10 Questions with Paul Jackson
Paul Jackson has been in the programming hot seat at NOVA Entertainment since 2010.
As group program director, he’s responsible for the network’s national music direction and is credited with breaking artists like Sam Hunt, Portugal. The Man and Gang of Youths through to Australian radio.
Paul recently featured on the list of the 15 most influential radio music minds in Australia. Compiled by The Music Network in conjunction with music industry figures, it took into consideration reputation, credibility, market size, experience and format competitiveness.
Jackson was one of the only executives to make the list. In the third of a five-part series, TMN caught up with Jackson for 10 Questions.
What musical traits do you consider when looking for the next big radio act?
We’re never that prescriptive. Like everyone, we want to hear great songs that just get inside your head whatever the style may be.
Is it ‘gut instinct’ or other factors that will guide you?
Gut instinct would be at the core, but there’s also so much data available these days to help make informed decisions.
What are the core facts of a successful station music strategy?
You have to know your audience better than anyone else and be able to super-serve them. Tastes and trends are changing so quickly that to be successful, your strategy has to be under constant review.
The Nova Network recently changed programming direction across the day, what drove that decision?
I wouldn’t say we’ve changed direction. We have reframed and packaged our workday differently, but are still based around the big hits and the freshest hits.
Does that mean less ‘new music’ or fewer ‘music risks’?
Not at all. We go through periods when there are so many huge pop hits around and when there are, we’ll be breaking them first. We have, from Smallzy at night and across the day, a strong track record for introducing the audience to new music and that remains core to our DNA.
Taking risks on Sam Hunt, Morgan Evans and Portugal, The Man have obviously paid off for the network. Have there been times when it hasn’t gone as planned?
It’s funny because we don’t really see them as risks. On first listen, they felt like no-brainers. It usually doesn’t go to plan when an artist just expects to have a big hit because of their track record. As you know, there is a lot less loyalty these days, so each song has to stand on its own merit.
We did think Sugarland and Taylor Swift‘s Babe would have gone better and after the success of so much Latino music, we thought Luis Fonsi and Demi Lovato‘s Not On You may have connected more having been huge in many other territories.
Has there been an artist or artists that took you by surprise?
The surprise isn’t the artist having the success, it’s usually the scale of success. 5 Seconds Of Summer‘s Youngblood was always going to be a big hit, but the scale of its global success is stunning. Same with Post Malone and his meteoric rise.
Which artists are you most excited about this year?
At one end of the scale it’s the superstar artists like Ariana Grande and Shawn Mendes making great music but also seeing Amy Shark do so brilliantly this year and Gang of Youths success here and in Europe is fantastic.
What trends are you seeing developing?
I’m not sure I’d call it a trend, but this is definitely the time of the collaboration, something I know that all music schedulers would rather wasn’t.
What excites you about the Australia music scene?
There’s some great talent developing and breaking right now, with artists, producers and songwriters. Dean Lewis is about to hit a new level, Ruel has the potential to go all the way and Sarah Aarons has been writing great pop songs. M-Phazes has made his mark as well.
Along with the established acts like Hilltop Hoods, Vance Joy, Guy Sebastian, I’m hoping for more international success for Australian artists in the coming year.