we do through our platform is by saying, "This is what we do. If it's interesting to you, let us know." And you might want to go to the baseball, you might want to go to the gig of your choice; by you choosing it as that person of influence, I think that is an authentic decision on your behalf; you are choosing to do something because you want to do it, and in return for that experience or the product or campaign, you would talk about it, because it's something you're interested in. That's my view of an authentic connection in this space.

- Dan

Yeah, I think that's a really nice definition as well to use, because again, it almost links into what we were saying the definition of what an influencer is, because in that case I think we need to broaden what the word "authentic" means. Because I think some people... and this is true of several people I've spoken to in advertising, is that the idea that authenticity is the most important thing, is a falsehood, because so many people have always faked things.

- Alex

Yeah. It's not new, is it?

- Dan

Exactly, it's theater of the mind. It's showbiz. You only have to meet... I've met several superstars who couldn't give an ish about their audience, what they do...

- Alex

Go on, name names!

- Dan

No!

- Alex

Go on.

- Dan

No, never! But, all they care about is the money. Gene Simmons is famous for it, from KISS, right? Gene Simmons constantly talks about it, he doesn't care about anything. Just cares about the dollar. "How much am I going to get paid? How much? How much?"

- Dan

I've had an interesting experience with my own podcast, which I've just launched.

- Alex

Give it a plug.

- Dan

Golden: A Brief History of Dance Music. Available on all platforms. Very good.

- Alex

Happy to help!

- Dan

But I had an interesting experience where I would say, a third of people asked what the fee was, to appear in an interview. So I started thinking to myself, "Wow, okay, so, who else is getting paid for interviews?" Because if someone's asked me to talk like you guys have... well you didn't ask me, I offered! I said, "Get me on the first one!" I've never said, "Oh, what's the fee?" Because promotion to me has always been something you do as part of the job.

- Bronagh

It's organic.

- Alex

Yeah.

- Dan

And you just do it. But obviously there is a world out there where people are getting paid consistently to turn up and do interviews for their own projects. I'm not saying that's right or wrong, I'm just saying, that's kind of interesting; I didn't realize that. I mean I knew for example, if it was National Dog Day, Pedigree Chum had been paying somebody who likes dogs, Clare Balding, whatever it was to go and do a round of local radio interviews and stuff like that. I understand that part of the business, but when it came to people's own projects, I didn't realize that they were asking for a fee to come and promote themselves! I just was like, wow! Okay, you're getting money to come and promote yourself. I still don't understand it now.

- Dan

But that's obviously happening, because people are asking, "Well, what's the fee?" There is that as well. I don't know how it got to that.

- Alex

I know what you mean, it always filed under "authenticity", I think. So the other word that we use quite a lot is "advocacy". Authentic advocates, and actually in hindsight, if we only thought to call ourselves The Advocates' Room, or Advocado, or something...

- Dan

I feel a rebrand!

- Alex

I know! Can't afford it at this point in time, but I think advocacy is possibly the next stage of influence. I think influence is now a commercial term; I will be paid to talk about something.

- Dan

So what does that mean then, for anyone listening to this who doesn't understand what that means,

- Alex

I think it's when you champion something because you love, need, or want it, rather than because you're being paid to talk about it. So it's that self-selecting mechanism of working with brands. So an advocate is someone who loves a brand already, who needs it, is interested in what's on offer, and wants to engage with the brand, because of those terms only. It's not a commercial arrangement. In fact, probably, that's different, let me rephrase that.

- Alex

I think authentic connection is one where the influencer, or the person of influence as we call them, chooses the brand because they love it or want it, and an advocate is what comes out of that connection, if they then take it up to the next level.

- Alex

So if you go to the baseball, for example, last weekend, because you are interested in American sports, and they said, "Brilliant, we'd love to have you along to that, give us shout-out however you feel comfortable, you tell that story." And then you go to the baseball, and you become a massive fan off the back of that experience. You are then an advocate. From an authentic connection, you've become an advocate.

- Alex

But if I am major league baseball, and I say, "Right, we'll pay you to come and create some content around it." And I go, I've got no interest in baseball, but I pose with a drink on the steps, and I say, "Wow, thanks, MLB, I've had a really lovely time." And I never think about baseball ever again, that is a commercial influencer transaction. That is the brand purchasing the access to your audience, as opposed to engaging you, as a potential advocate. Does that make sense?

- Dan

Yeah, yeah! I think that's a really good definition again. You're good with definitions!

- Alex

That's a rarity, I can tell you. But yeah, it's interesting.

- Dan

Okay, sure.

- Bronagh

I was going to ask you about how much influence can you have on the music in your show, when you work for a commercial station?

- Dan

I mean, it's no secret that most radio stations are playlisted now, and you can look at Radio 1 to 6 Music, these are the stations that somehow seem to give the perception that they are not playlisted, but they are. And commercial radio has always been playlisted.

- Alex

I'm genuinely interested, just define that: what is "playlisted"? You get told, so you can pick from...?

- Dan

No, you will be given...

- Bronagh

A, B, and C lists, is that right?

- Dan

Well yeah, a playlist is divided into very boring technical terms, that nobody really needs to know.

- Alex

I'm genuinely interested.

- Dan

Okay. All right, let's break it down.

- Alex

Make yourselves comfortable.

- Dan

You can skip forward five minutes! Basically, a radio clock, is an hour, okay? So in that hour, you will have: familiar songs, new songs, and old songs. And each radio station, whether it's Radio X, Capital, Heart, Smooth, Classic FM, Radio 1... each radio station will have different terms for what those songs are. So something that's doing really well at the moment, for example, in most commercial stations what we call, the "superhit". You're going to hear that a lot.

- Dan

Then you'll have new artists coming through. And that'll be your "new music" category. That won't be very big in commercial radio, but it'll be a certain amount of songs that are probably going to be superhits. And you might take a punt every now and again on something, that you know, might be a superhit, might not be. Or, could be a really well-established artist, who's really important to you, not a great track, but you're going to play it anyway, because you want to support them, and you know you've got an audience for it.  Then you've got your classics, so you've got your, which are often called "gold tracks." So these are the older songs. And they can then be broken down into categories, so for example at Radio X we might break it down into Noughties, Nineties, Sixties, Seventies, you know, that kind of thing? So that will be how the classics are then played in. So what radio is trying to create, is an hour of songs where you get a little bit of everything. And what you're looking for is a balance between those tunes. So that between each song, you don't feel like you've gone, "Fucking hell, what's going on here?" There needs to be some sort of flow to that hour, and there needs to be some sort of balance with the music that you're trying to program.

- Alex

Got you.

- Dan

And then within that hour, you'll have points to talk, and you'll obviously have ad breaks, if it's commercial radio, sponsorship, messaging, ad reads, all that sort of stuff. The thing with the BBC of course which is different to commercial is that they don't have any commercial activity. So you'll find people talking for longer. Because they have to.

- Alex

Another general interest: how much prep do you do before you go on air, and if you're given two minutes, and they say, "Chat for two minutes" where on earth do you go?

- Dan

Two minutes for me? That's a real treat! Because daytime commercial radio is really fast-paced. And actually, I mean sometimes, I've said this before, I don't mind repeating it, it's actually harder to do less.

- Alex

I know exactly what you mean.

- Dan

It's almost like, for anyone knows how comedians do it, comedians write their scripts. And constantly edit. And edit, and edit, and edit. On daytime radio, that's kind of what you have to do. Because realistically, you're looking at talking between 30 seconds and a minute, where you actually talk. So you've got to be able to deliver: brand messages, comedy, if you like, observations, all that sort of stuff, in that time.

- Dan

It's really hard, because to sit around and waffle; I don't even know how long I've been talking for now. It's a breeze!

- Alex

It's quite nice, isn't it?

- Dan

Really nice! This is a treat for me. This is the stuff I dream of. But daytime commercial radio is so fast-paced, and there's so much going on, there's not much time to do this kind of thing. Because people don't care. People don't want to hear me waffle on.

- Alex

They do on this pod. They'll be re-listening as they go!

- Dan

They just want to hear the music.

- Bronagh

Do you have an objective on your show? Is there a sort of, overarching...?

- Dan

My objective personally is that I feel like I've fulfilled my task for the day, if I've played 13 songs an hour. If I've managed to make people laugh a couple of times, and if I've fulfilled everything else, in terms of what my boss would want me to do, in terms of commercial activity. And that's realistically what I have to do.

- Dan

I spend about an hour every day looking through what people are talking about that day, so what are the big moments? What are people talking about? And I'll have certain websites that I go to, and I'll check online, and do all that sort of stuff, and see what the conversation is that day. That's all you've got, you've only got that day. And you've only got to reflect that day. Realistically. So what are people talking about in the UK? And I focus on the UK, I mean, we have lots of people who listen on the app around the world, but, essentially, I'm dealing with the 1.5 million people who are listening in the UK today. And that's what I focus on.

- Bronagh

You talked about how your audience were night owls in the early days. Who are your audience now?

- Dan

Well that's it, the great thing about Twitter and stuff like that is you can see who your audience are. But it's really important, and I think some people in the radio industry forget this, not everyone's on Twitter. Not everyone's on social media. Not everyone's texting you. So it's really important that you don't fall into the trap of thinking that's who your audience are, and you constantly play to them, because it's not truth. That is not gospel. If that was the case, some of the stuff I've read on Twitter about me, and my radio show; wow. I'd still be in bed, I wouldn't be getting up today!

- Alex

I'm genuinely interested in that; does that irk you?

- Dan

I don't know, I think you would be lying if you said it didn't bother you. But I remember the first time somebody text me in 2005 and abused me in such a horrific way, that I've never forgotten it.

- Bronagh

Really?

- Dan

Yeah. I mean, it was like, and you can try and bleep this out if you want, "You fucking ****, you absolutely, oh God you're so shit! This is the worst radio show... Fucking Dave the taxi driver in Wakefield."

- Bronagh

Angry man.

- Dan             

Yeah, but I just thought like, whoa! Do you know what I mean, it's like, wow. That's so on top.

- Bronagh

It does bring out the best and worst in people.

- Alex

And the rest. It's funny, because I've done 15 years of broadcasting, and my role is, I'm not personality, I just conduct it, I just sit there and try and bring the best out of other people. But it's really interesting, having done a podcast for eight months which is a bit more out there, and I do it with James Haskell and Mike Tindall. And suddenly, the peppering is coming far more often. And at the start, eight months ago, I was like, "Who are these people and what are they doing?" And actually now, I genuinely find it quite amusing, we call them out on the show.

- Alex

But it is just an extraordinary landscape. And when we're talking about "influencers" in inverted commas, on social media; there is the other end of the scale, which is just... how do they get out of bed in the morning? And what motivates them to do that kind of thing? I find it utterly bizarre.

- Dan

I think one of the most important things that I've learned is that, it's not about you, it's always about them.

- Alex

Yes. That's a good point.

- Dan

And it's really interesting because I had this conversation with somebody once, and they said, "Look. They're not doing it to you. They're doing it for them." And it is just that; it's their venting. It could be anyone, it could be anything, it just so happens that at that moment, they're doing it for them but it feels like it's being done to you.

- Alex

Would be nice if they just went for a run or something 

- Dan

Well they can't afford therapy. They can't afford to go see a doctor, you know what I mean? Most of the time, as well, when I do the thing when I click on people's profiles, or I block them or something, or I mute them or whatever; you look into it, and you think, "Oh God, look at that." You're just going through the list of all the things they've been saying to other people.

- Alex

Following 13 people, 2 followers oh wow!

- Dan

It's just constant negativity and moaning. Or having a go at other people! Just go down, all they've done is... they've not posted anything, it's just @ whatever. @HovisUK, "Your bread was awful! I want a refund! You should be disgusted with yourself!" All the way like that. "@ChrisEvans, shut up! Play some music! You horrible ginger man!" And I'm thinking, this is an actual example that I can remember.

- Dan

That's it, they're not posting anything positive, or saying anything about themselves, they're just using it as a way to channel their negativity and hatred of the world.

- Alex

It's extraordinary.

- Bronagh

I heard a really lovely story, a few months ago. I'm sure you've heard it as well, about the man who'd been broadcasting his own radio show in his living room...

- Dan

Yeah, lovely story, this one.

- Bronagh

To just... was it just his wife, that listened?

- Dan

Yeah, this is the guy in Manchester, was he?

- Bronagh

Yes.

- Dan

Was he in Manchester? Yep. Old fella.

- Bronagh

Yes.

- Alex

I haven't heard this.

- Dan

He did a little show in his shed.

- Bronagh

But at the same time every week for years. Never missed his...

- Alex

He was in the shed, and his wife was in the house...

- Bronagh

Listening.

- Dan

Yeah, and then BBC local radio gave him his own little gig.

- Alex

You're kidding.

- Bronagh

That's a really nice analogy of: don't do something for other people. Which I think, in the influencer space, a lot of people get into it because there's an ulterior motive. Get into entertainment or music, or acting, or whatever, because you love it. I guess that is very very hard thing to do, you're always looking for recognition.

- Alex

I think that's a return to authenticity though.

- Bronagh

Well that's it.

- Alex

Do it because you love it, do it because you're interested in it, do it because you are curious, and see where it takes you. As opposed to doing it because someone else wants you to. You all right for time?

- Dan

Yeah, I was looking up that story [crosstalk 00:43:28] if I made some noise, I couldn't remember, but then I just got a story about a man shot in the stomach.

- Alex

Oh, right. Keep it light, keep it light!

- Bronagh

I was just going to ask, to round up our conversation, I wanted to get your thoughts on where you think the future of radio is going, and, do you have goals for where you'd like to take your show, what is the ideal scenario for you in radio?

- Dan

I think radio, as a medium, has a big future. At Global, at the moment... Global, for anyone who's unfamiliar owns some of the biggest commercial radio stations in the world. And we've put a lot of money into securing that future, with the Global player app. Which has a feature on it, for example, called "My Radio X", or "My Capital", or whatever. And on it, you get eight songs. And you can basically create and craft your own playlist as it goes. So you don't actually have to listen to me anymore if you don't want. You can go into this feature within the app, and just...

- Bronagh

Personalize.

- Dan

Yeah. Personalize and create and craft your own playlist. And here's the thing: the technology is so good, that if you just rate some of the music as you go along, it starts to identify what you like. So it's kind of that algorithm that Spotify and the rest of them have, although I don't think the Spotify one works all the time. I don't like Cut Copy, Spotify, stop playing me Cut Copy! I listened to one of their songs once!

- Alex

Little dark secret just coming through!

- Dan

I do like Cut Copy, but I don't want to listen to them every time you give me music! Anyway, so that's where the future lies in terms of the app. But the other side of it is, I think there's a future in personality. It's like, people still want to listen to me. People still want to have a good time. People still like the idea of laughing. It's really important that we remember that, and that's the home of all that stuff, radio.

- Bronagh

And what would be your advice to someone who is thinking about getting into radio now?

- Dan

Practice. The more you practice, the luckier you get. It's the mantra of every sportsman, from David Beckham to Johnny Wilkinson, every golfer in the world, they can't come up with their own one in golf, for some reason. Golf, everyone says that in golf. But it's true. My experience in the last 20 years of being on the radio is that, people who turn up because they are a celebrity, or an influencer, or through some form of nepotism. They only last, watch this, get ready to drop the mic... they only last if they have an authentic interest in doing what they do.

- Alex

Yes.

- Dan

Because they quickly get bored, they realize that there's hard work involved, or they just can't cut it. So they disappear really quickly. So it's one of those things that people moan about, in TV and in radio, and in general. You go, "Oh, why is he getting that job? Why are they getting that job?"

- Bronagh

It's a long game.

- Dan

But the truth is, most of them disappear. Most of them go away, because they don't really want it that much, or something else comes along that they think is more interesting.

- Alex

I completely echo that, so actually funnily enough, our careers and I suppose our trajectories are quite similar. So I knew at eight I wanted to work in sport. I had the biggest VHS collection of rugby matches of any person on Planet Earth. I'd made tea and coffee at Sky, eventually got given a microphone one day, was lucky enough to then move into the presenting chair. But I completely agree with you that you have to know what it is that you want, and you have to have a passion for it. If I'd gone into music, I don't know anything about it, but I would never have got to where I've got to, I've only got to where I've got to because my passion was rugby. And I imagine that's exactly what you're saying, you've got to work hard at it, and know what you want, and love it.

- Dan

Yeah. 100%. And I think that that is true of everything though. It's like, yes, occasionally people get lucky, I'm sure. But most people I know haven't just got lucky. They might try and make you think that they just got lucky, or that, this is just a breeze! That's part of show business isn't it? Make this look really easy! "Oh yeah, I just turn up and out it comes."

- Dan

But the preparation for those big moments in life is a long time coming. I love that image of the iceberg. You know?

- Alex

Yes.

- Dan

And you just get that little tip of the ice above the sea. But then the iceberg is like, fucking 500m below the surface and it's like everything else is going on down here but all you see is this little bit. I love that, because it's really true. Or, when somebody gets called an "overnight success", and they call people out on it, I love that. It's like, "are you calling me an overnight success, but look at this." And it's like, they've been doing 20 years graft, or whatever. But it's like, they're an overnight sensation, and it's like, it's really unhelpful when we do that! Because it makes people think that you just turn up and life's really easy. I've got a friend, and I really disagree with her. And she says that anytime you feel resistance in life, that's the universe telling you that you're not doing the right thing. Not my experience. Because everything that I've done, of any value, has come with resistance, and it's come with hard work, and it's come with those things.

- Bronagh

It's the discomfort zone.

- Dan

Yeah, I mean, it might be true for yoga teachers, I don't know, she's a yoga teacher. It might be true! Maybe the universe is just talking to yoga teachers now, but no.

- Alex

Cosmos.

- Dan

Yeah, whole different vibe, man. But that's just not been my experience. It's really not been my experience.

- Alex

I love the expression, "You've got to be in the right place at the right time to be lucky." Which is a kind of, you've got to get yourself where you need to be and then hopefully it happens.

-  Bronagh

Well you always say, "Just say yes to everything!" Because I'm quite guilty of thinking, "Oh no, I can't do that!" And then since I went freelance a few years ago, you just have to say yes to everything, you have to just take every opportunity because...

- Alex

You never know where it leads.

- Bronagh

No.

- Alex

It's funny, have you read, there's a book called the Yes Man by Danny Wallace?

- Dan

I do, I know Danny very well.

- Alex

I imagine you did, yeah. Which I'm sure he would agree, it's not War and Peace, and it's not Dickens, but it's a brilliant concept. And I read that about five or six years ago, and I just thought, "What a brilliant way to look at life!" I mean he ends up going on holiday with spammers, and things like that! I know it's a bizarre concept, but it did change my view on actually, just say yes, and you never know where you end up.

- Dan

There's a big movement at the moment, to play devil's advocate here, about the No Man. So you need to say no more to stuff, because we're all now in that mad world, we're all doing stuff all the time, and we're all busy, and we're constantly in this state of like, "Got to this! Oh God, I've got to do this! I've got to be over there now!" Do you know what I mean? And then all of a sudden, we're in a world where you actually have to start saying no to stuff because we've created this kind of like, constant state of anxiety that we're either missing out on something, or we've got to be doing something else, or we've got to be over there. Danny Wallace has got a lot to be blamed for actually!

- Alex

Very good. 

- Bronagh        

And on that note.

- Alex

And on that note... thank you for saying yes to this!

- Bronagh

Yes!

- Dan

My pleasure.

- Bronagh

Dan, thank you so much!

- Alex

You set the bar extremely high. It's been an absolute pleasure to have you on.

- Dan

Thank you.

- Alex

You're going to do your own podcast?

- Dan

I certainly am.

- Alex

When are you going to launch it?

- Dan

It is out now!

-  Alex

It's out now?

- Dan

Golden: A Brief History of Dance Music, it's basically just me chatting to people who've been at the forefront of dance music, or who were at the forefront of dance music, and have kind of, paved the way basically, for dance music as we see it now.

- Dan

And again, that was a passion of mine, and that was an authentic thing, it's like, no-one's paid me to do it. I was saying before we did this, it's probably cost me a couple of hundred pounds to do. But that's why I've done it, because I wanted to do it, and it's like, I love dance music, and I don't really get to flex my dance music muscle all that much, because I mainly work in guitar music, and rock, and all that stuff. But I actually started out as a DJ. In 1997 I bought my first set of Technics 12'10s, DJ decks, and then I got into dance music, and radio, and clubbing, and all that sort of stuff first, before I then got into rock bands and all that stuff.

- Dan

So that's where my passion for music lay in the 1990's. It's something that I've managed to revisit through this podcast. So I just went out and found all these people like [inaudible 00:52:22] and Brandon Block, and Judge Jules, and Dave Haslam, who famously played at the Hacienda in Manchester. And I just spoke to them about being on the front wave of dance music, and paving the way for dance music as we see it now.

- Alex

Brilliant. I'll have a listen.

- Bronagh

Me too.

Alex:                 Bit of nostalgia.

- Dan

Hashtag 

- Alex

Hashtag authentic. Hashtag nostalgia.

- Bronagh

Well Dan, thanks again, and thank you for being a member of The Influence Room.

Dan:                 My pleasure.

- Alex

Thank you, good luck with it all.

- Dan

Thanks guys.

- Bronagh

Thank you so much for listening to The Influence Room podcast. If you want to learn more about the site, you can follow us on Instagram, @theinfluenceroom. And check out our website, and become a member if you're not already, we are really excited to hear about what you're doing, what you're passionate about, the stories you want to tell, and become part of the contra economy.

 

 

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