Ditching the FM for digital, publisher Newcastle Live has established an online digital radio station Zara Handsomb chats with Managing Director, Steven Pickett and Managing Editor, Dan Beazley.
Newcastle is historically known for its abundance of local music talent. It is perplexing to think before 2021 you wouldn’t have heard much of it on a local radio station (maybe the exception of Silverchair and, The Screaming Jets).
Finally, local publisher Newcastle Live is giving airtime to local musicians on a new digital radio platform, Newcastle Live Radio. Why is this only happening now? “Commercial reality,” says managing director Steven Pickett.
Steven is the founder and managing director of Newcastle’s biggest entertainment agency, EAO. When the 2007/2008 global financial crisis hit, it had a big impact on many businesses in Newcastle, including Steven’s.
The local paper ‘The Post’ was no longer available and, if you’ve been around Newcastle long enough, you would be aware this contained the bible of Newcastle music and entertainment communication; a lift-out called ‘That’s Entertainment’.
When this was no longer available, many felt as though other outlets presented “a distorted story about what it was like to go out in Newcastle and the music scene,” says Newcastle Live managing editor Dan Beazley.
“We definitely saw a gap…now that That’s Entertainment wasn’t there, and it wasn’t being covered in the same way elsewhere.”
After observing the decline of newspapers in general, Steven wanted to start a digital platform to properly communicate everything music, entertainment and lifestyle to the local Newcastle community. So, the publisher Newcastle Live was born in 2013, communicating via website, social media, e-mail and as of 2021, digital radio. Expanding Newcastle Live’s brief including local sport and news presented to you by Michael Blaxland.
Since 2013, their audience has grown to over 100,000 and impressions are hitting three and a half million a month. The startup of the radio platform has seen an increase from seven listeners to 10,000. Proving, as a community “we do crave local stories, we want to hear about ourselves,” says Dan. Everything Newcastle Live do they carry with the ethos, “If it’s on in the Hunter it’s on Newcastle Live,” says Steven.
Steven Pickett says the radio station exists to showcase the variety of talent here in Newcastle.
“We’re acknowledging that Newcastle is unique in that, it has this creative hotbed. And it’s not just music, but music is a big part of that, and it’s absurd that there’s no platform on which that music can be heard.”
Newcastle Live Radio hosts an array of programs, something for everyone.
Dan Beazley will take you through an afternoon completely dedicated to Australian music. Steven and, Newcastle music legend, Mark Tinson take you on an Aussie rock ‘n’ roll drive in the evenings. And weekly program ‘Newcastle Live Music Show’, hosted by Cooper and Campbell is dedicated to local music happening in Newcastle.
One of the very exciting things about this startup is, local music is no longer exclusive to the music community or those few people who turn up to weekend gigs in town. There’s an audience further afield which can now be reached. Anyone from anywhere in the world who has an internet connection and the ability to download an app can tune in to discover the top-notch tunes Newcastle has to offer. “We act locally but we think globally,” says Steven.
Previously other stations would stick to a catalogue of music people want to hear, because it’s safe. “If people haven’t heard local music, how are they going to know if they like it or not…commercial stations go, well you know, it’s just not worth the risk, people want to hear the songs they know,” says Steven. However, Newcastle Live Radio is taking the brave risk to air local tunes.
Dan explains, years ago when local recordings were played side by side international tracks, there was a notable difference. Where now, the recent development of technology has contributed to “more and better-quality music being produced locally than ever before.” Local musicians can now easily sit side by side international hits comparatively.
Take Paris Grace, for example, an emerging local artist, who won a songwriting competition Newcastle Live ran. Her music now has a chance to be heard by a wider audience, and her tracks could easily sit next to artists like Lennon Stella or Maggie Rodgers. We seem to get entranced when big acts come to town, we’ve forgotten we’re standing among a rich music scene of international calibre. Newcastle Live Radio is changing the way we talk about these local acts as if they were these big international acts.
Not only is the platform introducing new artists, but it is also keeping alive the music of local legends you’ve heard over the past 10/20 years. Musicians such as DV8, Dave Carter and, Mark Wells.
The station is also making it easier for local artists financially. It’s a tough time out there for local musicians working their three part-time jobs, saving up non-existent pay cheques from ‘exposure’, and combining the last of the bands’ life savings to record a track. Let alone the advertising and promotion funding needed to get it out into the world.
Ultimately this music doesn’t exist until someone may tell you about it, or it’s seen through advertising. Newcastle Live Radio facilitates a platform for these local artists to get their music heard, with a far reach, without having to risk sleeping in their car for the next six months, because they sold all their assets for that ‘advertising package’. Which probably contained nothing more than a two-week Instagram promotion.
As stated by Steven, the entire goal of this platform is “to see the local music thrive.” You, as listeners play a vital part, download the ‘Newcastle Live Radio’ app from the google or apple play store and listen 9 am-6 pm weekdays. Alternatively, you can listen through desktop by visiting newcastlelive.com.au/radio/. Or, if you missed anything, listen back to highlights through the website. Tune in to support and keep the Newcastle local music scene alive.
Feature Image: Newcastle Live used with permission.