JOE'S BACK - ON THE WEB
The Electric New Paper
FROM a little cupboard in Bukit Timah, Joe Augustin is broadcasting a morning show.
No, the DJ hasn't been re-hired by any of the three radio stations he used to work for.
He and former Power 98 morning show partner Shareen Wong, 34, have started a podcast, The Shareen & Joe Show.
But you won't find this morning show on the radio dial. It's broadcast every weekday online at www.morningjam.com, where netizens can listen to the shows directly on the site, or download them onto their mp3 players to listen later.
It's a new direction for the duo, who were cut from Power 98 in early February for allegedly breaching their contracts.
For Joe, 40, it was the third time he'd left the station, and the second time he'd been axed from a morning show within nine months.
So when the going gets tough, the tough get entrepreneurial.
The pair did their first podcast on 10 Mar, almost a month after they were fired.
It is a half-hour version of the show they used to do for the airwaves, but without any music because licensing rights are too expensive.
In mid-April, Joe Twitter-ed that he didn't want to be 'half-assed about overthrowing mainstream radio'.
When asked whether the podcast was a way to get back at his former employers, Joe would only say that 'there is no love lost' between him and the radio stations.
Joe Augustin was fired from Power98FM eight months after getting fired from Radio 91.3FM.
As for whether this format was an actual threat to radio or if he was trying to prove a point that he could wing it on his own, he demurred.
'A podcast is not an act of revenge,' he said.
Podcasts are not new to Singapore. Its most famous proponent to date is probably blogger Mr Brown who posts weekly satirical podcasts on his blog.
By contrast, Joe claims their project is Singapore's first 'professional' podcast as he and Shareen used to do radio for a living.
According to the pair, the idea of a podcast had been discussed for a long time, but they were always too 'busy doing an actual show' to work on it.
But still keen to work with each other post-firing, they forged ahead with the podcast, recording it in a cupboard - yes, an actual cupboard - that serves as the makeshift studio that Joe built in his home for his voiceover work.
'We still had a desire to do something radio-esque. And then now I had all this time ...' Joe trailed off.
And why would Shareen continue partnering with Joe despite his blemished record and short-lived radio stints?
'Joe and I are not joined at the hip,' she said 'We have other projects, but the podcast is something we do because we love radio.'
The lack of music didn't matter. The message was loud and clear: fans wanted to hear, well, talk. And boy, do they get a lot of it.
But just because they no longer have to adhere to rules set by radio management or the Media Development Authority (MDA) doesn't mean the show is half an hour of blind cussing.
'It's like, you can get attention by streaking, but how many times can you get someone to come back to see you do it again?' said Joe.
But there are, inevitably, places where the pair can boldly go where they have never gone before.
A few weeks ago, a friend of Shareen was invited to the show to teach Joe some Hokkien bad words, a show that Shareen noted 'would have never happened on radio'.
Their fans try to push them to do more, but Joe said, 'There's smart podcasting and then there're people who are silly for the sake of being silly.'
So far, the show has been making the rounds in local circles through Joe's Twitter updates and the occasional Facebook promotion.
A recent Twitter update from him read: 'Stop listening to lousy crap radio. Upgrade to high-quality crap.'
This 'high-quality crap' - 55 episodes and counting - has received over 26,000 downloads so far, according to Joe.
It's a tiny number compared to the 365,000 listeners he pulled in weekly during his heyday as a morning show host with Flying Dutchman Mark van Cuylenberg on Class 95.
But Joe and Shareen call it a 'good start'. After all, the podcast isn't a business - yet.
The pair claim potential sponsors have approached them to be 'associated with the show', although how or when this will happen is still up in the air.
They say that they're 'not in dire financial straits' - Shareen has her homeware shop Kai Life at Holland Village while Joe continues to do voiceover work and emcee gigs.
A recent bizarre news item brought up by Shareen about a prisoner faking an injury to his nether regions in order to escape prompted Joe to share that he had accidentally done the same thing before.
Perhaps too much information for some, but Joe prefers to think of it as a way to be more personal. After all, the show's tagline is 'real people, real stories'.
Part-time tutor Samuel Fong, 27, said he enjoyed Joe as a morning show host on Class 95, but isn't sure whether he would download the podcast.
'It would depend on their content and how funny they are,' he said.
Shereen Ali, 28, who listens to podcasts frequently, was also unsure whether she would take to the show.
'I prefer my podcasts to give me music or educational stuff, like serious discussions on the news,' she said.
Industry friends like former co-host Petrina Kow, though, are encouraging of their efforts. 'Joe's not a quitter. He never lets anyone rain on his parade,' she said.
When asked whether he thought podcasts were a serious competition to radio, Jamie Meldrum, programme director at Radio 91.3, said no.
'I wish Joe all the best, but the market is quite limited for that sort of thing.'