This #YouthMonth, we find out what's really going on behind the selfie with Dan Corder, 24-year-old weekday breakfast radio host at Good Hope FM - that makes him the youngest breakfast show host of a commercial station in South Africa.
Dan Corder on air.
1. Where do you live, work and play?
I live in a quiet little flat in an old, pink manor house, under an olive tree, next to the train tracks in Cape Town.
I work at SABC HQ for Cape Town in Sea Point on Beach Road, with a view of the bay and Robben Island. Good Hope FM broadcasts from the foyer.
I play in bars, coffee shops, jazz and funk venues around Observatory, and on soccer fields and squash courts.
2. What’s your claim to fame?
That depends on who you ask. I really have three:
To some, it is that I host the breakfast show on Good Hope FM and, at 24-years-of-age, I am the youngest breakfast show host of a commercial station in South Africa – mostly by decades on the other Breakfast Show hosts.
To others, it is that I co-hosted a radio show on the BBC World Service on #RhodesMustFall when I was in university. That show was broadcast in hundreds of countries to hundreds of millions of listeners.
And to others, it is that I led the creation of the Luister documentary, which revealed racism and problematic language policies at Stellenbosch University. The film went viral and became a global headline when the biggest international news corporations covered it, from BBC to Al Jazeera, the Guardian and more.
3. Describe your career so far.
It has been a whirlwind! Every stage has gone so quickly for me. I am very fortunate. I only began radio in my third year of varsity, and became breakfast host within three years of signing my first contract.
So much has happened since then, too. So many shows, so many projects, so many kinds of shows. It has been an overwhelming blessing.
4. Tell us a few of your favourite things.
My life is dominated by a few great loves…
Music of all kinds is a daily delight, and my tastes have led me through all kinds of genres and periods. I've currently got Anderson Paak, Erik Satie, Chance the Rapper, Flamingosis, Kings of Leon, Miles Davis, Caiphus Semenya, Basil Coetzee, The Killers and Charli XCX on my travel playlist, and always, always, Leonard Cohen.
Soccer almost has a religious significance for me. I know basically everything about soccer and Fifa. Tottenham Hotspur and Orlando Pirates are my favourite sides, although I support at least one team in most countries in the world.
I adore great writing and spend most of my time with friends talking about writing and art and culture in art.
Finally, I really love certain places of the Cape, and those places' nature. I love the Cedarberg and the West Coast in particular.
5. What do you love about your industry?
I think our radio stations reflect the diversity of South Africa as a people really well. Although we don't have many radio stations, there are many powerful presenters and shows and stations that represent and glorify how culturally rich our country is.
All our places are so different, as are our traditions and languages and beliefs. I dig that the dial makes space for all of it.
6. Describe your average workday, if such a thing exists.
I’m woken up by the alarm at 4.30am. I rush through teeth-brushing, shower, coffee, toast, into an Uber by 5.30am. I'm in the studio by 5.45am, and on air at 6am. The show runs till 9am. It is quite frenetic, too.
Many people don't realise how much work is going on when the mics are off. Decisions are being made about content and interviews. We are chasing callers, deciding on songs, evaluating the value of tweets and Whatsapp messages, and generally trying to evolve the content as best we can, every moment. You never know how much better a piece of content can get once it's live. The listeners often contribute in ways that take the material to a more wonderful place than you could have imagined yourself.
Usually after 9am we have show meetings with the team or management, or we meet sales and pitch proposals to clients. Then I like to take a train or minibus taxi home (I don't drive). The rest of an average day is far less predictable, but always involves gathering content for upcoming shows.
7. What are the tools of your trade?
Conversational design. It's as simple and yet hard to define as that. We live and die by how captivating we can make our on-air conversations, whether it be by being funny or interesting ourselves as hosts, or by structuring our words in ways that help our partners on air to pop.
We need to sense the potential for a great conversation in an interview, or from an article or tweet, or a random idea, and then line up the voices and stories to make that potential come about. Beyond that, all one needs are the networks to get the best interviews, and the show time to get the most interesting listeners. That's it, really.
The rest comes with experience on the mic. Things like knowing how to always start and end a link – the spoken link between songs – well, no matter what happened in the link, can only come with hours of practice.
8. Who is getting it right in your industry?
Fresh on Metro and Nick Hamman on 5. They both run engaging content effortlessly.
After more than a decade on 5FM, DJ Fresh has described his move to Metro FM as a "30-year-long dream come true"...
3 Apr 2017
You really feel drawn into what they are talking about, and how they talk about it. They know how to create little pleasures for the listener fairly relentlessly. I also get the sense that Nick runs content with impact, the kind that stays with people and leaves a mark.
Beyond our borders, I am a huge fan of Annie Mac on BBC Radio 1. I really miss hearing Redi Tlhabi every day. Now that she isn't broadcast on 567 CapeTalk, it is much more of a mission to catch her show in Cape Town.
9. List a few pain points the industry can improve on.
Creativity. South African radio is so conservative. Most of the radio content people do is so bland. It is just "take something people are talking about, canvass opinions from the studio, maybe take a caller, play a song". This often yields decent-to good-content, but it isn't interesting or boundary-pushing. It's the same radio style they did on the first day radio was invented and used a hundred years ago.
There are so many ways to play with content today that leads to memorable, new radio, and there are so many technologies too that presenters can use, not just Whatsapp and Twitter.
Really, I think there is a dangerous laziness and lethargy in many stations. Then people wonder why they lose younger listeners. It's because the internet is more interesting. Radio can be as interesting, but then presenters need to start performing with the kind of creativity you see and hear on YouTube and Facebook.
Also, people wonder when they lose younger listeners, yet they rarely, if ever, give young talent any real chances. People relate to people their own age, in similar life stages, with similar struggles and interests and experiences of the world. Not enough radio managers, who are naturally older people, give younger presenters a chance because they don't understand them as much, and neither does their generation.
To get a new generation of listeners coming through, you need to get young people's attention. You're unlikely to get that if you don't have them represented in your DJs.
10. What are you working on right now?
The Breakfast Show on Good Hope FM! I am a few months in now and getting settled.
Corder with 'The Trailblazer' MySugar donut at the Good Hope FM remixed lineup reveal at Life Grand Cafe. #donuttouchthatdial
I also just finished up writing and creating video for a tech company. The rest is under NDA wraps!
11. Tell us some of the buzzwords floating around in your industry at the moment, and some of the catchphrases you utter yourself.
Yoh, I have no idea what the radio buzzwords are. I don't have catchphrases for myself, either.
12. Where and when do you have your best ideas?
In conversations with people, everywhere. I find my friends really inspiring and interesting. Just talking with them and listening leads me to fresh thoughts all the time. I also spend maybe four hours a day reading books and news. That really stimulates my mind.
13. What’s your secret talent/party trick?
I am very good at Scrabble, I have an encyclopaedic knowledge of soccer, and I can rap Nicki Minaj's Super Bass perfectly, word for word.
14. Are you a technophobe or a technophile?
Both. I love tech and know it inside and out, but I also hate TV, and worked for a tech company where some of my friends work. They are tech super geniuses, so I constantly felt like I was getting way smarter than the average person at AI and machine learning and big data and coding, but also that I was an idiot compared to my friends and colleagues!
15. What would we find if we scrolled through your phone?
Lots of photos that I took. I really love taking photos of people.
Also a web browser full of soccer websites and music websites and current affairs websites. Daily Maverick, Al Jazeera, Rolling Stone, Vice, ID, NME, Noisey, TimesLive and City Press are on my home screen. And UberEats.
16.What advice would you give to newbies hoping to crack into the industry?
Spend time with people who love radio and think deeply about it. The radio fundis are wonderful people with such good stories and theories, and they will inspire you to do radio better and with more intensity and love.
Avoid those who are using radio as an instrument to get famous and move on to social media and TV fame. They create bad radio and have little to tell you of value.
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