A Week In The Life Of… Foxtel’s Head Of Digital, Danny Yau

Danny Yau Foxtel

Danny Yau is a multi-tasker to the max, heading up digital for Foxtel, and also self-managing his own music career. Read on for a week in Danny’s life, plus tips on social media, sourcing news and keeping up with today’s fast-paced digital world…

Job Description
I am the head of digital for Foxtel’s music properties. That includes Channel [V], MAX, CMC, Smooth and [V] Hits. Digital is a funny old word nowadays – it covers so much. Websites, socials, apps, whatever. But basically, fundamentally, it is about keeping on top of change. How people listen to music, read words, watch videos, talk to friends and share who they are. There’s a lot of strategy, a lot of trying new things, but on a day to day it is about feeding the hungry beast that is the internet.

That’s during the day. At nights I play in a lot of bands. Most recently my own solo stuff, as well as with Adam Gibson, Family Fold and The Coolites. I also teach digital marketing at the Australian Institute of Music.

I start every day the same – I check my phone. I mean, I kiss all the members of my young family, but then check my phone. The first thing I go to is Flipboard – before Facebook, before mail. I have Flipboard set up to basically throw a lot of headlines my way – music, tech, news, TV/films.

I drive to work most days, and it usually takes an hour. It is vital music listening time. I only listen to new music on the drive to work and usually I get through a whole album start to finish.

Monday mornings at the office, it is all about data. I run a lot of reports and look through where we are at. Google Analytics. Facebook Insights. How did people search us? what posts worked last week? I am an Excel geek…I like running graphs and formulas. It’s order out of chaos. I like Rubik’s cubes.

My job has a lot of meetings, and dealing with a lot of departments and partners. I also work with my team on editorial stuff – who is coming in this week, what albums are coming out and generally what is going on. But every day we are writing, we are sharing, we are creating. Lately, there has been a lot of brainstorming. It seems more and more, people are looking at the vast blank canvas of the internet for ideas. Me and my team come up with lots and lots of ideas – and we are lucky if 1 in 10 get done. We had a great idea for Arnold Schwarzenegger that we will have to use for a later date. I am starting to think about ARIAs.

I like best to be surrounded by creative people. What I like best about my team is the way we just shout stuff out. “Check out what so-and-so’s website has done.” “Has anyone heard of this?” It is a fun, active atmosphere. And we sit in front of computers a lot, so our heads are just on the screen.

There’s also small thinking. Dealing with developers, agencies, partners. Shout out to Chook who built our websites, and we have a weekly call. We talk about how to make umlauts work for artist names, or how a long word squishes in a menu. Hosting, IT, domain registrars…there’s a lot of technical work involved.

There’s usually a mid-week rehearsal with some band. If not, I try to practice on my own.

And there is always something to do on the laptop, even if it’s in front of the telly. Updating my own music website, my own Facebook, replying to emails about gigs, and catching up on stuff. It is a job in itself – and I have so many accounts. Google, Facebook, Twitter, blog, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, YouTube… but I’ve set up my phone to be able to check things quite quickly. I preach a DIY ethic when it comes to being a musician, but it is a lot of work.

The most important tool in my arsenal is the iPhone Notes app. I am constantly making notes – be it articles to read later (or discuss in class), or songs to learn for a band. Any time anyone mentions a film or a TV show I should watch (I estimate this happens every 10 minutes) I write it down in a running list. Looking at my phone, there are lots of snippets of lyrics, an idea I want to pitch Twitter, and my friend Jeremy Dylan’s list of fave albums of 2015 so far – I need to listen to them as we are talking about it in an upcoming podcast.

The big question is whether all this tech finally allows someone like me to do 50 things at once, or if it has led me to do 50 things at one. At my desk, I have two monitors on my PC as well as a TV. I have a Mac laptop if needed, I go through my notes on my iPad, and I have a phone and a watch. I don’t recommend it.

Thursday mornings I teach. Which means Wednesday night I am usually going over my lecture one last time. It is a good time for me to catch up on news. That headline I saw earlier in the week? Time to read that article and learn about it, so I can teach it. In every class, I usually start with 7 or 8 bits of digital news from the last week – from movements in big tech companies, new laws regarding piracy, to cool marketing activations by bands.

Right now, the class and I are talking a lot about Apple, and Spotify. I want to ask them how they message each other – this war of instant messaging. What’s App, Facebook Messenger etc. My class of engaged, pop culture-savvy music lovers are as much market research for me as I am their lecturer. I learn a lot every morning.

I try to keep Fridays meetings free. It is something a wise person once taught me, and it works. Things might fall in, but you really do need that one day where the calendar doesn’t look like a doctor’s eye chart.

When I drive home from work, I reward myself by listening to music I know and love. I have playlist of Top 5000 songs on my iPod. the songs I know and love best, the ones I know all the words to. If it’s Friday, it sends me into the night and a weekend to spend with my family.

Oh yeah, there’s usually a gig.

Highlights of the week
Nothing beats playing music, whether rehearsing or in front of people. But coming up with new ideas to write about, new things to try – it never gets old.

Meetings. So many of them could be an email. Also, traffic. There’s a song on my upcoming album called The Battle Of Victoria Road, which is where I tend to spend my time.

Words of Wisdom
Embrace change. Always assume people younger than you are smarter than you. If you’re doing something over and over, someone is probably working on automating it. Great music always never breaks through on merit, it needs help. Fall in love with playing music, you will never ever be bored.
Stop playing stupid games on your phone.

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