Ken Scott, Director of Audio Services. TourDesign, Indianapolis, Indiana
By Jerry Vigil
Ken Scott had quite a career in radio prior to his departure to work for TourDesign. As a teenager, he held down four different radio jobs at one time. He held simultaneous part-time positions at a Country FM and Gospel AM in Decatur, Alabama, sign-on duties at his local hometown AM station and drove 40 miles to another radio gig at a Contemporary Christian FM in Huntsville. At his first full-time gig at WDRM-FM in Huntsville, Ken became the first talent there to cross the ratings threshold of a 30 share in the coveted 25-54 demographic. Ken accepted his first management job in 1992 to become group PD for Prarieland Broadcasters in Decatur, IL. He was only 25. He was also a popular morning show host on WDZQ-FM in Decatur (and can still be heard there today as the stations image voice). He very nearly took a different path when approached by the local ABC TV affiliate to do on camera weather reports. Ken succeeded in his transition to an on-camera weather-caster, continuing this for just over a year. Then there was his first major market gig at WLS in Chicago before landing at TourDesign as the Director of Audio Services. Ken, a.k.a. "That Voice Guy", and wife Patti also operate their own creative services company, ScotSpots Creative Audio. In this month’s RAP Interview, Ken gives us an inside look at TourDesign in 2005, offers some tips to creating killer concert spots, shares some enlightening information about caring for your voice, and more. Be sure to check out Ken’s demo on this month’s RAP CD!
JV: How did you get into the business?
Ken: I got my start when I was 15 years old. Pretty much like any other kid, my voice had changed, and I suddenly sounded like a man. One night I was studying for a science exam in my room. I had A.D.D. back before they knew what to call it, so I was having a hard time focusing on my studies. Well, kind of impromptu, I tried reading my textbook out loud hoping that maybe it would help me absorb some of it. After a few minutes, my mom yelled at me down the hall to turn off the radio. Of course the radio wasn’t on. She said, “You’re supposed to be studying.” I told her it was me she was hearing, and she just smiled and let me get back to it.
I can’t remember if I passed that test, but the following weekend my mom was on the phone with the local deejay. She had developed a friendship with him and liked to request songs on his program. She remembered the whole textbook reading incident and asked him if he would talk to me — she thought her son would make a fabulous deejay. She put me on the phone and I talked to him for a short while. He complimented me on my voice and asked if I’d like to come down for an interview. Of course, I was tickled, and within a few days my mom drove me to the station — I was only 15 so I didn’t have a driver’s license yet. The PD there gave me some AP teletype copy and asked me to read it for him… on the air! I was as nervous as anyone would be in that situation. I barely got through it. It was my very first newscast; but the impromptu audition somehow paid off, and I got my first job in broadcasting. I wonder all the time what I’d be doing today if I had not decided to read my science book out loud that night.
It’s interesting to look back on the early days and the people I was working around. Way back when I got married in 1988, I got a job in Decatur, Alabama. I’ve worked in a lot of Decaturs. WDRN was the country powerhouse. During that time I met a lot of good talents, but there were three of them that really stood out. John Shults, who is now my boss, was a competing deejay on another country station. He also worked with me for a while at WDRN. I also worked with Mark Peeples, who was doing nights at WVNA in Mussel Shoals, a CHR station. I was doing mornings at the time. Mark is a major-league voiceover guy in the business now, doing tons of TV affiliate work and radio imaging and so forth. Then there was Sean Hannity. Sean was working his first radio gig at WVNN in Athens, Alabama – all the towns were close together. He was doing a local talk show following Rush Limbaugh — of course, Rush wasn’t local; he was via satellite. And I’ll be honest; I didn’t think Sean was going to have much of a career. He was a nice guy, but I thought he sounded way too much like Rush in his style and politics. I didn’t think he was carving a niche, and I even told him, “Sean, you’re going to have to find something else or another way to do this. You sound too much like Rush.” I guess you can’t always be right. Anyway, we became friends and we still stay in touch even to this day. It’s just kind of interesting that we were all starting the main part of our careers at the same time and in the same place, in unlikely North Alabama.
JV: What are some of the high points in your career prior to TourDesign?
Ken: Probably the biggest moment in my life was the Chicago gig, which was a real turning point. It was late 1995. My friend John Shults was a production guy in Decatur, Illinois at the time. He told me about a job opening at ABC Radio in Chicago. WLS-FM was looking for a Production Director for their brand new country format. Like a lot of guys in my position, I’d always dreamed of getting the call to the majors, but really thought it was going to be down the road when I’d paid more dues and actually deserved to be there. John convinced me to put the demo together and get it to Ted Stecker, the PD in Chicago. I called Ted to see if I was wasting my time by sending a package, and he was frank with me; he said that he had pretty much made up his mind, but if I wanted to overnight a package he would wait on it before making his final decision. I worked feverishly on that demo and somehow managed to lose track of time. I looked up and realized it was 15 minutes to the FedEx deadline, to closing time, and I had to drive there — they weren’t picking up. So I grabbed the cassette and resume and drove as fast as I could. Those days I lived paycheck-to-paycheck, so every dollar made a difference, and that ten bucks or whatever it was was significant to me. So halfway to FedEx I pulled the car over to the side of the road. I was conflicted. The negative side of me kept telling me that I was wasting time and money, and that I wasn’t ready yet and probably wouldn’t get the gig anyway. So why risk a speeding ticket and blow ten bucks? I very nearly turned the car around. I was about five minutes from FedEx. My gut told me to just go for it, so I did. And like in a movie, the FedEx lady was locking the door when I screeched in. I had to talk her into taking my package, which she eventually did. I called Ted the next day and he asked me to come up for an interview, so I drove the three hours to Chicago and put my best foot forward. Just getting the interview was a thrill; I never expected to get the gig. But when he called me to tell me that I got the job, man, that was surreal. I was 27 and I was going to the big leagues. That was quite a feeling. That was my only major market gig and my last radio gig. I was there for four years as the Creative Services Director.
JV: How did the gig at TourDesign come about?
Ken: Again, it was my good friend John Shults. He was at TourDesign by this time. He knew I was renegotiating my contract at ABC in Chicago, and as it sometimes will work out, the offer you get is not what you want it to be. John had been looking for a way to get me at TourDesign for a couple of years, and it just kind of worked out. He made me an offer, and ABC couldn’t match it. And in retrospect, this was the place to be anyway; this is a fantastic place to work.
JV: Tell us a little about TourDesign. It’s not just radio concert spots anymore, right?
Ken: Correct. It’s a full-service post-production and production house. We do audio, video, art, and multimedia for the live entertainment industry. Concerts spots is mainly what we do, but we’re diverse. We do anything from concert spots, radio and TV ads, websites, and even some long-form projects like documentaries, motor sports events, logo animation, and theatrical events. And our staff has grown also. We’ve got a great staff of writers, voice talents and editors — both video and audio – artists, animators, account reps, the most talented group of people I’ve ever worked with, and right now we’ve never been better.
JV: What are your responsibilities?
Ken: As Director of Audio Services for TourDesign, what I do basically is coordinate the efforts of our voice talents and editors here in Indianapolis, Vancouver, and Nashville. We’ve got a great crew in this department. Of course, John Shults is probably the signature voice of TourDesign. I’ve been here over 10 years. Jay Dowell, Todd Heathcote, Stacy Blotch, John Chapman, Matt Rawlings, Larry Semkew, David Kay, Jeff Collins – all these guys are main editors/voice talents, and they’re the absolute best in the business. I love and respect all these guys. They’re just awesome.