This is the story of Brooklyn Ross, whose day job as the very popular newsreader for The Kyle & Jackie O Show on KIIS 106.5 in Sydney has achieved his full-on career goal — to read news on the biggest FM radio show in the country and whose lifestyle choice is to run what’s fast becoming an empire of online radio stations — GayPop. What started as a hobby has become a serious business and his boldness and bravery are paying great dividends – for Brooklyn, the Australian gay community and now the great big gay world.
LAST MONTH, a young gay man in Brunei logged on to GayRadio streaming live from Oxford Street. And it changed his world...
Imagine living in a country where the very essence of who you are is at all times under threat from the authorities, from penalty and punishment.
Imagine hiding who you are from everyone in your life — for fear of your life.
Imagine going to sleep every night knowing that "who you are" is despised by those around you, those you love and the country in which you have grown up.
And imagine the thud of fear lodging in your heart when, in the middle of the night, you wake in a cold sweat despising yourself, wishing you could be somewhere else, someone else — because of your sexuality.
And then imagine how you felt the day you found GayRadio – on your iPhone – singing out the freedoms of Australia’s Oxford Street – celebrating who you are, singing your songs into your heart and emboldening you to be who you are – a gay young boy from Brunei.
But that hasn’t always been the case. Homosexuality has long been a criminal offense in the country, which is located on the island of Borneo. But while the punishment was previously 10 years in prison, the oil-rich sultanate announced last year that it was introducing a three-phased plan to impose Islamic Sharia law at the national level — becoming the first Southeast Asian country to do so. Under the new law, same-sex intercourse is punishable by death by stoning.
~ Dominique Mosbergen, Huffington Post, 15/10/2015
The very private and secret treat of GayRadio lifts the heart of the boy from Brunei whenever he gets the chance to listen, to hum and, if game, to dance along to the gay anthems — to Britney, to Taylor, to Kylie.
Ahh, GayRadio in the hands and hearts of gay Australia — and now the whole gay world.
But this is the story of another boy. This is the story of a boy who grew up in rural Australia and the difference that his "baby" GayRadio continues to make in our lives, and the lives of listeners around the world.
This is the story of Brooklyn Ross — whose "dream come true" has changed the world for not only the boy from Brunei, but the worlds of hundreds of thousands of people across the world reaching out for a real connection.
Six years ago, Brooklyn sat on the balcony of the Crowne Plaza hotel in Coogee Beach and chatted about his idea to start up a "gay" radio station in Sydney. It was then a dream.
A gay radio station? How could you afford to buy a radio frequency band?
No ... I don’t want that. I want it to be streamed — digital. That’s where it’s going now – digital – listening from your iPhone. I can do that from our apartment — just buy the gear and set it up and away we go.
I want GayRadio to be in the hands of everyone. I want kids in the bush to be able to switch on GayRadio on a Saturday afternoon and get the Oxford Street vibe - something they have never experienced - that vibe you get only by being there.
That’s what I want GayRadio to do!
And through his amazing vision, his creative talent, his exceptional skills and his overwhelming dedication, hard work and perseverance, today we enjoy his creation. GayRadio is a digital radio network, alive and well and throbbing — not just on the environs of our iconic Oxford Street and surrounding inner city Sydney but around the globe.
True to Brooklyn's dream, GayRadio provides the essence of Sydney’s vibrant gay culture into the homes, hands and hearts of our gay brothers and sisters across our nation and across our world.
His goal was always to stream GayRadio — not to use conventional radio waves for broadcast. This was never about the prohibitive costs of licensing a new radio station; but about his vision that streaming online was the way of the future; and his hope that his radio station could be literally in the hands of all who wanted to be part of its wonderful lively and exciting culture. With the network’s app on their smart phone everyone’s got a radio in their pocket. Its digital channel means that GayRadio can be heard anywhere in the world, anytime, on virtually any platform.
Now working as newsreader with Kyle and Jackie O on KIIS 106.5, Brooklyn’s radio career commenced in high school and has included country, regional and city radio.
Brooklyn had always wanted to work in media. He started with work experience at 2RG Griffith, a small regional city in NSW, when he was 15. And he loved it. He took their advice and went on to join a community radio station. When he went to university he asked to produce news bulletins for the community station during his holidays, demos of which helped him to get his first commercial job.
Brooklyn Ross with Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O (Image via KIIS 1065 FM / kiis1065.com.au)
Brooklyn loves working with Kyle and Jackie O and says it was always his full-on career goal to read news on the biggest FM radio show in the country:
“One day, I would love to work on the Kyle & Jackie O Show. Oh wait. Hmm, I think I need a new goal.”
The dream was to deliver the party vibe of Oxford Street on air – to have Oxford Street on your phone in your hand – with a special focus to reach members of the gay community in other areas like western Sydney or the bush, who never get to experience the vibrant Sydney gay culture.
Until Brooklyn’s venture got started, Sydney, the gay capital of Australia, struggled to maintain a gay radio station. Up till then, no community group in Sydney had been able to secure a permanent community radio license, as Melbourne did with Joy 94.9. A few private operators had tried to fill the gap in Sydney; both with small FM licenses and web streams.
“I was shocked that in 2012 Sydney didn’t have a full-time gay radio station already. Even John Singleton had plans to launch a gay radio station in 1994 before he purchased 2GB. But that didn’t go ahead.* Other groups had given it a red hot try in the past, but none had been able to stay on the air.”
* ‘Aussie Radio Station Serves Gays’, Advertising Age, October 10 1994
It was obvious to Brooklyn that there was a gap in the market just fit for his plans so he decided to bite the bullet and give it a go — and the rest is history.
The station’s philosophy of "gay pop, dance and remixes 24/7" has struck a deep chord with listeners.
“We’re about radio you can play at home, at work, anywhere and love! The response from the community has been fantastic. The people who love us most seem to be those who don’t party on Oxford Street every weekend. They may live in Sydney’s west or a small country town – or another country – and really appreciate the connection GayRadio gives them to the community.”
In the five years since debuting in early 2012, the radio network has gone from strength to strength — today boasting localised stations for Australia, the United States and United Kingdom. There is a solid line-up of programs hosted by lively presenters complimented by local DJs.
The network’s Australian studios are in Stonewall, Sydney’s premier gay and lesbian nightspot, on Oxford Street; and their partnership with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is a hallmark of their iconic place in the international gay community.
Part of the success strategy includes monitoring where and when people listen and catering to them. Brooklyn’s music philosophy for the GayRadio is to give people what they want — plenty of pop, dance music when appropriate, and big hits from the big divas.
Being a digital music station GayRadio is different to a regular radio station; it’s not found on FM. And that is part of its clever attraction — an important part of its success strategy. GayRadio uses a cutting-edge audio format to deliver high-quality sound for very little download allowance, built for 3G and listening on wi-fi. The rise in smart phones has given everyone a radio in their pocket. With the GayRadio app, the network is able to broadcast over the internet directly to listeners who can crank up their speakers, plug in their headphones, dock to a sound system, or connect via Bluetooth in their cars.
A further key to the current success and future international plans of GayRadio is in its unique commercial position. The network has the ability to deliver instant access to the extremely attractive and sizable commercial "pink" marketplace that exists within the gay community, both here in Australia and overseas.
As Australia’s only gay radio network, it presents clever advertisers with direct access to a "dream demographic".
Same-sex attracted men are an advertiser's dream — and for good reason. Gay men have higher average incomes. Research has found they are twice as likely to earn above $250,000. They spend their extra disposable income on high-end products, travel, going out, fashion and technology. And they are loyal consumers, with 85 per cent of gay men more likely to purchase products and services from companies they see in LGBTI media.
The "dream demographic" (Image courtesy Cathy Wilcox)
As "early adopters", gay men are more likely to own laptops, tablets and smart phones than straight men, giving them ready access to the streamed GayRadio networks, where advertisers have their attention.
It is estimated that one in 10 Australians is attracted to the same sex, that's 2.2 million people, with an estimated disposable income of about $20 billion. And that's an internal economy in our country about the same size as the national economy of entire countries, such as Zambia, Madagascar and Cyprus.
When GayRadio was launched, it was marketed purely to the Sydney market, to fill the gap that had been missing for so long. There was very little time or money spent spreading the word to anyone outside Sydney. Within months, they were getting awesome feedback from gays and lesbians in country NSW, Queensland, South-East Asia and the USA. Now, five years down the track, the reach is enormous, with listeners in countries all around the world.
Whilst GayRadio will always be based on Oxford Street, plans are well underway to increase the already successful international reach of the station, initially focusing on the USA and the UK, where the take-up rates have been so strong.
And with these exciting moves comes a brand new name: ‘GAY POP’. What started out way back in 2012 as ‘OX Live’, stamping the brand as clearly and most importantly coming from Oxford Street, Sydney’s iconic heartland of gay Australia, the network’s brand is now transitioning through from ‘GayRadio’ to ‘GAY POP’ – its vibrant new international brand name – as a celebration of its success and enormous growth, perfectly reflecting its core pop culture.
The new logo (Image courtesy gay.com.au)
The commercial success currently enjoyed by GayRadio is certainly a rewarding outcome for the young Aussie entrepreneur, Brooklyn Ross. The future is looking even brighter than expected. However, Brooklyn maintains a keen eye on achieving the core heart of his vision for the network, with one recent connection going beyond his wildest dreams.
Finding the boy from Brunei listening in to GayRadio on the station’s monitoring system a few months ago has proven to Brooklyn that his dream is alive and well — the dream to put the Oxford Street vibe and the luster of the Sydney gay community into the homes, hands and hearts of our gay brothers and sisters across our nation and indeed across our world.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
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