NYF Grand Jury Confidential: Matt Hopper

New York Festivals Radio Awards enlists jurists from all over the world to become members of the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury includes some of the most recognizable voices and captivating programming producers in the radio industry today.

In this Grand Jury Confidential, NYF  interviewed Matt Hopper, managing director for Second Sense Media and  founder/director for Spiteful Puppet Entertainment.

Matt Hopper, Spiteful Puppet Entertainment and Second Sense Media

Matt’s career began in the UK radio industry in the 1980s and has over 30 years experience as a presenter and producer of music radio. His  company Second Sense Media Matt now produces audio, video and web content for British and global brands which is seen (and heard) throughout the world.

Matt is also a founder/director of Spiteful Puppet Entertainment, whose audio drama series “HOOD” has scooped accolades at the BBC Audio Drama Awards and the New York  Festivals Radio Program Awards, and has been acquired for broadcast in 2016 on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Keep reading to find out Matt’s early career influences, what he learned from his first job, a defining moment in his career and much more.

New York Festivals: Who or what were your early influences in your career?

Matt Hopper: One of my earliest influences was Sir David Frost. I followed his career from the 1960s topical satire show “That Was The Week That Was”, and wanted to do what he did and be as good as he was.  Some hope!  His presentation style and interviewing skills were of course second to none, and were a real inspiration to me. I was fortunate enough to meet and interview him some years ago, and he made every bit as good an interviewee as he did interviewer.

New York Festivals: What’s the most important thing you learned from your first job?

Matt Hopper: Audition a clip before you air it. I was being tried out as a presenter and got permission from the Program Director to feature a comedy sketch among the music and conversation. My first choice was the classic Monty Python parrot shop sketch, which I knew back to front. The only version in the radio station’s library, though, was from the Live At Drury Lane album. I checked the in cue and the out cue but didn’t bother listening to the rest of it. Only when I was broadcasting it did I discover that John Cleese’s language was rather more fruity than on the original. I really thought my career would end as quickly as it had begun, but either the PD wasn’t listening or he put it down to experience, and I survived!

New York Festivals: What were some early leadership lessons for you?

Matt Hopper: I guess this follows on from the last question. Lead by example, and let young talent make their own mistakes and learn from them. Otherwise you’re likely to stifle creativity.

My very first experience of radio was in the days before Britain had commercial radio.  From as young as 11 years of age I used to help run land-based pirate radio stations in London (and eventually ran my own). I then joined one of the UK’s first commercial stations as a swing shift jock. In those days commercial stations in the UK had to be all things to all people, so I got to produce and present a huge range of programs. It was great grounding. I became a fixture on the airwaves for about 30 years, producing and presenting mid morning magazine shows on a variety of stations.

Along the way I developed an interest in being ‘the other side of the glass’, and formed a production company providing all kinds of audio to the broadcast, advertising and corporate sectors.  That has developed into Second Sense Media, which as you can tell by the name has audio at its core but now produces visual and written content in addition to audio.

Second Sense runs alongside my other interests, one of which is as a director of Spiteful Puppet Entertainment.  We specialize in drama production, an area that three years ago was completely new to us but something we were passionate about.  That passion seems to be paying off – one of our dramas from the “HOOD” series, in which we reinvent the legend of Robin Hood, won a BBC Audio Drama Award and two trophies at last year’s New York Festivals!  The BBC have since acquired the series for broadcast on the national speech network BBC Radio 4 Extra.

New York Festivals: What was a defining moment in your career?

Matt Hopper: In 1999, the UK Government created The Millennium Dome in London to mark the passing of the 20th century. It was much maligned at the time, but millions visited nonetheless.

Millennium Dome, London

The idea was to showcase all that was best about Britain through the 20th century; radio had its own living, breathing exhibit which included examples of radio through the years, and I was asked to put the audio together.  Each module celebrated the best of Sport radio, music radio, radio comedy, radio drama etc. We had open access to the entire BBC sound archives, and it was a real privilege to be involved. Each module was 90 seconds, and it made me a better editor.  I mean, 80 years of radio in a minute and a half?!  Tough call.

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