Friday, May 1, 2015
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Monday, January 12, 2015
When we opened the New Zealand office of CBS RECORDS in 1978, it was a priority of mine to make the company local by investing in the signing of New Zealand talent. Rocky Douche of Marmalade studios in Wellington was a friend and aware of my ambition to sign New Zealand artists and he sent me a demo of three tracks from Upper Hutt youngster JON STEVENS, including a song Jezebel. Danny Ryan discovered Jon at an Upper Hutt talent contest and it was he who had recommended Jon to Rocky.
All three-demo tracks demonstrated the extraordinary voice of Jon but, to my ears, Jezebel was a hit song and the demo itself near a hit record as is. It was Bob Smith who gave Rocky the song, having discovered it in London.
Jon's voice and the song excited me, so I licensed the signing of Jon to CBS from Marmalade. We decided to make Jezebel the first single. I had contracted LA producer Jay Lewis to produce Sharon O'Neill and we had Jay produce Jon too, using parts of the original demo, produced by Steve Robinson.
Jezebel went to No1 on the New Zealand charts in November 1979 and for the follow-up I chose the song Montego Bay, previously a hit for Bobby Bloom in 1970. Montego Bay knocked Jezebel off the No1 chart spot in January 1980, giving Jon back-to-back No1 singles, a first for a New Zealand artist.
Here is the original demo of Jezebel by Jon Stevens, produced by Steve Robinson.
With thanks to Audioculture New Zealand
Sunday, January 11, 2015
These were the times when TV3 was the new kid in town and TVNZ had to become more competitive to retain that all important advertising revenue. The radio interview (below link) indicates the strategy we adopted to maximise our audience over our two channels, whilst endeavouring to leave little audience potential for TV3.
Monday, January 7, 2013
In 1962, aged 22, I was the most junior of the juniors in the Philips Records A&R department and my bosses were having their weekly record selection meeting in the studio room next door. I heard this stunning female voice coming through the wall.
The voice was singing TRY A LITTLE TENDERNESS and it held me spellbound. Unable to contain my excitement I knocked on the door, interrupted the meeting and asked who the artist was. I was told it was a new soul/jazz singer from the USA and they didn't feel the LP would sell in New Zealand: so, did I want to have the sample LP? Did I what!
The LP became one of my treasures until I sold my vinyl collection in the 90's and I was never able to replace it on CD. It is wonderful to be re-united with the album after all these years. Aretha was only 20 at the time and it would be another 5 years or so before she made her breakthrough to the charts and fame.
Monday, August 20, 2012
I first met Dale Wrightson in 1964, he was just 20 and I was 24. I was selling my car, a sporty Renault; beautiful looking with metallic paint, but in reality was mechanically shot to bits. I advertised the Renault and got a positive response from a chap called Dale Wrightson.
|Dale Wrightson (above) and John McCready (below) 1960's|
Forward a few years later to 1969; I’m now Sales Manager for Phonogram Records and manage the marketing and advertising budget.
|THE CORVAIRS, Left to right, George Watson (back), David Leith (front), Andy Anderson, Dale Wrightson, Alex Neill.|
|THE CORVAIRS, Left to right; Dale Wrightson, Andy Anderson, Dave Leith, George Watson|
When I was appointed Manager of Phonogram and started the 20 SOLID GOLD HITS series of albums it was Dale and his new company I called on for creative help. It was originally proposed it be named 20 GOLD HITS, but at a meeting with Dale and our Marketing Manager, Brian Pitts, I said I didn’t like the title, finding it “not solid enough”. “Why don’t we call it 20 SOLID GOLD HITS then”, said Dale. And so it was.
Our TV Marketing rivals K-Tel were also being quite creative and coming up with good concepts and selling lots of albums. One day K-Tel hit the market with a compilation LP called 20 TOWN AND COUNTRY HITS, which was well received. Bugger them I thought, we have better songs in our catalogue so let’s release our own version. I briefed Brian Pitts on what sort of songs and artists I wanted on the album and Dale on the TV advert, album sleeve and title, 20 COUNTRY AND TOWN HITS.
We had the album promoted on TV and in record shops within a week and outsold the K-Tel album. Good stuff. NO, not so good: K-Tel takes out an injunction to stop us producing and selling on the basis of market confusion and “passing off”. I meet with our lawyers and on hearing my view we decide to defend the action in court.
So off to court we go. Dale and myself are Phonogram’s defence witnesses and I’m confident we will win. Waiting in the court lobby for our case to be called our lawyer casually says to Dale, “On what basis did you design the album cover? To me it does look a lot like theirs”. Dale says, “Well John said to get as close to their one as we could, so I did”. Oops. Off our lawyer went to find K-Tel’s and after a quick conversation a settlement was agreed. Lesson learned.
|Dale and his brother Craig Walsh-Wrightson|
In 1972, alerted to her talent by TV producer Chris Bourne, I signed Shona Laing to a recording and song-writing contract with Phonogram. Shona’s talent was huge, both as a writer and a singer. Whilst Shona and I got on well I realised to her, the idealistic songwriter, I was a “suit” and that I needed to put her together with a producer she could musically respect. Dale, with his incredible musical ability and commercial advertising success was the right person to give me the hit records I wanted.
|Dale at work|
|Shona and Dale|
During my three years away Dale and Craig join forces with fellow advertising gurus Terry Christie and Tony Preston and form a full-service advertising agency, CAMPAIGN. In 1976 Campaign open an office in Auckland and Dale travels between Wellington, Auckland and Sydney for the production of adverts. Dale is still looking after my old company Phonogram and when they relocate to Auckland in 1977, Dale, with his family, moves too and he continues to create Phonogram’s advertising.
Our first likely hit artist at CBS was Meatloaf with his BAT OUT OF HELL album. I thought it had huge potential but we just couldn’t get any radio station to play it. In fact the Programme Director at Radio Hauraki said to me “If this is the type of rubbish CBS are going to release the company is doomed here.”
About the same time as we finally tasted success with Michael Jackson we received an album from our UK company; WAR OF THE WORLDS, Jeff Wayne’s musical version of the H G Wells novel. I thought it just unbelievably good and excited with the albums’ sales prospects I wanted it to have a special marketing campaign.
Dale, over the years for Phonogram and CBS, had produced many successful audio-visual product presentations. We decided to make an audio-visual presentation to introduce WAR OF THE WORLDS. The only problem was that we had little reference material, so I just left it to Dale to “figure it out”.
Dale’s presentation was an overwhelming success. Jeff Wayne gave Dale the compliment of saying it was the best launch from any of the CBS companies worldwide. Dale Wrightson had created a winner once again.
Dale continued to produce great adverts and album covers for us, teaming up with graphic designer supreme, Peter Burt. Included were sleeve designs for our local artists Sharon O’Neill, John Stevens and Citizen Band.
For many years Dale had also looked after advertising for Warner Movies and similar to his work with music he was able to make movie advertising that touched a chord with the public. In 1978 Warner had a disaster movie featuring killer bees. THE SWARM was not doing well worldwide, despite the inclusion of some major stars, including Michael Caine. Warner’s New Zealand Manager, Brian Jamieson, thought the movie was awful, but a winner. Dale produced an advertising campaign to promote the movie with the catch phrase “THE SWARM IS THE BUZZ’. It certainly created a buzz, with queues down Queen Street and turned this killer bees movie into a box office hit.
In this era there were some great industry parties and none better than the ones hosted by Gillian and Dale Wrightson at their Arney Crescent home.
|Rock 'N Roll at The Wrightsons. L to R; Brian Pitts Virgin Records, John McCready CBS Records, Brian Jamieson Warner Movies, Glyn Tucker Mandrill Recording Studio, Stuart Rubin Phonogram Records and Gillian Wrightson|
Whilst producing great advertising for his clients, Dale was, at this time, simultaneously involved in a major corporate manoeuvre. Leading advertising agency Dormer Beck Stuart Wearn were wanting the creative input of the “guns” at Campaign, the management skill of Campaign Chairman Terry Christie, plus Campaigns advertisers, which included Todd Motors, NZ Breweries, The Dairy Board and maybe even little CBS Records.
|Dale Wrightson at the Campaign office Parnell, 1978|
A re-union of the original CAMPAIGN team that merged with Dormer Beck Stuart Wearn
L to R; Craig Walsh-Wrightson, Peter Burt, Terry Christie, Tony Preston, Phil Fiebig, Dale Wrightson
Setting up again as a small agency, CALYPSO, it was not long before new success was Dale’s. CALYPSO picked up the international representation for Murray Ball (Footrot Flats) and Murray Thom’s series of music CD sets. Major Australian movie DVD distributor CEL wanted to establish a New Zealand business and Dale was the man chosen to establish this for them.
The other guys, for genuine conflict of interest reasons, pulled out of the venture but Dale and I proceeded. In no time at all Dale has signed a lease, registered a company and designed a logo. MR VIDEO was born. We held the business for several years and our children, all of them now working in media, received a film education and made good pocket money working shifts. We only sold our little hobby when a developer wanted our shop’s lease to redevelop the site.
In 1989 Dale worked with the new TV3 on their adverts and marketing. Ironically at that time I was appointed to TVNZ as the manager responsible for promoting and marketing TVNZ’s programming to counter the new channel TV3.
|Celebrating at Harbourside Restaurant 1993; Dale and Gillian Wrightson, John McCready and JT Taylor|
Music TV had become popular worldwide and Dale had a driving passion to start a New Zealand music TV channel. In 1993, Dale with partners, set up MAX TV, a venture that had genuine street credibility.
Early in 1997 Dale helped the original Maori TV set up their transmission, housing them next to JUICE. Also in 1997, Murray Thom had won the rights to set up Personalised Plates in New Zealand and Dale created their launch advertising.
|Dale and Stuart Rubin|
Another of Dale’s successes for Stuart and BMG was a concept album idea that Dale created. Jonah Lomu was our star All Black and was always seen before big rugby games relaxing by listening to music on headphones. Dale’s idea was, THE MUSIC THAT MOVES THE MAN and with Jonah’s involvement and support the album went GOLD.
Dale Wrightson retired from day-to-day business in 2007, with Gillian and he leaving JUICE TV in the capable hands of Daniel and Katie. After a two year battle with illness, Dale passed away on January 26th 2016.
Dale Wrightson: a wonderful career in advertising and music, leaving a legacy, particularly his contribution to New Zealand popular music
|The Wrightson Family; Gillian, Katie, Daniel and Dale|
Monday, August 13, 2012
So in late 1976 I commenced to set up CBS Records New Zealand. Initially we contracted just to take over only the product selection and stock control, promotion and marketing with Phonogram still handling retail sales and distribution. My staff, including me, numbered just five.
Just me and an empty office. The beginning of CBS Records New Zealand
Murray Thom, early days at CBS Records New Zealand
I interview him (or he interviews me) for about two hours and I have no doubt this young man must join us. I offer Murray the position and he is surprised I have made such a quick decision as he has applied for several other positions and is still awaiting feedback.
Saturday, January 7, 2012
THE STORY OF THE LIVING CHANNEL AND FOOD TV
On June 1st 2002 The Living Channel was launched on Sky Channel 8. FOOD TV was launched November 2005 on Sky Channel 9
This is the story behind the creation of these two successful television channels.
A memoir from John McCready
2000 had turned into the worst year of my life.
As Sky TV's Director of Programming and Marketing I was an integral part of a team that had successfully moved Sky’s offering from a few analogue channels into an exciting digital multi-channel service with subscriber numbers soaring. Around me were a fantastic team of people, particularly my top departmental heads, Travis Dunbar and Megan King; I had at least three exciting programme buying trips to Cannes and LA each year and I was well remunerated.
Others looking at me probably saw a successful and happy guy. However, all of my adult life I had been prone to depressions, but none like the one I was in now and which had been with me for several months. A depression so deep I felt I was in a huge black hole with no light and no future. Only my wife JT was aware of my state.
I had to get out of Sky to save myself. So at 60 years of age and with little backup cash to assist a transition to a new job or career, I resigned. When I told Sky CEO Nate Smith my decision and of my depression he was totally surprised and, like all my immediate work colleagues, just had no idea this was going on with me; apparently to the world at large my depression was well hidden.
Nate Smith decided that should I recover from my depressive state he didn’t want me free and available to be hired by opposition companies, so he offered me a two-year deal (at about half my then salary) to stay out of the TV job market in New Zealand and consult to Sky. In doing this Nate not only enabled JT and I to survive financially but had also given me the time and opportunity to address my condition without stress.
JT and I lived in an apartment in York Street, Parnell and it was there I set up office. Whilst I was on call to Nate for any advice he needed, the reality was I had very little work to do. I was simply being paid not to work for the opposition. My time in the office was little and time on the golf course, a lot.
After a while my conscience got the better of me and I felt guilty receiving Sky’s money for not actually working; this got me motivated to seriously research ideas for new channel formats and to make presentations of these to Nate. Additionally, Sky had decided to start a Pay Per View (PPV) movie service and I was given the job of programming the monthly schedules. I was now reasonably busy with genuine work, but not too busy that I couldn’t still get in a few games of golf weekly.
On looking at available channel formats I noticed that doing well for Foxtel in Australia was LIFESTYLE and among the top cable channels in the USA were HOME AND GARDEN CHANNEL and FOOD CHANNEL. The content on these channels were primarily Housing, Home, Garden, Cooking, Design and DIY. On looking at the top rated shows each week on the major TV networks in Australia and New Zealand, nearly half the programmes were in this “lifestyle” genre. Home design and real estate are among my hobby passions so it seemed to me “lifestyle” was a format that could make a successful channel for Sky.
My wife JT is an enthusiast for food, cooking and health, all programming genres that would appeal to women: she had been encouraging me for sometime to look at starting a radio station that would have “lifestyle” as its core format. JT and I were in agreement that a “lifestyle” TV channel on Sky could be a real winner.
The idea for this type of channel was presented to the Sky programming team; they also saw its possibilities and agreed to add the genre to their short list to be considered for the next introduction of new channels.
OUR FINANCES: A MIRACLE IS NEEDED
It was now mid 2001 and my Sky consultancy had been going for about a year. Whilst my new lowered income was enough to pay our mortgage and for us to live well, JT and I were concerned. Retirement age for me was certainly in this decade and we were not sufficiently cashed up to afford to retire. For the first time in my life I was forced to step back, take a good look at our financial position and to evaluate what would be needed for us to continue enjoying somewhere near the standard of living we had grown used to.
Money, even though we were never short of it, was not something I ever thought about or worked for. I had always taken a task or company appointment because of my interest and love for the product and because it was something that I wanted to do; monetary reward came as a result of success. Likewise I was not careful with our earnings and, if we had the cash, I spent on what I desired. So now at 61 this was a serious issue.
To sum up our financial position, a miracle was needed.
Getting another highly paid corporate position would not suffice as our equity in our home was only a third of its cost and we had very little cash in the bank. We needed to start a business of our own, a business that we could grow and eventually sell at a good capital gain.
JT: “LET’S DO A LIFESTYLE CHANNEL OURSELVES”
JT came up with the solution. “Let’s do a lifestyle TV Channel ourselves”.
With our enthusiasm for this genre and our knowledge of the TV business (JT had worked in production and sales) this was something we would love to create and manage. I started researching programme availability and prices plus the costs of technically creating such a channel and providing it to Sky. It was soon very obvious that the capital needed was beyond what we had or could raise. We decided to pitch our proposal to Sky anyway and if we were fortunate enough to get a contract, then worry about raising money.
Months went by and late 2001 we were advised that Sky were about to make a decision on what new channels they would add for 2002. We waited anxiously.
In the last working week of 2001 I received a phone call from Megan King. Sky had decided to go with our proposal and wanted the channel created and on screen before mid 2002. It was now up to me to negotiate a monetary deal with Megan: if that was successful we were “GO”.
Sky executives were extremely brave to take a risk on a yet to be produced local channel when they could easily have taken the safer option of bringing in Lifestyle Channel from Australia.
The formula for making a profit on providing Sky with a channel was simple; just make sure your income from Sky plus any revenue from advertising (which we would sell) was higher than the combined costs of programming, staff and producing the channel to deliver to Sky. The negotiation with Megan King on the fee Sky would pay us to provide the channel was absolutely critical.
The way it works is that you get x cents per Sky subscriber per month. If x is too low you go broke. Megan had worked with me as my business manager at Sky and we had been a great team in keeping Sky’s programme costs controlled; she had been a tough negotiator previously on my behalf and Megan now turned out to be a real tough negotiator on the other side of the table.
Where it all began; our home office York Street, Parnell
That was the good news. The bad news was we had little cash and no idea how to physically provide and deliver the channel or how much it would really cost. Creating the channel brand, imagery and programming would be normal work for me; however, the technical side and costs was an area of television in which I was at best, a novice. For my negotiations with Sky I had done a “best guess” on these costs.
Greg Heathcote, Touchdown/Eyeworks Head of Television
NEW PARTNERS AND A CASH INJECTION
“LIFESTYLE CHANNEL” TO “LIVING CHANNEL”
LIFESTYLE then informed us they had now registered their logo in New Zealand as a trademark and advised that we would have a problem getting any Lifestyle TV logo registered. Our trademark lawyer agreed with them. Bugger them I thought. We came up with The Living Channel as an alternative name and quickly changed our company registration.
To me the design of a company logo is all-important and like the design of the 89FM logo years ago I would be a difficult client for the designers and micro manage the task until I was completely satisfied with the result. In the end Steve Thomson at BRANDSPANK came up with a logo I really liked and I had it trademarked just as fast as the system would allow.
The New Zealand Dollar had fallen back in recent times against the UK Pound and the US Dollar, so where possible I did our deals with payment in Australian Dollars. However, as many important distributors would only work in UK Pounds and US Dollars, my budgeting was conservative and took in account the worst possible exchange rate scenario.
The Worldwide TV programme selling and buying business works like a small exclusive club; for new buyers it is hard to get recognition and it takes time to get to know the players and win their confidence. Once you are known and accepted as a trustworthy buyer, deals are done in a friendly one on one negotiation; each party will do their best to fulfill the others needs. Sometimes, as a buyer, you have to help the seller by taking something you don't need but they need to sell; in exchange the seller will give you a break on something you really want. Over time, sellers and buyers get to know each other and if there is trust between the negotiators things can go smoothly. The buyer who has bad relations with suppliers can find life very tough. I began a series of tough negotiations with programme distributers. Not only was our proposed price per hour probably a record low, I was seeking payment terms of no deposit up front and four quarterly payments from the license start date. In other words I was seeking the distributors to give us credit and they wouldn’t get full payment for a show until a year after the contract start date. With about seven weeks before our first schedule was due at Sky for inclusion in Skywatch magazine I just had to get my negotiations for our first programming concluded. It was here that my experience over the past 10 years of being Director of Programmes at TVNZ, Director of Programmes at Sky and VP Programming for the SBS group in Europe, paid off.
I began a series of tough negotiations with programme distributers. Not only was our proposed price per hour probably a record low, I was seeking payment terms of no deposit up front and four quarterly payments from the license start date. In other words I was seeking the distributors to give us credit and they wouldn’t get full payment for a show until a year after the contract start date.
With about seven weeks before our first schedule was due at Sky for inclusion in Skywatch magazine I just had to get my negotiations for our first programming concluded. It was here that my experience over the past 10 years of being Director of Programmes at TVNZ, Director of Programmes at Sky and VP Programming for the SBS group in Europe, paid off.
Programmers are known to be emotive about shows and not usually the best price negotiators. Bigger companies, like TVNZ and Sky, have a business manager who works alongside the programmer and once the target programme is identified the business manager negotiates final terms with the seller. I had been fortunate at TVNZ to have Paul Ridley and at Sky Megan King working alongside me; these two were negotiators supreme. But at Living I was buying solo and knew I had to be enthusiastic about programmes I wanted, but still be able to negotiate hard to achieve our budgeted price.
A wonderful thing for me was being able to bring to New Zealand Television specialist programmes that had never been seen on any other channel. Programmes about quilting, knitting, scrapbooks, yoga and serious home design and renovation shows.
Claudia Gunn, Promotions and Jacob Slack, Touchdown Graphics
As a former music man, organising the composing and production of music themes for the channel ID’s and generic channel promotions was something that was a real pleasure for me. I did most of the work with North Shore based composer/producer Dean Kerr, who met my brief perfectly.
THE LIVING CHANNEL IS LAUNCHED
Two weeks from launch date things started to come together; we had master tapes for the launch programming, converted them to digital and were testing the play-out server. On screen promotions were being made and channel imagery, with music, completed. The server was driven by software, which Greg had organised, but all data input was manual, as was the placement of advertising and promotions in the schedule.
JULIE AND JOHN DISAGREE
AN IMPORTANT DECISION IS MADE
However, we getting only a little revenue from advertising. We had employed a full time sales representative and despite his good credentials and plenty of effort he was not successful. JT simultaneously was doing wonders with some major companies and getting competition prizes of big value. These viewer competitions were bringing in higher channel participation and assisting in growing viewing numbers. The suppliers of prizes (F&P among them) were excited about the exposure they were getting for their products.
The Living Channel SMART CAR
WE CONTRACT POPULAR BRITISH PROGRAMMES
Sarah Beeny, Property Ladder
Kevin McCloud, Grand Designs
GRAND DESIGNS was one that nearly got away. Tony Iffland, who managed UKTV in Australia and New Zealand, had made an offer to distributors Freemantle before I did. Paul Ridley, the Freemantle boss and formally my programme buyer at TVNZ, was in a dilemma. Like me, Paul believed the programme was more in Living’s genre than UKTV’s but Tony wanted it badly, had made the first offer and Paul’s company were part owners of UKTV. After I had appealed to Paul, Tony and my Sky contacts, Tony was unbending and insisted the show went to UKTV. Sky CEO John Fellet was called in to adjudicate and made the decision that the show sat more comfortably on Living.
BBC had one of the best range of food and lifestyle programmes and commanded high prices. Initially we could only afford to purchase absolutely essential shows from them. Now the more favourable exchange rates allowed us to increase our buying from them and over time BBC became one of our top three suppliers. David Vine, the BBC Manager for Asia Pacific and Julie Dowding, his New Zealand representative, were terrific people and gave us excellent service.
TIME TO LOOK TO THE FUTURE
The Living Channel had entered a new phase.
Food programming was one of our most popular programming genres and stand-alone Food Channels were successful in the UK, USA, Canada and more recently Australia. I believed there were enough excellent non-food programmes to broaden The Living Channel and continue its success and that there were sufficient good food programmes available to make a dedicated channel viable. JT and I agreed we needed a Food Channel.
THE HARDEST TWO MONTHS EVER
I needed the button number decided urgently for our promotions, but just didn’t want to accept what looked like being Sky’s decision to place us in the no-zone. At the very last moment, near our promotion absolute deadline, I got the good news; Travis Dunbar, Sky Programme Director, had pulled some weight and we were given button 9. This was huge for us and I’m forever grateful and believe it gave Food TV an excellent initial and on-going audience exposure: additionally we were able to cross promote Living and Food as sister channels sitting side by side on 8 and 9.
It was obvious that the decision to spin off food programming as a stand alone channel had been the right one and Food TV filled a void in Sky’s channel offering.
The business was now making a profit and paid a dividend to shareholders.
TIME TO EXIT
I no longer suffer depression.