“It’s an opportunity to just switch off somewhat and let the music and images wash over you.
“There’s something to be said in this age of almost-paralysing choice when it comes to media and content, to be a passive viewer -to just sit there and watch something that’s already curated for you either by the producers or by the guest programmers,” says rage producer Tyson Koh.
On Monday the music video marathon turns 30, a milestone that will mean much to the generations who have tuned in, rocked on or chilled out.
“We always have a pretty consistent audience and have done throughout the years and it’s always really popular with a lot of teens. When people start going out to gigs and maybe watching a bit less TV in their 20s it drops off, but it is a show we find people return to, maybe later in their 30s or when they start having kids,” Koh explains.
Koh has worked on the ABC institution for over 5 years, with responsibility for the Saturday night guest programmer edition.
“I worked as a music programmer before I started work here. I was working on arts festivals and sporting events and the opportunity came up to curate retro month, which happens every January, pulling out all the old episodes Countdown, Rock Arena and so on,” he recalls.
“There’s actually two producers that work on the show and we split it up by the guest program show -which is Saturday night, which I take care of- and the other producer Maurice, works on the New Release program which is which is on Friday nights.
“We get hundreds of submissions every week and we watch them all and work out what makes the show. It’s a mix of major record labels, independent labels, we get bands sending in their videos directly. We’ve got a submissions page on our website.”
Koh pitches for guest programmers amongst Australian and touring international acts, and directs and shoots their curating sessions, which takes about an hour of their time.
“Some artists particularly once they’ve reached a level of profile might not want to do rage, because at the end of the day it’s work for them. We ask for an hour of their time, whereas most media requests go for 15 minutes,” he continues.
“The artists often will only be here for a day, then they perform that night and they’re away. They might do something like 60 Minutes but not do rage. So I guess that’s the way it goes.”
But ABC does let the guest programmers run wild with their ultimate playlist, no matter how eclectic.
“We let them play whatever they want. Sometimes we won’t have something in our library in which case we do our best to try and find it. That’s something that’s quite satisfying for me. I love getting new content that we don’t have and introducing that into our library and putting that on the show.
“Sometimes if I have the opportunity to work with an artist (I encourage) a different video that doesn’t get played quite as much.
“But apart from trying to vary the playlist a bit, the artists have absolutely free reign.”
rage tributes to acts who have died, are also a destination for fans in mourning. They are only inhibited by the timing, particularly when an act has passed away on a Friday.
“I think our viewers understand the situation that we do our best to air a tribute as soon as we can. We make the decision in-house to do a thorough job,” Koh insists, “so sometimes we do hold that over for a week or so.
“But absolutely we recognise that the tributes from artists who have passed away is really important. Rage is beamed all over the country in cities and rural areas. It’s an opportunity for the nation to grieve collectively, because obviously these artists mean so much to multiple generations.
“Sometimes there will be an artist who isn’t necessarily a household name but meant a lot to a particular generation or to the Australian music scene. And it could be a musician in a particular band rather than the lead singer. Or maybe it’s someone like Daryl Cotton who was much-loved, even though I think a lot of younger people these days wouldn’t know who he is.
“We’ll still do our best to represent them.”
But there have also been times when the show has come under fire, such as dropping the Top 50 in 2006. Diehard viewers were incensed it was dumped without warning. Koh notes it was a decision before his time, as a result of an internal ABC review.
“There was a feeling that playing for Top 50 was promoting commercial artists where it wasn’t needed. Obviously you’ve got commercial radio, commercial television doing that job for them. So it was decided to stop doing the Top 50.
“But it was actually my decision to bring it back two or three years ago. So now we play the Top 20 on Saturday mornings.”
At a public broadcaster a music video show has often been subjected to questions about its role, but Koh says it fits with the Charter for promoting music and the arts and is very cost effective.
“A lot of people within the organisation and a few people outside really stood up for the program and ensured that we were still going to air. At this point in time it probably is one of the cheapest shows to produce on the network, because most of the content comes to us from the artist and record labels.
“We’re able to produce over 20 hours of television every week,” he says, “so it’s a very cost effective show. I don’t think there’s too much more that they can cut …although I’m constantly surprised around this joint!”
On Monday ABC marks its anniversary with the first of 2 specials, The Story of Rage while Stories from the Red Couch screens on Friday.
“The Story of Rage is a look at how rage began and some of the people involved throughout the years, interviewing some of the musicians we’ve had there, clips played on the show and rage’s cultural significance within Australia.
“It interviews producers who have worked on the show and there are new interviews with people like Jimmy Barnes, Midnight Oil, Christine Anu, The Preatures.
“Stories from the Red Couch, hosted by Kate Ceberano, pulls out some stand-out moments from guest programmers over the last 30 years.
“There are introductions played in full and also supercuts of different artists picking music videos.”
Depending on how we define a music TV program, rage runs only second to Eurovision in longevity globally, and has outlasted local peers including Video Hits.
“We really have outlasted everyone, and particularly music videos just don’t get played on television anymore. Even MTV doesn’t play music videos,” Koh suggests.
“A lot of artists who come here, particularly the younger ones who might not have heard of rage, are just shocked that in Australia there’s a show that will still not only play music videos but will play quite abstract and alternative music videos. Not just commercial content.
“So it’s quite unique what we what we have here and something that we’re really proud of.”
Rage30: The story of Rage 10pm Monday 17th April ABC
Rage30: Stories from the Red Couch 11.00pm Saturday 22nd April ABC