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  • Writer's pictureMatt Cundill

Josie Fenech: The Hot Tub, Talent & Top 40

Josie Fenech has this awesome thing going where she has been apart of a fantastic Ottawa radio story. Hot 89.9 went on the air in 2003 and shortly after Josie joined the station on evenings and later joining the morning show where she was a fixture until 2019. Today she is the National Talent Director for Stingray and their 101 radio stations. We spoke about her career, she caught me up on the new challenges facing CHR radio, how playlists in compiled and what she looks for in a radio demo.

I met Josie for the first time at Radio Days North America which is one of the rare radio get-togethers left on the continent. (The other being Morning Show Boot Camp) One of the overriding themes at the conference was the desire for feedback. She provides a number of tips and tricks to get some where you can get some.


The Evolution of Hot 89.9

Josie spoke fondly of the early days and the launch of Hot 89.9, and credited Rob Mise with much of the marketing that went into the station. As Josie mentioned - people knew what they were looking for and knew what they hear when they found the station.

Also here is another Newcap / Stingray trait: Cool Marketing that finds its way to Television and outdoors. From 2013 (I'm guessing) here is the I AM HOT Campaign.



Tara Sands (Voiceover) 0:02

The Sound Off Podcast. The show about podcast and broadcast, starts now.

Matt Cundill 0:13

Josie Fenech is the national Talent Development Director for Stingray and Program Director at Hot 89.9 in Ottawa. She was part of the morning show with Mauler and Rush up until 2019 before she was unceremoniously launched from a cannon and moved upstairs to management full time, no really, that happened.

Audio Clip 0:33

Brady you ready? This is, this is just the end, well she said we shoot her out the cannon she's off the show, she's gone. That's what she's saying. Is that what you're saying down there?

Josie Fenech 0:41

That's what I'm saying.

Audio Clip 0:42

Right shoot, shoot her. Bye. Bye Josie.

What did she hit? That might've been the water tower. Did she have her helmet on? I'm sure she's fine. Mauler, Rush and Jenni, The Morning Hot Tub. I will never understand people. The New Hot 89.9 .

Matt Cundill 1:22

Josie has been doing talent development at Stingray for seven years. So if you're looking at advancing your on air career, or even starting one, this episodes a good place to start. Josie Fenech joins me from the Stingray offices in Ottawa, Ontario. Do you always want to be in radio?

Josie Fenech 1:39


Matt Cundill 1:41


Josie Fenech 1:42

No, I'm not one of those people. And it almost, I've lived with that guilt throughout my entire radio career.

Matt Cundill 1:49

Because you went to Humber?

Josie Fenech 1:50

Yes. It was a fluke. I kind of fell into radio. I wanted to be an actress.

Matt Cundill 1:57


Josie Fenech 1:58

Yeah. I actually wanted to be an actress. I'll tell this story briefly, but it's pretty cool. If you believe in the universe and how it can show your signs as to what you're supposed to be doing in your life. I took acting lessons outside of school through high school. Jennifer Daylon was my acting teacher and the end of high school came and I had to decide what I was going to do with my life and he didn't really know. I knew I like to help people. I thought, okay, you know, I'll go and take Psych and my mom ran into my former drama teacher in the grocery store as one does and Elmont, Ontario, very small town. And Jen said, 'Oh, how's Josie doing?' 'Oh, great. She's applying for you know, Psych.' And Jen goes, 'What? What is she doing? She can't be doing that she's gonna she's gonna perform. She's gonna be on a stage somewhere'. And so at the time, I was taking a gap year, I was working at Mrs. Tiggy Winkles in Ottawa, a toy store. And my mom gave Jen my phone number. I got home from work one day, and there was this long message on my old school tape recorder answering machine from my former drama teacher saying Josie, 'you won't be doing yourself justice if you don't follow your heart and perform in some aspect, you have to try'. And I just never really, I did think at one point that I could do it. And then that dream kind of fades. So she honestly changed the course of my life. So then, I applied for theater programs. I applied for television, and radio and I didn't get into any of the theatre programs. And I got into Humber and that's how my radio career got started.

Matt Cundill 3:50

Do you think broadcasting is the opposite of being an actor or actress? Because you have to play the role of something as an actor, actress, but in broadcasting, the goal is to be yourself.

Josie Fenech 4:03

Exactly. Yeah. Yeah, it's much different. It's definitely different. What I love about radio is yeah, you get to be authentic, but you do also have, I think, an obligation to only show certain parts, if you will, for yourself and for the audience. You might not want to share every aspect of your life with your audience, but then also, you know, especially with the radio that I got into, which is CHR, you know, I really felt like it was my responsibility to set people off on the on the right foot every morning. And so I only wanted to show them my most positive, brightest self hoping that that would be contagious, and that, you know, they would feel this good energy in the morning. And so yeah, I think, you know, being in radio, you are yourself but you turn up the best parts of your personality to share it with your audience.

Matt Cundill 5:01

So after you graduate from Humber the first two stations, I think you went to Z1035 and Kiss. That's a good start.

Josie Fenech 5:11

Yeah, no kidding. I got so lucky. Oh, man, I had a horseshoe on my butt. I truly did. I was working for Skywards traffic. I started with them my second year of Humber. I had to come home, get all the money together that I had saved by myself a car because I was driving to Jane and Finch to report on Toronto traffic every morning at 5am and then go to school through the day. I didn't want to take the bus to Jane and Finch. So I did that, worked for Skywards that was great. Wasn't from Toronto, had the map of Toronto on my dorm room wall and was trying to memorize all the roads and how they went and so that I could actually report on the traffic and sound like I knew what I was talking about. And then I was doing traffic for Z135. You know, my, my second year was coming to an end and they said, 'Hey, why don't you come and do mornings with us?' Okay, so I did that. Yeah, I did mornings for just about a year with Scott Box and then Rogers called, and Julie Adam, who says no to Julie. And yeah, she hired me for Monday's on Kiss.

Matt Cundill 6:16

So that wasn't the only interest you had and I know that because I was across the hallway from some people with standard radio who might have come looking for you at a particular point. Getting you to talk out of turn.


You had more than you had more than one offer.

Josie Fenech 6:36

I did. Yeah. Yeah. But I botched that audition.

Matt Cundill 6:42


Josie Fenech 6:42

Yeah, they wanted me until I auditioned for them and I was it was a, it was a mess. But a very good learning experience. Because I'm not naming any names. It may sound like I'm blaming someone I'm not, but they put me in on an overnight on a board I wasn't familiar with on a station I wasn't super familiar with and said, 'Okay, go, you know, do your thing, work your magic', and nerves took over, didn't feel confident on the board and I wasn't good. And I shouldn't have gotten the job for that audition as a programmer now, as a PD of a radio station, if anyone is auditioning for me, or if I if I take on an intern and they want to do overnights, I give them all the training they want and need until they are 1,000% comfortable on that board and ready to kind of take that leap and do it do it themselves. Because no one should be judged, I think in a in a situation where they're feeling uncomfortable.

Matt Cundill 7:41

How did you get to Ottawa?

Josie Fenech 7:43

Well, I got canned from Kiss when they flipped to Jack. So I ended up only there for I was only there for under a year, we all got taken up to the I think we were on the fourth floor and we got taken up to the fifth floor or vice versa and everybody was there. It all you know, these were all the cues. And then Julie came in with the guy from HR in the box of envelopes and we were all looking at each other. We were all pretty young. And yeah, okay. You know, in an hour, we're flipping to Jack FM. 'Oh, my God', you know, and I'm in my early 20s and I think this is it this is the end. And they gave me a taxi chit to get home and they walked us down to the lobby. It was also I'm like, 'What do you think I'm going to do?' You know, I couldn't even go back and get my stuff. They had to go get it for me. Anyways, went home, cried a lot, then, you know, the next day, put my resume together tried to get back out there. No one in Toronto was hiring. So I went to Europe for a couple of months, I went backpacking, they did give me a very generous package, considering I was there for less than a year and I took that money and went with two girlfriends and it was the best thing I could have done for myself. Because when I got fired, the world felt very small. And when I went to Europe, I gave me this great perspective that the world is big and so our opportunities and I need to think outside. You know, Toronto is not it. Although it felt like that at the time that anywhere outside of Toronto would be taking a step back. I do feel that has changed very much now people favor comfort cost of living green space. A lot of the times now in our industry over Toronto, I've been in a scenario where we've offered some major market opportunities to people who are in medium and small markets and they're like, No, you know what, I'm good. Anyhow, wasn't like that at the time and so when I got back from traveling, that's when I started throwing my resume out to radio stations outside of Toronto and Hot 89.9 was a brand CHR in my hometown. Rob Mize was programming it at the time and called me up he said 'yeah, come down for an interview'.

Matt Cundill 9:51

Who owned the station then?

Josie Fenech 9:53

New Cap. Yeah, yeah, they were in a an LSA with standards. So we were in the bear building. We shared a building with The Bear and those early days were pretty awesome.

Matt Cundill 10:05

Good. I needed my memory jogged because I made a few trips at the Merivale Road at the time and I remember now there was an LMA involved. Thank you for that reminder.

Josie Fenech 10:14

Yeah, so I did that interview with Rob and he said, 'Okay, great. Well, it was really nice to meet you ,don't have anything for you. But take care. And I'll be in touch if anything comes up'. I was a little disappointed and I was driving home to my parents basement, which is where I was crashing at the time. And he called me on my way home and I opened up my little flip phone at the time it wasn't illegal I don't think to be on your phone in the car. Anyway, over to my flip phone. 'Yeah, Rob Mize, I might have something for you after all', and this was this was close to Christmas. 'Could you fill in for for me over Christmas?' 'Yes. Of course. Yeah. Absolutely.' 'Okay, great. Um, I'm going to put you on here, here here and Christmas morning at 6am.' 'Okay.' Humble pill swallowed. 'Okay, yep, I'll be there'. He was testing me and I understand that now. And I passed the test, and ended up getting full time work after that.

Matt Cundill 11:15

And what precipitated the jump to mornings?

Josie Fenech 11:17

Well, at one point, I was just the s person. What do you need? Yep, I'll do it. What do you need? Yep, I'll do it. So at one point, I was doing entertainment on the morning show, I was the music director, and also doing the evening show. I don't remember how long I did that for maybe a year. Those were some long days. But I absolutely loved every minute of it. And then eventually, he hired someone else for the evenings and I kind of became more of like a, a full time morning show host and music director and then APD and then eventually PD, all within a couple of years of being there.

Matt Cundill 11:56

And what was it like working with Mauler and Rush?

Josie Fenech 11:58

Oh, man, silly, honestly, just-

Matt Cundill 12:02

And all the way to 2019. It's this is not just some sort of stint. I mean, you did this for a long time and often you did it as their program director too which is weird.

Josie Fenech 12:11

Yes. That was a hard transition. When I became the program director, and was managing people older than me with more experience that was not easy.

Matt Cundill 12:27

And working on the air with him at the same time.

Josie Fenech 12:29

Yes. Just to add another layer of complication.

Matt Cundill 12:33

Okay, so listen, there are people who are listening to this who are in that scenario. What advice can you offer for managing through that?

Josie Fenech 12:41

Well, you definitely cannot come in all guns blazing, you have to sit back and you really just have to earn their trust and their respect. It's a slow, slow and steady approach, small tweaks here and there, believing that you got the job for a reason. And that you have something to offer, you know, always kind of grounding yourself in that. And then just pushing forward inch by inch slow and steady, really, I think is the best advice.

Matt Cundill 13:12

So building trust, right?

Josie Fenech 13:13


Matt Cundill 13:14

I get the feeling that 10am, two minutes, maybe two minutes after the show is over is not the best time to be bringing up a serious issue.

Josie Fenech 13:22

No, no. No, definitely not. Yes. So just need a minute. Yeah.

Matt Cundill 13:30

By the way that break the you did that break that we did at 730? Where were you going with that bit? Oh, and I'm asking you as the program director not as the co host?

Josie Fenech 13:39

Yes, that's right. Yeah. Yeah, I mean, honestly, everyone was really good at kind of checking themselves, everyone had a very high standard set for themselves. And, you know, they knew when things were going off the rails or if something didn't quite hit, there, definitely there wasn't really formal airchecks couldn't, couldn't do that with them couldn't pull that off, given this scenario. So it's more about discussions.

Matt Cundill 14:09

Take me back to the first three years of the show. Because it really does take three years for a great show. It really does take three years for a good show to become great. And this is a show by the way that a lot of American radio stations look towards in Canada as being this is the benchmark for great radio. So what were some of the things that happened in the first three years that you did to take it from good to great.

Josie Fenech 14:34

We tried everything. We were allowed to make mistakes, we're allowed to take big risks. New Cap gave us all of the freedom, all of the autonomy to just try anything, and I don't think very many people are afforded that. And I 100% think that's what led to our success. Is that we were allowed to just try, try anything that came to mind and had full support and full promotion. It was really incredible. I mean, the things that we did plus it was, it was a young staff, we were all so dedicated. We all worked around the clock. We lived there, essentially, and really felt like we were connecting. So that feeds the momentum, right? So everything we did, people are showing up, oh, my god, wow. okay, and then, and then it's bigger. And then it's bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger. And we're doing all these massive promotions. And we're, you know, shutting down roads and it's like, holy cow. We were also building trust with our audience, we follow through on everything we said we were going to do, except for one scenario where the plastic surgeon had to pull up because he was going to lose his license. But then that we followed through an every crazy idea that we had, so we build trust with our audience and we and we still have that, you know, we just celebrated our 20th anniversary here at Hot and the notes that we get on a weekly basis from our audience. 'I've been listening for 10 years', 'I've been listening for 15 years', oh, you guys, we have formed such a deep connection with our audience and it started back then, when if we said we were going to do something, we did it. And again, the autonomy and being allowed to fulfill all of our kind of crazy ideas, I think is what led to our pretty quick success within those first three years. And I'm glad you mentioned that three years, Matt, because there's so many new shows that get together and are expected to deliver, you know, on ratings in the first six months year. No, you don't even start looking at that until the three year mark, you're building a show. You're building a show, you're building the chemistry, you're building the confidence, you're building the brand. You can't you can't judge them before the three year mark, this stuff takes time.

Matt Cundill 17:01

And I wish I could take credit for coming up with that but I had Valerie Geller on the show and I asked her to explain to me why it takes three years.

Valerie Geller 17:13

If somebody said to you, I want to grow tomatoes, and you would say Okay, so it's going to take two or three weeks to get the seedlings to sprout, then you put them in the ground or in pots, and then it's going to take 60 weeks before they sprout into plants. And then it's going to take a few more weeks before you see any fruit. If you told that to somebody or you read a gardening book, everybody would go 'yeah, okay. Right. That's what it is. It just takes what it takes'. It takes nine months to gestate a human being in a womb, right? You can't speed up the process. It takes the time it takes. Going on a diet trying to lose weight, you want to keep that weight off, it's going to take week by week by week, slow go, lose the weight, right? So why is it that when we know for sure that when you want to get audiences to change habits and follow you that it's going to take day after day after day, week after week, month after month, product, permanence, promotion. Do a compelling show. Be a unique voice, offer your audience something they can't get elsewhere. Do it consistently with high quality over time and finally, let them know where they can find it. Now, one of the reasons why and this really opened up the world for me and I write about it in Beyond Powerful Radio, it takes 1000 times of repeated behavior before a human being can rewire his or her brain to change a habit. The result of that research was it takes 1000 times of repeating behavior before humans can re- habituate. You can change behavior immediately, but to rewire your brain so it's wrong if you don't do it and it feels right when you do do it. That's 1000 times and 1000 days is three years.

Tara Sands (Voiceover) 19:11

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Matt Cundill 19:41

You said massive promotions-

Josie Fenech 19:42


Matt Cundill 19:43

Paige Nienaber.

Josie Fenech 19:44

Yeah, he was a big part of that.

Matt Cundill 19:47

I mean New Cap gave you the tools he's a big tool.

Josie Fenech 19:52

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Absolutely. Well and Rob, Rob Mieze deserves massive amount of credit. He was kind of like a man scientist behind the curtain. Again, it was his kind of we can do anything mentality that that set us off on the right course and we and and we all believed it. And so yeah, and Rob and Paige with his also, you know, mad scientist ways it was kind of the perfect storm of people who had the wild ideas, and then people who can execute those wild ideas. Because obviously if you don't have the strength and talent or the strength and promotions and you know, great, you can have the idea, but it's going to fall flat if you don't have the people to execute it. So we had both.

Matt Cundill 20:40

So one of the things that when the station launched that I saw, would the station be able to overcome being at 89.9? I know that seems ridiculous by today's standards, the way we, but it's way down the left of the dial. But you know, back in the day when the station was launching is 2003. A lot of people had, you know, it was a tuner. It wasn't necessarily digital, and every vehicle. Was that an obstacle that came up when the station launched? It's a little bit down the dial, it's a little bit to the left.

Josie Fenech 21:11

So I wasn't there when the station launched. I came in a year later, so I can't say necessarily, but I do think that they came in I mean, they it came in as a rhythmic CHR. And at the time, it was the height of you know, 50 cent, Eminemm, Ja Rule, Ashanti, Nelly. So it came into Ottawa and made so much noise. That no I don't I don't think it was an issue because people they understood the assignment, 'Oh, this is where I can get this music. Okay, I'm finding 89.9 no problem'. Yeah.

Matt Cundill 21:52

And they can hear hit music half the time.

Josie Fenech 21:57

Oh, good old Ottawa, Gatineau, yeah.

Matt Cundill 22:01

So only you and I are gonna know what we're talking about here, but there for many, many years up until just about a year ago, there was a hit non hit rule, which meant that a top 40 radio station could only play 49.9% hit music, the rest of it had to be material that charted below 40 on Billboard, or whatever Canadian chart was being put out that week. How'd you manage?

Josie Fenech 22:26

Oh man. I mean, again, the thing is that, especially in those early years are only competition really was other radio stations in the city who were playing by the exact same rules. So at least it was an even playing ground there. Obviously not so much anymore, but it is gone now, just as of last December. Honestly, Matt, I've had conversations with people and there would be people even within my own company who disagree with this. But you know, what, maybe the fact that we had to get on newer music so early, before it became a hit, maybe the fact that we had to, you know, play, perhaps some more obscure Canadian acts. Maybe that was all part of the secret sauce. Maybe that led to us being a market leader and lead to our success. It's not the way that most people go you you play the hits, you play them often. We had to take a different path and, and maybe it actually helped us and didn't always hurt us.

Matt Cundill 23:38

So we had the same thing in Montreal, I was working alongside MIX 96 at the time CHR radio station and the pattern and Pat Holliday, by the way, pointed this out in his YouTube tutorials of how to be a program director and he learned a lot from this. And that's getting on the hit songs early-

Josie Fenech 23:57


Matt Cundill 23:58

and then maybe pull back a little bit when they enter the chart and then you can ramp them up again a little bit later. And to no end it would annoy and tick off the record company. What do you mean you're cutting the spins? Well, we're doing our own thing here.

Josie Fenech 24:15

Kind of have to. Yeah, yeah, you figure out a way to do it. So I mean, for us, you know, what we ended up doing is we would always have a Canadian in our power international and that helped both with the non hit as well as our 40% can con requirement. But yeah, I mean, it was just it's all we ever knew. So it honestly wasn't a huge deal.

Matt Cundill 24:41

So the chains are off. You must have popped some champagne and now I can play whatever I want to play pretty much on the CHR station in in Ottawa and for those that Montreal as well. And we're taking a look at CHR today and it is nothing like we've ever seen before. What is the state of CHR radio today? It feels like there's fewer hits. I don't recognize the Billboard charts.

Josie Fenech 25:08

Yeah, exactly. Where are the core artists?

Matt Cundill 25:11

Why is Why is Morgan Wallen there? What's going on? And Taylor Swift is as big as the Beatles. So I'm over 50. What's happening?

Josie Fenech 25:22

I mean, obviously, our streaming services and and you know, the power of TikTok have had their influence. We've, we've definitely seen that over the last couple of years. Where, yes, to your point, these artists that are not as well known are having these massive radio hits, we may only hear from them once and never again, playing something or an artist that's unfamiliar is like, well, yeah, it's unfamiliar. But now it's not because people recognize it from TikTok and so I don't think it's ever going to be the same. I don't think we're ever going to have those core artists, the way that we used to, we have these discussions every week in our music meeting and it is always a decision based on data, yes and then of course, our own experience, our own testing if we have it and our gut. And you know, sometimes there's a little bit of even locality factored in there. I do think that essentially, CHRs are pretty much the same no matter where you are. But sometimes, you know, we may play a certain artists a little more here in Ottawa for reasons, you know, X, Y, and Z. But yeah, the state of CHR right now is so interesting. It's easy to be very cyclical, right? Okay, oh, we're in a rhythmic phase. Okay. oh, we're leaning a little more rock, pop rock, right, okay and now, it's everything all the time. I mean, country's definitely having a moment right now. We've we're playing the Morgan Wallen and replaying the Luke combs. But again, we are, we're a top 40 radio station. So if it if it's a pop culture song, if it's having a moment, if it's super popular, we should be on it, regardless of the genre.

Matt Cundill 27:25

So your audience will likely need 600 spins of a song to really, you know, wrap its arms around it and embrace it, and you don't really have that sort of time.

Josie Fenech 27:34

A lot of songs we play never make it to 600 spins.

Matt Cundill 27:37

Well, how does that work?

Josie Fenech 27:38

I mean even for it to be, for it to go into testing, the recommendation is you wouldn't put anything in testing without a minimum of 250 spins and still, that's pretty early. It's tough. I mean, you try to predict songs that are going to go the distance. You mentioned this earlier about how you know, we used to, songs used to ride up from you know, a light category to a medium to a power, and then to a recurrent. So now what we're doing is, you know, it'll, it'll kind of go from a light, medium power and then back down to a medium, potentially back down to so we are staying on these songs a little bit longer. We've, you know, we've talked about okay, adding in a little more gold for the familiarity sake, right, because sometimes when the playlist just feels too new, with too many unknown artists, we want to make sure that, you know, we have the spokes of the wheel where we're playing big familiar hit, newer hit newer artists, big familiar. It's, we've checked, we, you know, we fiddle with our clocks, and, you know, try to try to figure out the science behind it.

Matt Cundill 28:48

It's wild. It sounds like the wild west of music. You know, essentially, the music department used to be doing laundry, where you, you know, take it, wash it, dry it, fold it, put it away. And now it feels like you're constantly it feels like you're now managing pot of soup, where you're adding stuff to the soup, you're serving the soup, you're taking stuff we're going to put it's like one bowl of soup that is constantly going.

Josie Fenech 29:15

Yes. Well, and the other thing too, Matt is you know, and I don't even know I'm so bad at judging yours because they all blend together. But when did this start maybe five years ago, where artists would release multiple songs within a month and so you know, we're playing like we've got three Justin Bieber's in our current category, or Ed Sheeran, or Olivia Rodrigo has this massive hit right now. What is she doing on Friday, releasing another one, Vampire still has such a long runway, and here she's releasing her next single already. I believe that's for the streaming world. That's not how radio used to work. The labels had control. They would release the radio single, they let that go as long as it possibly could. Then they would release the next one. So now on top of yeah, on top of all of this different music, we have to play by these different artists. We're getting multiple tracks from the same artists and we also have to figure that out and how we're going to have the you know the right artist separation and and then we can't play their recurrent hits. So we might have to, you know, take them out of recurrent because then you have four or five Olivia Rodriguez and-

Matt Cundill 30:20

Does recurrent even exist anymore.

Josie Fenech 30:22

Yes. Yeah.

Matt Cundill 30:23

Okay. Did you get Taylor Swift tickets?

Josie Fenech 30:26

I did. I did. It was intense.

Matt Cundill 30:30

You verified fan?

Josie Fenech 30:31

Yes. I registered. I got the email Tuesday that I was a verified fan. I got the code via text yesterday. So this is how fun I love my colleagues. So yesterday, I had a little support group virtually. It was John Downey was on there, Zack Bedford, Jen, Dale, and they all got on to watch me try to secure these tickets. And they were all going to be there to pick up the pieces if I didn't do it. John Downey specifically is like the grand master at securing tickets. So he helped me and talk me through it and I got I got tickets. I can't believe it. Everyone in our company registered and I was the only one to be a verified fan. I don't know lightning in a bottle, I have to go buy a lottery ticket.

Matt Cundill 31:21

Why does Taylor Swift come off is so polarizing?

Josie Fenech 31:23

That's a head scratcher. I don't know. Any brand manager would tell you BJ when I was with, you know, his famous line is in order to be a brand that some people will love. You have to be a brand that some people will hate. And I rather be that than be somewhere in the middle mediocre, oh, yeah, they're fine.

Matt Cundill 31:46

Bruce Springsteen at Rock never tested well.

Josie Fenech 31:49


Matt Cundill 31:49

Yet he's selling out two nights in Montreal. 40,000. People, but Born to Run sucks.

Josie Fenech 31:57

Go figure.

Matt Cundill 31:58

Yeah, I mean, the two things aren't the same thing. I mean, back in the day, when there was physical records being sold. Well, the record selling really well. Well, our radio station isn't really interested in your record sales. We're not here to sell records, we're here to entertain an audience with a song.

Josie Fenech 32:17

Exactly. And again, sometimes it's being a part of that pop culture moment.

Matt Cundill 32:22

Where your seats?

Josie Fenech 32:24

I'm in the 100 level.

Matt Cundill 32:25


Josie Fenech 32:27


Matt Cundill 32:27

You do realize you're gonna have to contain the excitement for like, well over a year.

Josie Fenech 32:31

Oh, I know. Well, and this is why I haven't told my daughter. So my daughter is going to be nine next month. And this is going to be, you know, a mommy daughter event and I'm just like, sends shivers through my body. Thinking about doing this with her. She's never been to a concert before. Obviously, she's very young. I just took my son to his first concert. Yeah, I'm tingling. I cannot wait, but I haven't told her and she hasn't asked.

Matt Cundill 33:00

And Your secret is safe. So long as she doesn't listen to this podcast.

Josie Fenech 33:03

Right? Yeah, I have to. I have to make sure she listened to this Matt, sorry.

Matt Cundill 33:10

You know in 2019, you were shot out of a cannon launched off the show. What was it like to take that step from doing a morning show every day to don't have to do this morning show every day and I'm going to be working with talent.

Josie Fenech 33:24

It was great.

Matt Cundill 33:26

And programming.

Josie Fenech 33:27

Yeah, it was great. I mean, obviously, people who listen to the morning show had no idea that I was programming the radio station. We never talked about that and I still think a lot of people that I meet are confused by it. If they were a fan of the show, they think I got a demotion. Like 'are you okay?'. It was time, it was time. When I when I came off the show I had started as the I was PDN flow. So I was going back and forth to Toronto, on a weekly basis. So on Mondays, I was coming in here, I was in here by 4am to pre record my morning, show bits and then get on a plane at six and head to Toronto. It was just it was a lot my career where I want it to go. Like, obviously, being on air is a ton of fun, but that was one of those things where I was so fortunate that I got to have a hobby as part of my career. I didn't have to go outside of my career for my hobby. My hobby was doing entertainment on the morning show my career was programming the radio station, and now also, you know, working with talent and so how wonderful and privileged I was to be able to do all of that under one roof. But yeah, I got to the point where I was ready to kind of give up that and make room for other far more talented people than me like Brady, who is now the fourth member of the Morning Show and The Morning Show has undoubtedly gotten better because of him and me stepping away. So you also have to know that, you know, you have to have enough self awareness to go, okay. You know, this is like this thing is a is a freight train right now and I want it to continue to propel itself and getting in new, wildly talented blood was definitely the right call.

Matt Cundill 35:23

Things do come around full circle. You want to start out as an actor that involves a lot of auditions and now you're working with talent, you're finding talent, you're you're managing them. What do you look for in a in a demo?

Josie Fenech 35:38

Personality. Yeah, personality and then creativity, obviously, personality and creativity and then the demo is really such a small piece. It's, it's the email more than the demo. Honestly, it's the communication more than it is that three minute reel. It is the how did you communicate to me in your email? What kind of personality came out there? When I talk with you on the phone, how natural is it? What can I hear your passion? Can I hear your excitement? Do you sound like you'd be a fun person to be around? Do you sound like you kind of you'd come in here and could raise a team up. Many people have heard this, you know, you hire 90% on attitude. The other 10% can be figured out trained, coached. Whatever.

Matt Cundill 36:34

Tell me about the skill set between doing live radio and doing voice tracked radio. I know they're different skill sets. Can you separate the two because I'm good at one but suck in another? I just knew that about myself.

Josie Fenech 36:49


Matt Cundill 36:50


Josie Fenech 36:51

Which one were you good at? Live?

Matt Cundill 36:53

I was good at live.

Josie Fenech 36:54

Why did you suck at tracking?

Matt Cundill 36:55

I just I felt it was a different skill set that needed to be taught. Some breaks work in live moments and some don't. I think it's yeah, if you look at a comedian like Sugar Sammy, who gets up and he interacts with the audience. He also understood live radio and I worked with Sugar Sammy, we did in Montreal, we did live radio together. And he came to Winnipeg, he did a week on the air with me at POWER 97 and he just had this thing for working in a live environment, whether it was phones and interaction, and blinking lights, the moment we are on and then you go into the box down the hall and nothing.

Josie Fenech 37:35

Yeah, no, for sure. I mean, I also, you know, tracked back in the day at kiss and definitely suffered from the same, the same thing. I think what helps trackers now is obviously the technology, the setup is so much better. We have five full time remote hosts, we have you know, a lot of network tracking, obviously and that's what they do and their their setups are great. So they can they can play audio, they can take calls, they have access to texting platforms and whatnot, so so they can have that interaction and also, I think when we you know, listen to tape, and chat about their performance, to me, what will make a track feel alive is the insertion of again, their personality. So I think so many trackers will go into a booth with all of this prep, and treat it more like a formulaic job, sit down do this, I've got the prep, but I know how to introduce this song and the song, and they lose that kind of organic in the moment. Spontaneous insertion of you know what? And so I have them do that, like, you know, if I'm chatting with with a host, and this happened recently where she you know, she had this mug, it said something, and there was a little story behind it and I said, 'have you talked about that on the air yet?' And she goes, 'No'. I said, 'Okay, so how do you how do you insert that into one of your tracks?' You know, it's like, 'oh my gosh, oh, I just took a sip. Sorry, one minute, okay. Sorry, just swallowing my coffee there that song came you know came to an end really quickly and, and actually funny story, I pulled this mug out of the cupboard this morning' and then launch into that right? So yes, this is where there's more acting involved again going back to that, you know, at the beginning you said what is the difference is that opposite acting and being a radio host. I think when you're attracting you're maybe doing a little more acting and you're having you're kind of acting like it was oh, that's just snuck up on me, nevermind, this is the third time I've recorded this track. But you know, you have to be able to sell that in the moment feeling. That's what a good tracker does.

Matt Cundill 39:52

And by the way, some of my favorite radio shows that I listen to our voice tracks.

Josie Fenech 39:56


Matt Cundill 39:57

They sound great. They sound better than the live people, so I'm not a big fan of, you know, hearing people saying, well, you know, voice tracking, it's just no, because some, some of them are really, really good.

Josie Fenech 40:07

So good. The people again, like always with a high amount of care. And production, I think is another element that if you are tracking, and you are not using that opportunity to have a fully and masterfully produced show with audio, you're leaving so much on the dance floor. You know, like, come on, produce your show. Oh, well, in for live shows as well. I think production is a lost art and I think nothing can enhance a radio show, like someone who is on top of audio clips and sound effects and the right bed for the right, the right moment. You know, use it as an exclamation mark for whatever message you're trying to get across.

Matt Cundill 40:58

I know you listen to radio across the country, maybe even around the world. Do talent get enough feedback?

Josie Fenech 41:04

No. No.

Matt Cundill 41:07

If your talent, how can you get feedback if your programmer isn't giving you feedback? What can you do to get some feedback?

Josie Fenech 41:13

You reach out to other programmers, I mean, I have tons of people emailing me asking if I have some time to listen to tape and I really appreciate that they're that they're doing that. I think, honestly, I bet you 75% of the programmers in our industry here in Canada, if they got an email, I would happily listen and give feedback. Even if that person worked for a competing company. Ultimately, I want our competitors to be strong, because that's good for our industry. I don't want them to be as strong as we are, obviously, but it also, the stronger they are, the stronger we will get, the more challenged we are, the better our output. So I want I want the industry to be very, very strong and healthy for everyone's sake. It's the only way we will survive. So helping each other out like that, I think is a good thing, but that's the advice I would give yeah. Reach out to other programmers.

Matt Cundill 42:15

I'm excited that you say that. Because in 2013, I began to recognize that radio needed to band together in order to solve some of its problems and I don't think we're there yet. Perhaps the problem we're having right now with with Facebook and Google might bring us a little bit closer. I know you've got some radio stations that have are having their content suppressed. What are some of the strategies that run through your head in order to to end around some of the suppression issues?

Josie Fenech 42:46

Well, I mean, yes, I think, you know, I know that we are talking to other companies, and we and we are trying to band together for the betterment of the industry. I mean, strategy wise, if, thankfully, we're not a news station, but I know that we're still at risk, we have to be very thoughtful about the type of content that we put on. socials could it be perceived as news, there's more scrutiny now, but that has also always been there. We obviously have to be very, very careful. We put we put so much energy and thoughtfulness into our socials, and truthfully, not even having anything that is able to tell us if there's any correlation correlation at all between being successful and socials and ratings. Yeah, we do because it's where people live and we want to be where people live or where they play. We want to be where people play. So yeah, I think it's just constant communication with your team scrutinizing what you do scrutinizing the intention behind it. But for me, anyway, we are we are you know, we're kind of in a silo here, doing our own thing and making sure that we dodged these bullets.

Matt Cundill 44:05

Josie, thanks so much for being on the show, I really appreciate it.

Josie Fenech 44:08

Thank you, Matt. It was so nice to see you at our RDNA, I was about to say CMW, but our RDNA this year. It was really really wonderful and I'm really honored to be invited onto your show. Thank you.

Matt Cundill 44:21

You know, you're missed the Morning Show boot camp.

Josie Fenech 44:23


Matt Cundill 44:25

Don Anthony says hello.

Josie Fenech 44:27

Oh, nice. Oh, really? Oh my gosh. Oh geez.

Tara Sands (Voiceover) 44:30

The Sound Off Podcast is written and hosted by Matt Cundill, produced by Evan Surminski, edited by Chloe Emond-Lane, social media by Aidan Glassey. Another great creation from the Sound Off Media Company. There's always more at


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