A Week In The Life Of… Double J’s Music Director, Dorothy Markek

Dorothy Markek DoubleJ

Meet Dorothy Markek, Music Director of Double J. Playing an eclectic mix of past & present sonic gems, Double J is triple j‘s new digital baby (or perhaps its cool older sister, as it’s curated more for over-30s who may have listened to triple j in their teens and 20s). Ms Markek has a savvy ear for good music, one that she has honed through a variety of roles in the industry. With a BA in French and Management Studies and a couple of nine-to-five jobs behind her, Dorothy fell into the music industry by chance. A conversation in Sydney’s Red Eye Records led to Dorothy’s first role in the music business as New Release Coordinator at EMI. Moving to London in 2000, she worked in the press offices of Parlophone when Gorillaz, Coldplay and Kylie Minogue were all releasing landmark albums. She then returned to EMI Australia in 2002, this time as part of their New Media team.

Dorothy’s next path led to the music channels of Foxtel, where she became music programmer at Channel [V] and Music Director at MAX TV. She even pitched, developed and co-created the fascinating 8-part series ‘Great Music Cities of the World‘. She has now been at the ABC for 18 months, and is currently Music Director of Double J.

Below, Dorothy kindly gives us a peek into her last seven days: coffee, research, meetings, music, music and more music…

Job description
Double J is a digital radio station, the (older) sister station to triple j. It launched almost a year ago and you can hear it via mobile, online, digital radio and TV.
We serve a (mostly) 30+ audience who may have listened to triple j in their teens and 20’s and are now looking for music and conversation that suits their current lifestyle. They want to keep in touch with the best of what’s new, presented thoughtfully and credibly. With that in mind, my job as Music Director is: source, listen, appraise and program music. I make editorial decisions on a daily basis and maintain our song database. I look after the general programming for the station while the presenters of our specialist programs (Henry Wagons, Tim Shiel, Karen Leng and Lance Ferguson) select their own music. I liaise with them to provide input, recommend new music and have a general natter.
The beauty of Double J is we play a wide variety of music from across many decades and genres. It’s a large and varied playlist, with an emphasis on new music and Australian artists. In short, my job is to make sure the music entertains our listeners.

Coffee by my side, I scan the socials and music sites for the big stories from the weekend.
Who’s made news for the right (and wrong) reasons. Listen to new music just released (sometimes by surprise), album, gig and festival reviews. Take note of upcoming releases, and artists I should keep my eyes (and ears) on.

10.00: Daily meeting with Myf Warhurst, presenter of Lunch with Myf, to talk over the song list I’ve put together for today’s show. Bring her up to speed on new songs added to the playlist, provide context for song choices in terms of topicality, tour activity, album anniversaries, etc. Source any tracks Myf would like to play.

10.30: Meet with Music Programmer, Peta Waller-Bryant, to chat about weekend activities, new music and our respective tasks for the week ahead.

2.30: Weekly WIP (*Editor’s note: WIP = Work in Progress) with Double J team to discuss last week’s highlights, this week’s station activity and upcoming projects, including our first anniversary.
Start sifting through the music that’s come in to the station in all its forms: physical, digital, streaming links. Scour music sites, research artists, stream local/international radio programs, scan radio playlists, check out recommendations from friends and colleagues. A warning – do this long enough and you risk a) going off on so many tangents you forget who you were researching in the first place, and b) just like a casino, you lose complete track of time.
Rest of the day programming the next day’s music. And repeat for rest of the week.

9am to lunchtime:
It’s rep day! Record labels reps, publicists, managers… anyone who has new music is welcome to drop by with their wares. Mutual grilling ensues. I provide feedback on songs already submitted, whether in consideration for playlist or not the right fit for us. I check on album release plans, tour activity, tidbits that will help me get a better picture of the artist and their ultimate suitability for Double J.
Rest of the day (and most of the week) is spent listening to new tracks and revisiting older ones.
Review albums in contention for Double J’s album of the week (feature album) and compile list of songs in contention for playlist addition.

Weekly music meeting. Peta and I meet with triple j programming team: Richard Kingsmill, Music Director, Nick Findlay, Assistant Music Director and Gemma Pike, Music Researcher. Share new music highlights, discuss next week’s playlist contenders and upcoming feature album contenders.
Rest of the day spent finessing next week’s playlist contenders. Decide on next week’s feature album. Contact record label/publicist with the good news to set up interview with artist.

Weekly playlist additions meeting. Richard and I discuss in depth the list songs I’m looking to add to next week’s playlist to ensure a good mix of music with particular focus on Australian content. Discuss potential crossover with triple j’s playlist, mindful of our target of 10% overlap.

3.30: Weekly editorial meeting with Double J team including Dan Condon, Music Editor, via conference call. Producers talk us through next week’s guests. I fill the team in on next week’s playlist additions and album priorities for the month ahead.

8.00: Thirsty for music knowledge, cool beverage in hand, I tune in to this week’s edition of the #jfiles.

It’s a two-coffee day. Send out weekly Double J playlist additions email. Ask any music programmer – they’ll tell you Friday is their busiest day. Peta and I schedule music for the weekend and Monday, three days in one. Head down. Enter new music into song library. Adjust song categories; new music in, older music moved out to slow down rotation. Program music for Saturday afternoon with Caz Tran and send her rundown.

4.00: Weekly game of “Name that Song”. A Double J tradition, one team member compiles a themed playlist as the rest of us gather round and, as the name suggests, guess the name of the song and artist. I often can’t remember what I had for dinner last night but for some reason I have a good recall of lyrics and intros. I’m usually (and cruelly) given a 10 second handicap.

Usually a gig or two during the week and one on the weekend. A hobby as well as part of my job, I’m in the fortunate position where I’m invited by labels and publicists to a lot of gigs. Others I pay for, either buying tickets or merch. The Morrissey pillowcase is a favourite from recent years.

Helping launch a new radio station almost a year ago today; a once in a lifetime experience and something I’ll be proud of when I’m old and (more) grey. Coming to work every day, being surprised and inspired by what I hear and who I work with. I learn something new every day.

Prior to the ABC, my last job as Music Director at a music video channel was made redundant after seven years with the organisation. It took me a while to bounce back from the experience. Music programming is a niche role, so after a few setbacks I decided to re-skill and started studying front-end web development. Halfway through the course, my dream job at the ABC came up. While terrestrial radio is downsizing and streamlining operations, the emergence of curation in streaming services and the rise of digital radio stations has brought more opportunities. My key learning from the experience was that sometimes these things happen for operational reasons, and not to take it personally. A friend once told me, “You’re no one until you’ve been made redundant”.
Not so much a lowlight as a challenge. Listening to music for a living sure is a privilege… and a responsibility. The way I listen to music has changed. I have less time to listen exclusively for pleasure. So much music, only two ears.

Words of Wisdom
In the top right corner of my Year 8 diary was a different quotation each week. The only one I actually remember is: Mud thrown is ground lost. Literal, metaphorical and especially relevant today, with the ease of social media.
I grew up glued to 80’s radio, going to 90’s Britpop/alternative clubs and watching Rage till all hours.
I listened to triple j, fbi in Sydney, Steve Lamacq, Jo Whiley and Zane Lowe on XFM and BBC, Nic Harcourt on KCRW, and yes, the people I’m lucky enough to work with now, in particular Richard and Myf.
If you’re thinking of a career in radio/TV as a music programmer my advice, obvious as it is, is to listen to it. Sure, there are courses to learn the technicalities of music programming, but really it comes down to getting a feel for your listener, and understanding what they want to hear at a particular time of day.
Listen lots. Read lots. Build up your music knowledge. Be passionate, be prepared and be positive.
People pick up on all three pretty quickly. Don’t give up. Work hard. Accept setbacks, make mistakes, learn and move on.
Be yourself… ‘cos music nerds are the best people.

You can listen to Double J live online here.

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