10 Questions with Hit Network head of music & entertainment partnerships Irene Hulme
Irene Hulme holds a unique position within the Hit Network. As head of music and entertainment partnerships, she oversees the music vision of the largest radio network in Australia.
She was behind the creation of Hits & Old Skool music format, and the network’s R’n’B Fridays – a concept that’s taken on a life of its own.
Irene also recently featured on The Music Network’s list of the 15 most influential radio music minds in Australia.
The list was compiled in consultation with music industry figures and took into consideration reputation, credibility, market size, experience and format competitiveness.
In the second of a 5-part series, TMN caught up with Irene for 10 Questions.
What music traits do you consider when looking for the next big radio act?
The musical traits you look for change depending on the music cycle at the time, but as a general rule, the vocal, melody, songwriting and whether it has broad hit potential.
Is it ‘gut instinct’ or other factors that guide you?
Gut continues to be the most important driver, more often than not, your gut feel is right, supported with a number of various reference points, charts, internal research, the sum of all of those parts determines airplay.
What are the core facts of a successful station music strategy?
First and foremost, a music strategy aligned to the overall station and brand strategy is fundamental.
Secondly, music, like shows, can serve as a key or initial entry point into the station, so having a unique proposition is important.
Finally, a strategy and format aligned to the talent.
What is it in the Hit Network’s music that sets it apart from your rivals?
This difference is all-encompassing, not only in terms of the music we play, but how it’s put together, plus the attitude of the station that supports the strategy.
It is a joint achievement from a fantastic team of music directors, the best curators in the country executing local strategies that enable us to be different and build our own hill in each market.
Has there been an artist or artists that have taken you by surprise?
Nothing comes to mind.
Have there been times when taking risks haven’t quite gone as planned?
I created a national format a few years back that didn’t work, centred around a music cycle that strategically made sense but over time realised was too narrow and close to the end of its cycle.
However, it was this very format that lead to a listener focus group in Adelaide where the overwhelming majority felt we needed to play R’n’B – a genre ignored by Australian CHR Radio for so long as it was never seen as mainstream, that lead to a game-changing risk with the birth of R’n’B Fridays.
The impact of R’n’B Fridays and the resurgence of old-school lead to the creation of the hybrid format, Hits & Old School and the rest is history.
Which artists are you most excited about this year?
As I’m writing this I’m most excited about the new Drake album, from a domestic point of view, Dean Lewis and Amy Shark.
What (if any) musical trend are you seeing developing?
The big one is the impact of streaming and with it music tastes, music fans have become far more eclectic as they can access music across all genres, of all time, music preferences are no longer falling into specific genres and that’s why we’re seeing variety formats do so well.
What excites you about the local music scene?
Australian music has never been stronger; there are so many exciting new Aussie artists across a number of various genres that are having an impact globally, Amy Shark, Dean Lewis, 5SOS, Troye Sivan, it’s exciting to see we can hold our own on a global stage.
How much scope has a format change in Sydney given you for more change?
Our Sydney format has certainly given us the courage to continue to evolve our music offering, review what we’re doing up against what the demand/cycle is at any given time – we play hits, we always will, but there’s plenty of scope within that.