With a reputation as a mover and shaker in the television industry, it's easy to forget John McCready had a 33 year career in music and radio before he came to the small screen.
McCready's career in music began quietly enough. Leaving Wellington Technical College in 1957 with no qualifications except a love of pop music, he was hired by Philips Records New Zealand as a warehouse assistant. By 1961 he'd been promoted to A&R and Promo Manager for the company, contributing to the early careers of New Zealand artists soon to become household names: Larry's Rebels, The La De Da's and the Hi-Revving Tongues among them.
His climb up the ladder continued and in 1964 John was appointed Sales Manager, then Marketing Manager in 1967. In 1969 he gained the Distinguished Salesman Award by Sales and Marketing Executives International.
By 1970 Philips had become Phonogram NZ with McCready as General Manager, and his marketing nous came into its own. Noting the Australian success of K-Tel's compilations of pop singles, John took a risk and launched 20 Solid Gold Hits. The concept was simple. Take 20 hit singles from different artists, put them all on one LP and base a marketing campaign around TV advertising. The result was an instant success with Volume 1 eventually selling 90,000 copies and many more volumes following. He also signed a young Shona Laing during this period.
By 1974 the international scene was beckoning and McCready took the long-haul flight to London, transferring to Phonogram UK as Manager of the A&R Division. There he was enthusiastically involved with the UK release of German electronic music innovators Kraftwerk and their first international hit, Autobahn.
The following year he took up the role of Pop Music Marketing Manager at Decca Records UK. His task was to turn around an old established label that was in decline but that had a strong back catalogue. He had success, repackaging old Rolling Stones material into a hits album called Rolled Gold along with compilations from Tom Jones and Englebert Humperdinck.
In 1976 McCready became CEO of Motown UK and Director of International Marketing. Among his tasks was wining and dining the likes of Marvin Gaye and accompanying the Mary Wilson-led Supremes on tour. But in the end the role took him further away from what he enjoyed most: the day to day running of a record company.
McCready fixed that when he returned to New Zealand in 1977 and started his own record company, RTC, which handled Virgin's releases. Later the same year he was employed by CBS Records to oversee the launch of its New Zealand operation. That brought close involvement with the careers of Sharon O'Neill and Jon Stevens.
1981 and 1982 saw a trip across the Tasman to take up the post of Managing Director of CBS Records Australia.
But by the end of 1982 radio waves were beckoning and McCready returned to New Zealand to take over as General Manager of Radio Hauraki. He stayed until 1987, taking the station to number one in Auckland and picking up the Manager of the Year New Zealand in the Australasian Radio Awards, and Station of the Year in the New Zealand Radio Awards.
A switch to Manager of 89FM from 1987 to 1989 saw him take that station from seventh place in Auckland to number one.
With this background and proven success in the competitive commercial radio sector it should have been no surprise that John McCready was called on by TVNZ when, in 1989, it faced competition for the first time in the form of TV3.
He was appointed Manager of Presentation and Promotion in 1989. His view was that the two state channels, TV One and Channel Two, and their target audiences, were too indistinct. So his first challenge was to revamp the on-air look. He maintained a reputation as a tough operator and from 1990 to 1994 took up the role of Director of Programming.
After resigning from TVNZ he headed back to London where for the next two years he was Vice President of Programming for SBS which had channels in Scandinavia, Belgium and Holland.
A return to New Zealand in 1996 saw him working as Director of Programming and Marketing for Sky TV for the next four years, followed by a consulting role with the satellite broadcaster.
In 2002 McCready set up his own company, The Living Channel New Zealand, which produced the successful Living Channel and Food TV on Sky's platform.
John McCready sold the business in 2007 and retired.
Music and Media Stories blog. Accessed 8 June 2012