Feature InterviewInterviews

MJ Want Interview

MJ Want
Head of Listener Engagement 

89.9 The Light 
Melbourne, AUS

Career Capsule: I’ve got radio in my blood. My father, Wes Jay, worked in radio and publicity even before I was born. In my early teen years, I started to get involved in radio and just haven’t ever wanted to stop! Outside of radio, I spent my 20s as a Youth Pastor, and church planter and also worked as a publicist.   


 MJ, tell us what’s new at The Light … news, changes, & what’s new with YOU… etc?

Plenty’s been happening so far to start 2022! I’ve transitioned from the role of Content Director into the Head of Listener Engagement. I oversee all three of our radio stations, social media, and our on-demand content within that role.

We’ve launched a brand-new drive show in Cam & Jo. They’ve moved from our morning’s daypart and have been doing a stellar job so far! 

Back in March, we teamed up with For King & Country to create a hosted two-hour radio special from Joel & Luke. We ended up gifting it to all Christian radio in Australia and New Zealand as an ‘album release day special’. 

And in the coming days, we’re about to launch a station focused giveaway called ‘Maycation’, where every weekday In May, both our breakfast and drive shows will be giving away a weekend family getaway. 


How have you (And your station) been affected by the pandemic, on and off the air?

I’m sure we aren’t alone in the challenges felt over the past few years. From staff coming and goings through to listener habits evolving, we’ve seen plenty of effects of the pandemic upon TheLight. The biggest opportunity that COVID has enabled us as a station has been to reinforce our station’s brand as positioner as ‘Positive Radio.’

The past few years’ negativity, darkness, and challenges have created an opportunity for TheLight to shine brighter than ever before because what we are offering is so powerfully unique compared to what exists on the broader radio landscape. 


What is the best programming advice you’ve been given? The worst?

Know your audience! Understanding everything you can about them. The better you know them, the better you can serve them. 

Get the best out of your on-air talent, and set them up for success daily to play to their strength. The key is making sure they know you have their back & are in their corner.

Vision leaks – So continue to clarify and celebrate the wins.


What are the biggest challenges for your station regarding the fundraising, tips, things you’ve learned, experiences etc 

Every fundraiser has challenges. But I think we’ve faced plenty over the past few years with the pandemic. In Melbourne, we had over 260 days of ‘lockdown’. As a result, the listener cume and TSL drifted, making the volume of listeners available to become donors during the intensive appeals more challenging.

Practically one of the most challenging things I’ve found has been incorporating the fundraising ‘ask’ into the opportunities that exist daily to into regular programming. And not to wait for the intensive of the on-air fundraiser commences.  


Whats your feeling on podcasts, should air personalities have one?

Absolutely! Anytime your talent has the drive and desires to want to create engaging content, it’s our job as programmers to champion it. I see on-demand audio as an opportunity to extend engagement with your audience, not a space of competition. 

Don’t just have the podcast as a ‘side hustle’. Instead, include it as part of the radio engagement strategy.  


Where will new up and coming air talent for Christian Radio come from?

It’s one of the great challenges programmers and Content Directors globally ponder. Finding the right talent is vital for the long-term success of our radio stations. Thankfully, we are in a golden age of content creators. The opportunities for content creators and in media are greater than ever before. Nowadays, everyone has a podcast, TikTok or a YouTube channel. 

The opportunity for radio stations and programmers is about making sure they are investing in and developing talent for the future. Don’t just look within the box for radio talent; look outside it. Some of the best talents I currently work with are people that have not initially trained for radio but have come from other backgrounds, such as singers, stand-up comedians, teachers, pastors and actors. 

The talent is out there; sometimes, you just have to look in different spots and invest the time to develop them.


Generally speaking, what the biggest differences you know between Australian Christian Radio and that in the US?

The most immediate difference between a station like 89.9 TheLight and most Christian Radio in the US would be that our music format is blended with CCM and ‘mainstream’ music. So in between core acts like for King & County, Lauren Daigle, Tauren Wells & Danny Gokey. You’d hear us play mainstream acts like Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber, Adele and Pink.  

The Light is Melbourne radio’s only hybrid mix of contemporary Christian music and mainstream hits. Our music is safe – every song is vetted for lyrical content and tone. We are deliberately and proudly family-friendly. Our promise is that we play music that is always positive and uplifting.

A fundamental driver behind why we do this is we want to use things within our culture that are redeemable to be able to communicate a Christian message. In Acts 17, we see the Apostle Paul speaking at Areopagus. There he uses the altar ‘to the unknown god’ to communicate Jesus and calls those present to seek him. In the same way, we use music known in the culture as one of the tools in our broadcast Amory to point people towards Jesus. 

It’s still common to see across Australia Christian Radio with 100% Christian music. However, many of the capital city stations have a similar blended philosophy to TheLight. 


Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?

I’ve been so fortunate to have had some phenomenal people champion me and inspire me in my time in radio. My dad, Wes Jay, taught me that every moment on the air with your listener matters and never waste a break.

Two phenomenal US missionaries I worked with at Trans World Radio in Pencil Boone and Wally Hollis taught me to advocate for the listener and protect the mission at all costs. Likewise, former PD’s Clayton Bjelan and Luke Holt helped nurture a culture and desire to create meaningful and engaging content. 

Mentors like Craig Bruce and Dan Bradley have drilled home the importance of investing, developing and championing your on-air talent. 

And speaking of on-air talent shows like Lucy & Kel, my breakfast team. They have shown over a decade-plus the value of long-term relationships with your listeners. Daily they show how to create the best content and put their life on display to create phenomenal engagement.

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