“I am tied to people more than to facts. In my career I have always tried to distinguish who I was dealing with and not who I was working for. Companies are made up of people and it is with them that I related regardless of the titles and hierarchical scales”.
Artistic Director of Radio Italia and Radio Italia TV, for more than thirty years a point of reference in the world of Italian radio and music, Antonio Vandoni conquers us with his spontaneity and his passion. We can define him as the motor of that precious part of our country that we do not see, but that naturally flows through our veins because we listen to it every day, everywhere: music. A competent and forward-looking professional who has worked for years with great national and international artists; he does not just make Italy sing, but generates value, creates synergies, conquers the public by managing the balance of the complex musical world. One of those people of rare quality who, even when you meet him after years, presents in the tone of the voice as in the eyes the same light of the first day. An example of continuity, creativity and passion for his work that make Italy the priceless heritage of treasures that the whole world envies us.
by Riccardo D’Urso
How did you approach the world of music and how did you become the Artistic Director of Radio Italia?
Already when I was a boy, around 15-16 years old, I put on records on the radio. There were few of us who did this activity but that’s where my passion was born.
I was lucky because from that moment on I worked in increasingly important radios and my passion turned into work: from Dischi Ricordi to BMG Ariola, I worked 12 years in discography dealing with the promotion of the record. Finally, they offered me the Artistic Direction of Radio Italia and I accepted: “from this was born that”.
How were the first times as Artistic Director in Radio Italia?
When I joined Radio Italia I already had 12 years of experience in the promotional sector behind me and I knew the publisher, Mario Volanti, a man of heart and passion, the same I had. Passion is the engine of everything and after thirty years of career it has not faded.
Radio is not a job like any other, no school or book teaches it. You learn with passion and only by working, experience after experience, in the field. Each day is never as another one, and teaches you something in a mutual and continuous exchange.
How do you keep your passion for your job alive after more than thirty years of career?
I am always grateful to all those who have given me the opportunity to express myself and my creativity. And I always update myself in the sector. Music by its nature needs continuous updating: each artist, and each album by the same artist, gives different emotions, and it is important to draw on what are the new trends, to listen, to explore the immense panorama of Italian and international music.
At the base of everything there is the desire to feed on music. I try to transfer my emotions on the radio and it is wonderful to have such an important response in my work.
Listening and being able to find yourself in the words of a song is a privilege, how is the relationship between the public and the radio today?
The public is the basis of our work, this means being at its service.
The beauty of what I do is also having learned in thirty years of my career how to separate my mind from my personal taste compared to what an audience’s expectations are.
On the radio, we continuously update ourselves on the sales charts, the views on the streams, on the real ratings that the viewers choose.
What we offer must be the best due to them and today, thanks to technology, we have a more direct response that has allowed us to create closer and more constant ties with our listeners.
Radio Italia represents a milestone of Italian musical culture, how did it contribute in the formation of national identity?
Our publisher already 38 years ago had decided and founded a radio only in Italian in a period where only foreign music went. At the time, the idea could be considered crazy: going against what was thought to be the taste of people! Yet that was a winning intuition. There was a need to listen to Italian music. There was a desire to listen, understand and share the lyrics of the songs. And it is still so.
Music is a very powerful glue and unites people in every corner of the world, as Radio Italia is seen abroad?
Thanks to satellite and streaming, we are able to get anywhere in the world because there is a huge demand for Italian music and not only for the autochthonous. It is not only a melancholy and nostalgic need, but it is also a cultural need for foreigners.
There is an incredible respect for Italian music and the lyrics of our songs.
With Radio Italia we arrived in China, during the 2008 Olympics, in South Africa, during the football World Cup, in Brazil, in North America, from Canada to New York to Malta offering only Italian music precisely because there is this love towards Italian music and melody.
In this regard, there is an anecdote that I would like to share: some time ago, in view of a project that did not go ahead for commercial reasons, my publisher and I were guests of the Prince of Dubai, who wanted to open in FM on Dubai Radio Italia. On that occasion he welcomed us singing Pavarotti! The melody and sound of the Italian language abduct.
Is there a memory of your career that you are particularly attached to?
I am tied to people more than to facts. In my career I have always tried to distinguish who I was dealing with and not who I was working for. Companies are made up of people and it is with them that I related regardless of the titles and hierarchical scales.
I met a lot of people, from the most famous artists to the less known ones, working for them or with them. It has always been a cultural exchange with beautiful people.
It is through the lyrics of their songs that I made myself a culture, through their words that I learned a lot.
A work reflects your being within the world, how did you experience your relationship with the artists and what did you learn?
I consider the artist the maximum exposure of the human being, with all its frailties, limitations, fears. And in the artist all of this has increased tenfold, since it is a must to face the public, success, uncertainty. The artist can never say that he has “arrived”, it is all constantly becoming. And this awareness was for me a life experience, of the so-called “normal” one, where you don’t have to worry about listening, numbers, success.
I never mythologized the artists, in a certain sense I envy them, because they live in their own world. At the same time I look at them from afar, with respect, keeping my distance.
I like to work to the limits, the risk is every day’s bet, unpredictability. This is why I consider myself lucky.
One last question, the usual one: what is a Treasure of Italy for you?
Treasure of Italy is what we Italians have inside us, which is truly unique. I don’t want to be a moralist and take it for granted, but also and above all in these months of pandemic we have shown the world how important we are internally and we have shown it above all to ourselves, in regaining the true values of life, and now we know how to use them.
In addition, we have shown the world that our “Tesoro d’Italia” is unique: we know how to get up on our feet, how to help each other, and we know how to recognize the difference between what is ephemeral and what is not. And this is also thanks to our culture, which is made up of writers, artists and thinkers who have always known how to recognize true life. This is our Treasure of Italy: we know what true life is.
For the rest of my life I always hope to be able to express these values by always taking them out of me, towards those who are close to me and in every corner of the world, because I am sure that these beautiful values as we feed ourselves will be able to feed on them as well the others.
Interview by Valentina Alfarano
Who is Antonio Vandoni
Antonio Vandoni is the Artistic Musical Director of Radio Italia Solo Musica Italiana and Radio Italia TV.
His recording career began in 1989 as head of radio and television promotion, local and international for Dischi Ricordi. He was later responsible for the local radio and television promotion for BMG Ariola.
Until 2010 he was responsible for Relations with Record Companies for Radio Italia Solo Musica Italiana and Video Italia; from 2002 to 2010 he was a member of the jury of the Independent Video Clip Award of the Meeting of Independent Label M.E.I.
He was a guest as a music commentator at the Sanremo Festival (Rai 1) in 2005, Amici (Canale 5) and X Factor (Rai 2) in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Since 2011 he has been a judge at the Targhe Tenco. In November 2011 he was a teacher at the Master of Music Communication at the Catholic University of Milan; from the same year, and continues today, he is a teacher at Area Sanremo which determines the 2 Young participants of the subsequent Sanremo Festival.
In 2012 he curated the Italian Music Area on the website www.affaritaliani.it with sections dedicated to live music, reviews, interviews, rankings, news, etc. and he was the Artistic Director of the Italian Music Festival which took place at the Christ The King Center Middle Village Theater in New York.
Since 2012 he has also been a jury for the M.E.I. Superstage finalists in Faenza and since September of the same year he has been part of the authoritative panelist of Usong, a portal created to identify new authors and artists and new songs to be proposed to those working in Italian discography and international.
From March to August 2013 he collaborated with the libero.it portal with his own music section.
From 2016 to today he is a member of the Artistic Commission of Area Sanremo. On 11 September 2016 and 10 September 2017 he was the Artistic Director of the Italian Music Festival which took place at the Master Millenium Theater in New York. From October 2016 to 2017 he was the artistic director of the Memo Music Club, the most important live music venue in Milan.
For the 2019 Sanremo Young Festival, which took place on 20 and 21 December 2018 live on Rai 1, he was appointed President of the Sanremo Area Commission. On 8 February 2019 he was a guest of the “After Festival” in Sanremo, broadcast on RAI 1.
Translated by Céline Alcala