Hot Seat: Making it in the music industry… with Stephen Goodhew, FBi
TMN has revived Hot Seat to offer our young industry subscribers an insight into what it takes to make it in the music business.
Stephen Goodhew is a poster boy for the contentious subject of unpaid music industry internships. Having started at Sydney’s independent youth broadcaster FBi Radio in 2009, Goodhew’s passion for music and ground-up based knowledge landed him the Music Director role in 2013.
Three years into the top role Goodhew is a vocal advocate for emerging artists – both through his ’big picture’ strategies and the continuing of the station’s Northern Lights competition – and a respected figure in the industry, having spoken on panels at BigSound and Feedback conferences.
Speaking to TMN, Goodhew chats about his plans for FBi, his views on unpaid internships, the Northern Lights competition and his advice for those seeking a career in radio.
What drew you to a career in radio?
The lure of those big fat community radio paychecks ranked pretty highly tbh!
But actually though, like a lot of people I kind of stumbled upon my particular career path. I knew I wanted to work in music but at that early stage I barely knew what jobs existed in the industry. After starting on an internship at FBi I kind of just hung around while they kept giving me things to do and here I am now!
You’ve been FBi Music Director for three years now, but you got your start volunteering at the station. What’s your opinion on unpaid internships?
They’re great as long as you’re learning something and provided there’s either a clear end date or a path to move onto something paid. In my case I was constantly being thrown responsibilities and with them new learning opportunities. Definitely wouldn’t have worked as hard or stuck around as long as I did if I felt like it was a road to nowhere and I wasn’t appreciated.
Do you have a rule of thumb that you’ve adhered to as Music Director?
Always maintain a level of objectivity and approach things with a contextual awareness that transcends your own social/cultural bubble. FBi has an audience of half a million Sydney-siders and chances are not all of them appreciate music in the same way I do.
What do you consider your biggest battle in advocating for local music?
That’s a tough one. Not because everything is terrible and it’s all a big uphill struggle. It’s actually for the opposite reason. In Australia we’re incredibly supportive of local talent and I’m lucky enough to work in a pocket of the industry full of people who genuinely care. That’s not to say things couldn’t be better (lockout laws, arts funding and commercial radio, I’m looking at you) but at the moment convincing people of the value of supporting local music isn’t a particularly tricky task.
What are some best practices for those wanting a successful career in radio?
Start early, get onboard volunteering with community radio and be the person that others come to rely on. I can tell you that when you work in an organisation run mostly by volunteers there are always a few that you will tend to lean on because they’re reliable. Be the reliable one, learn from your mistakes and show enthusiasm. After that I guarantee you opportunities will start appearing.
FBi is renowned as a breeding ground for talented music and entertainment figures with many of its alumni now at triple j, SBS, MTV, Channel 10 and Future Classic. What qualities did those who have gone on to achieve successful careers in entertainment all possess?
Two things: firstly, all those people have been smart and hard working. Secondly and most importantly, they were visible within their respective communities. They went about forming networks built on genuine shared interests and enthusiasm for what they do. In doing so they became visible and opportunities came their way.
Tell us about the impact the Northern Lights Competition has had on its winners’ careers. How do you measure its success?
From where I’m sitting the Northern Lights competition has had a really positive impact on past winners. FBi isn’t about making overnight sensations or creating chart-topping acts. What we do is provide a platform for emerging local talent to garner recognition for their work, attention from the wider industry, while receiving a bit of a confidence boost in the process. That’s exactly what Northern Lights has done but in a unique way. For any artist at an early stage in their career, to be selected by myself, and Iceland Airwave’s lead programmer, Grimur Atlason, is a huge confidence boost. To then be able to leverage that publicity while drawing inspiration from the trip itself has been hugely beneficial for winners.
What’s the scale of what you have planned for FBi Radio?
Nothing huge and by that I mean we don’t have any plans or desire to become some world-conquering super-station. What I want to do is make sure FBi is the best station it can be in the ways that matter. I want to ensure that to the best of our ability we’re supporting emerging talent from Sydney, Australia and around the world as well as reflecting the diversity of our audience through our programming. I believe that if we do that better than anyone then the listeners will follow.
If you could go back, what advice would you give 2009 Stephen Goodhew, who had just started volunteering at FBi?
Be patient. The rest of the world doesn’t run to your own personal timetable.