Meet Tyson Koh, Producer and Programmer for ABC’s iconic Rage show. His tasks include sourcing guest programmers, liaising with PR and record label representatives, and being a mermaid (merman!) on NSW’s southern beaches. He also hosts his own show on FBi Radio called Loose Joints and runs an anti-lockout campaign called Keep Sydney Open. Read on for insight into a week in his world.
I’m a Producer and Programmer on Rage. The show doesn’t need much of an introduction, but for the uninitiated it’s a music video show that’s been on the ABC since 1987. In particular, I look after the guest programmers and specials, which involves selecting the guests and planning out the Rage calendar with events and specials.
The start of a new working week brings a chance to review the previous weekend’s show while looking to the weeks ahead. First things first though: emails! Most people would agree that it’s central to their job, and I’m certainly no different. I usually have about 80 emails from the weekend waiting for me, which I knock off as soon as I can. These could be from record labels, PR agents, bands or members of the audience to internal ABC departments like scheduling, HR, broadcast operations, IT, and so on.
We have a weekly department meeting at 10am where we discuss what’s going on at the network in relation to our area. It’s a good opportunity to update everyone on where we’re at, offer feedback on other programs and see if there’s any crossover in terms of talent or events. This is followed by a Rage team meeting where we talk about everything from audience feedback, to staffing and technical issues, to what’s on the horizon. I switch between preparing the show for the weekend to organising shows for the months ahead. Monday is when I usually look at the tours and festivals and decide who to invite onto the show, and start the process of researching and pitching for them.
Tuesdays are the main day for meeting with label and PR reps. I’ve been in this role for almost four years now and over that time I’ve developed a strong relationship with many of the folk who drop in. It’s quite natural really, as you end up seeing everyone out at gigs or parties anyway. Along with Rage’s other producer Ariane Halls, we’ll talk to the reps about new album and video releases and I’ll always ask for an update on upcoming tours for guest program spots.
There’s quite a bit of process that goes into every video you see on the show. Videos can arrive on tape, USBs, file transfers, industry-standard video servers or ABC archives both here and in Melbourne. Many videos selected by guest programmers need to be sourced, and a lot of my day is spent on that before processing them for broadcast with the help of our editor Luke.
In addition to what you see on television, there are a number of other elements to Rage that I need to be across. This includes everything from our website, app and social media to production design and collaborative events. We recently did an event with the Sydney Film Festival and right now we’re working with the Splendour In The Grass festival to cover some of the live acts and interview artists on the lineup. This basically involves a ton of emails to the festival, our film crew, editors and labels to make sure everything is organised before work commences on the ground.
While there is a structure to the week, my diary is always peppered with meetings and shoots which can happen on any day or time. A guest program shoot can take anywhere between 45-90 minutes and I shoot and direct this myself. It’s fun to see what an artist picks to talk about and how they take on the challenge of discussing these on camera. We edit together a promo for the guest programmer which we send out on Wednesdays in a press release, so I make sure this all comes together.
This week I’ve been asked to DJ at the opening of the David Bowie exhibition at ACMI, so I leave work a bit early and head to the airport for a whirlwind trip to Melbourne. To celebrate the exhibition, Rage is doing a Bowie special all Saturday night, so it’s some nice crossover.
My flight is delayed but I end up getting into the office around lunchtime. Thursdays are all about programming for me. We use a program that connects the videos in the Rage library to the schedule that you end up seeing on TV for the entire network. It’s quite a jigsaw puzzle sequencing 8-9 hours of television, but it always comes together. As you’d imagine, I watch a lot of videos! Most I’ve seen before but I am always discovering new ones, which is nice. I look out for what’s going to work in terms of the flow of the show, the time of day or night it’s showing and sometimes I’ll even throw in a little cheeky juxtaposition, like this clip with this one. While programming I’m also getting across any videos that are missing for that weekend’s show and while looking for missing videos on the shows ahead. Oh, and emails. Have I mentioned emails?
More programming. I usually have square eyes on a Thursday night from staring at the screen too long so I sleep on it before tying up the rest of the show on Fridays. This takes me until lunchtime, and depending on what’s happening, it can often be a very late lunch! I deliver the majority of the following weekend’s content to the broadcast operators on Fridays as well. This is so they have enough time to check for any technical issues and have a portion of the videos captioned.
Fridays are usually very hectic in between the scheduling deadline for that weekend and the content delivery deadline for the following week, so I avoid arranging shoots on Fridays. It’s often the case, however, that bands from out of town are only available on Fridays as their shows are over the weekend. So the week for me ends up being quite a crescendo!
This is my only day off, however I do watch the show on occasion to see how it’s come together. If there’s a guest program or special with a lot of interest I will monitor our social media. Yes, I’ve been up til 4am tweeting in front of the telly like a megachump. Sometimes Saturday is the only day a band is available to shoot, in which case I’ll come in for that. You do what you’ve gotta do!
I host an afternoon show on FBi Radio called Loose Joints, which I spend all day planning. When my show finishes at 5pm, it’s like another mini TGIF! With Rage’s set deadlines every week, there is something of a weekly ‘reset’. Sunday night is a big chill before gearing up to do it all again the next day.
I really love the people I work with, and I’m lucky to be able to say I enjoy coming in everyday. Meeting with other folk in the industry is fun too, as it is often just like catching up with a friend, and we even go out to get a coffee if there’s time. Getting rare content from the archives into living rooms across the country is very satisfying too, and I love getting positive feedback from viewers.
There’s a fair amount of data entry that’s unavoidable but necessary to get content ready for broadcast. Programming can be a bit of drag sometimes too on the occasions where I suffer from what I call ‘programmers block’.
Words of wisdom
If you’re passionate about music, a little resourceful and prepared to work hard, you’ll get to where you want to go. You don’t have to lick everyone’s boots, but don’t be a jerk! The music industry is quite small, so networks are incredibly important. You never know who you’ll end up working with or for.
You can keep up with the latest video releases with Rage online.