“Snakes and Ladders”: What Moonman has learnt about Sydney Radio

Lawrence Mooney

“Just keep making Sydney laugh.”

Lawrence Mooney has been in the Sydney radio market now for over two and a half years as the host of Moonman in the Morning. He spoke to Mediaweek about what he has learnt in that time and how he is settling into Sydney.

Mooney said that coming from a successful breakfast show on Triple M Brisbane to hosting the timeslot in Sydney came with a learning curve.

“In Brisbane, we had a very successful year where the show went from a 9.1 to a 14.1, the station went to number one and the show went to number one.

“As the Grill Team was wrapping up, and as Matty Johns was wrapping up they said, would you like to do Sydney and bring that magic wand of success here? I said ‘yeah! Absolutely I would love to!’. I have learnt that it is a very tough industry, and this is a particularly tough market.

“When you are up against heritage shows and behemoths like Kyle and Jackie O, Jonesy and Amanda, and Fitzy and Wippa it is not like success is going to be overnight. People change habits slowly.”

Focusing on laughs

Mooney said a key to the show’s success will be deciding what the show is and sticking to that ethos through thick and thin. In his show’s case, that is comedy.

“I am a performer and I wanted to do a show rather than three hours of radio. So, we put together a show each morning and treat as we are performers in a show, and we are there to help Sydney get the day started with a laugh.”

[L-R] Siobhan Caulfield, Sam Mangioni, Jess, Lawrence, Pagey, Jana Hocking, Laura Bouchet, Mark Daniel, Will Porter

When the Grill Team ended its long tenure on Triple M breakfast, the change to Moonman in the Morning meant that the show would focus less on sport and more on comedy. Mooney said that the welded-on Grill Team viewers may have been disgruntled at the start of the transition, but the new show benefitted from the loyalty of the audience to the station.

“You understand that the audience is going to say ‘well hold on, this is completely different to what we have been listening to’. And there was a little exodus at the start, but then I think people started coming back.

“They love the brand that is Triple M, the music and the vibe of the station so they gave us a second listen and stayed around.

“We have built our audience which is a great thing to be able to say after two and a half years.”

Working with Pagey and Jess

Mooney has worked with Chris Page and Jess Eva since the show’s launch, with Grill Team alumni Gus Worland joining for the first year of the show as well.

The trio of Mooney, Page and Eva have now helmed the show by themselves for 18 months, and Mooney said that they are finding their groove.

 “We are really just starting to feel like we are building. By the end of the year, it would be nice to have closed the gap on the leaders in the market and to have made some ground, that is always the ambition. You want to rate and you want to rate well.”

Mooney said the goal for the team is to close the gap between the show and the leaders of the pack

“The closest we have been to Kyle and Jack is 3.4 in Survey one or two this year, that has drifted and they have a big break on us. It is all about the numbers and we want to build those steadily.

“It is swings and roundabouts, snakes and ladders and sometimes the snake is a lot longer than the ladder that you just climbed. You go up in increments of .2, .3, point .4 and then all of a sudden you are on a snake at 1.3 and you are back where you started.

“That can be disheartening but there is always hope, spirits are dampened but you get up, dust yourself off and look to the next day.

“Your listenership couldn’t give two shits about how you are rating, it is about how you are making them feel in the morning and that is what we need to remember.

When asked what his plan was to close the gap, Mooney’s answer was simple.

“Just keep making Sydney laugh.”

Lessons learnt

When asked if he could build a time machine and give himself advice, Mooney said that the main thing he would say is don’t expect overnight success.

“I would go back and say to myself ‘this is going to be a long process, don’t fly out of the gate.’”

“My father was an engineer and gave me some life advice, he said ‘never force anything’. He was speaking about mechanical things, but it has an extension to the rest of life too.

An AFL man in NRL land

Mooney joked that one of the biggest challenges of moving to the Sydney market was the fact that he is a diehard AFL fan broadcasting from the rugby league heartland.

“It was a little bit hard to wean myself off AFL because I am an AFL man but I had the benefit of being exposed to NRL when I lived in Canberra for a year in 1987 and started supporting the Raiders during the golden years. And have been an interested observer for 34 years.

“When I came here it wasn’t a foreign language to me, I knew the difference between a whistle and a siren, touchline and a boundary line, and an umpire and a referee.”

Settled in Sydney

When Mooney first moved to Sydney, he and his family lived in Bronte for a year, then last year moved to the Southern Highlands which is an area that he shares with the likes of Andrew Voss and Alan Jones.

“It would be an interesting car trip (with Jones). Someone from a different political stripe isn’t necessarily your common enemy, you could have a lot in common.

“Alan is a fascinating man and very charismatic. You don’t build an audience like that if you have nothing to say.”

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