R.A.P. Interview: Terry Thompson

Article Index

JV: But the form you created is a special form. Not everybody is going to know how to create those in MS Word or be willing to read the manual or help screens to learn how to build forms.
Terry: Well that’s true, and if anybody wants to email me, I’ll give them a customized form for 10 bucks. They can use it in their group. I’ll change all the call letters and stuff like that. Email me at electronicpo@cox.net.

JV: That’s generous! I’m sure you’ll get some takers.
Terry: Well, I kind of have a personal goal. I’m doing it within my group of 35 stations, but I also have a personal goal of spreading this as far as I can because as production people, our main joy is creating a great radio spot and helping a client. Our main pain is not getting the right stuff from the salesperson in a timely fashion, so we end up under deadline all the time. I get this production order. It’s filled out wrong. I can’t read it. So you then have to call the salesperson whom you can’t get a hold of ever, and you don’t know what to do, so you wait. And crunch time is coming. Well with the electronic production order, it narrows down what you have to do and how long you have to do it. If somebody calls and asks about a spot, I can actually tell them what spot they ran. I can play them the spot, and they are on their merry way. And I didn’t spend more than five minutes with them. Whereas in the past, or if you still use a paper system and you don’t master in a fashion similar to the way I master, you’re going to spend an hour or more looking for something. And wouldn’t you rather be making a commercial, or helping the morning show with a bit, doing something that we really enjoy, instead of arguing with a salesperson about one thing or another? A weird little aside has happened since I started this; when I tell a salesperson something, they don’t argue anymore. They know I have written proof somewhere, and argumentation just doesn’t occur anymore. If I call them back and say I do not have this spot, they don’t argue because they’ve seen the system work. They’ve seen the mastering work because they use that same mastering program for all the email spots we receive.

But you asked about problems. The only other problem – and this is something Ed and I fight each and everyday — is the way things are labeled. Obviously, with a computer system, when you search for something, it is very important that it is labeled properly. You’ll get a lot of email spots that are labeled as — and everybody knows this one – “Track 1.” And since I only save the attachment, if you label it “Track 1,” when that agency sends instructions, it better be referencing “Track 1” on those instructions. You’d better label it, name-of-the-client dash name-of-the-sale perhaps, or name of the particular ad or something like that. Or a straight ISCI code is great too. Most agencies send the attachment labeled with an ISCI code, which is great. But you also get smaller agencies that will label it, “This Sale Now,” and the instructions will come in, “Please run spot BR-210.” Actually, that problem isn’t any different than what we used to have. “I sent you a CD.” “Well, no you didn’t. I have a CD but it’s labeled like this and you’re asking for this other thing.” So it’s nothing new, but the resolution is a lot quicker now.

JV: Do you keep the production orders and the finished spots on the same computer, a central server of some kind?
Terry: Yes, we have a server that’s for production. After someone finishes producing a spot, they save it in a folder on that server called Completed Production, and it’s labeled as “my name-name of spot,” and then the date they produced it. We also keep our scripts, our production orders, our agency instructions, and our Adobe Audition sessions on that server. Now, salespeople have limited access to the Completed Production folder, and in that are all the mixdowns of everything we do. The salesperson can go into that folder, find the spot, listen to the spot, play it for the client from their desk if they wish, and email the spot all out of that folder, which once again saves us time. I don’t need to call the client and play it for them. I don’t need to email it out. None of that stuff happens because the salespeople do it themselves right then and there when the client calls them on the phone. It gives us incredible response time.

JV: Waitt Radio has stations in other markets. Are you networked with them to some degree?
Terry: Yes, we do spots for some of our stations in Nebraska. We do spots for a Fremont station we have, and we’re starting to do some stuff for a station in North Platt. We just spread the love around as best we can. Not that that’s my intention, but I have greater goals. We’re testing the electronic PO and some other things at one of our smaller market stations, and if it works there — which it has been working very well so far — we’ll spread it to the other stations and then everybody will be on a similar system. And theoretically, we could all exchange production orders and do each other’s work. For example, you’re always limited by your female voice talent. You always have a ton of guys but only two women it seems. So theoretically, if everybody else got in the same production system, we could email that production order to one of our other stations that has a great female voice talent. She could finish the production and email it back to us with the production order. You’re done. Same system, simple setup. That’s a far-reaching goal of mine, but actually it’s already started, and upper management is very excited by it. Your small market stations always suffer from a lack of resources, and we want everybody to sound great if we can, and this would be one step towards that.

JV: I assume the producers and talent at the other stations forego talent fees as long as there’s reciprocation, right?
Terry: Yeah exactly. We’re very generous here I guess. For example, we might create a spot that has a great intro and a great outro; it has a story or characters or something like that. We just take out the client-specific stuff and send the skeleton to them, and then it becomes a tangible spot that’s original and creative.

JV: How many production studios in your facility? And are all 8 stations there?
Terry: Yes, all 8 stations are here, and we have four production studios and a fifth one that’s kind of part-time. They are all operating with Adobe Audition. I would have it no other way. We use the Audioarts R60 consoles, which nowadays are used pretty much just to turn on the mic and record into Adobe Audition. Adobe Audition rips the CDs, so there’s not much need for a CD player; and I have all of our sound effects stored on the production server, so you simply just have to go into Windows Explorer and do a search in that folder for whatever and just drag and drop it into Adobe Audition. I guess in one sense it’s sad that the hardware is disappearing, but it probably saves a bunch of money.

JV: Which on-air delivery system are you using?
Terry: We use Audio Vault and a system we actually created called STORK. It will eventually replace Audio Vault. We also run a network here called Waitt Radio Network, and they use STORK as well. I can’t wait until all of our stations are on it.

JV: STORK belongs to Waitt Radio?
Terry: Not fully. I believe we have a deal where we’re allowed to distribute. We distribute and sell it, and we use it on all of our affiliates for our network. We have hundreds of affiliates that are networked. We have six or seven different formats that we run out of here. They all use STORK as their playback system. STORK, as far as the network goes, is advantageous because the guys up in the network can go into your system and alter things, plus STORK is virtually real time. The network jock records the breaks and sends it to you, and STORK loads it all up in the format, and it sounds like that jock is in that studio in that town. They don’t need their information more than like an hour before the show – local information like whatever festivals are going or whatever.

JV: Sounds like a well-planned system. Any parting thoughts for our readers?
Terry: I just want to spread the knowledge to everybody I can because I’ve seen people, even in this town, that still do it, what I call, the old way. That’s not being insulting or anything, but I see the problems they have and I frankly just want to help them. I wish I could show a video of how it all works and stuff like that, but since you’re a magazine it’s not really possible. So people can email me with questions. I don’t care where you’re from, just give me an email and we’ll start a discussion. We can make the world a better place for us Production Directors.

The system has allowed me to never miss a birthday party anymore. It allows me to get out by 5:30 or 6:00 on Friday. Not bad. And you don’t get calls at home with missing spots anymore. It’s helped a lot.

When they gave me the Production Director’s gig I said, “Look, I’ll take this gig, and I believe I have ways to fix your system. But you have to understand that you have to implement what I’m requesting, because otherwise, after four months of this, I’m going to be driving a truck for Pringles because I’m not going to work twelve hours a day.” Ed and I were both working 12-hour shifts before, and it’s just unacceptable in today’s world when there are better ways to do things. So luckily we’ve been able to make it so we’re out of here by 5:30 every night for the most part. There are still instances, but those are outside instances, things you don’t have control over, such as agencies and stuff like that. But that’s okay. I’ll make the in-house systems better so that we can handle outside problems that happen to pop up.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet