Tales of the Tape - June 1991

by Dennis Daniel

Dennis-Daniel apr91"You want me to do what?"

"Sweeps. Drop-ins. Come up with a new, creative way to sell 45 minute and 60 minute non-stop music sets."

So said WDRE Program Director, Tom Calderone.

A creative way to sell non-stop music. Hmmmmm.

My production brethren, I must admit something to you. Whenever I'm asked to come up with something "creative," I always get a small knot in my stomach. To me, every new spot, every new promo, every new and innovative idea I try to think of is like a child to me. I give birth to each new concept with all the labor pains that go with it. (Of course, I'd never admit this to my higher-ups. I mean, geez, to them, I'm Sparticus! Daniel the magnificent! The Human Blow Torch! I can't let them know I'm human.)

Sweeps. Drop-ins.

I've heard so many in my eleven years in the biz. To me, they all basically sound the same. Put a nice effects bed with a few music accents, tings and pings under a balls-to-the-wall voice and bingo! Maybe change the voice around, make part of the read sound like it's on the phone, add a touch of echo. ZZZZZZZ.

Not me buster. No way!

If it's new and creative sweeps he wants; that's just what he's going to get. Time to let out the demon. Time to open the creative floodgates. Time to hold no prisoners. It's time for "Stream of Consciousness" production.

Yes. "Stream of Consciousness" production. How do you do it? Simple. You walk into the studio without an idea in your head, sit down at the board, and start putting down on tape whatever comes into your mind. Any kind of nutty sentence, voice, or concept will do.

Need inspiration? Here's where you'll find it:

1. SOUND EFFECTS - Have you ever just sat down and listened to your effects library? Sure, you look in the index when you know exactly what it is you need, but how about when you don't have a clue? Sound effects can be a powerful source of inspiration. Just grab an album or CD. Don't even look at what's on it. Turn it on, sit back, and listen. Let's say the first sound you hear is a jackhammer. Right away, an image comes to mind. Now, if your assignment was the same as mine, maybe you'd use that effect this way:

(Jackhammer effects)

Announcer: (Typical gruff construction worker) How many times do I have to hammer this in to you! There's 45 minutes of non-stop WDRE music coming up! Stick around!

Maybe I'd add the sounds of a construction sight under the read to enhance the image.

See? One effect. Instant idea! Not only that, it has an element of humor. It's not your typical sweep or drop-in. A cute little piece like that sounds pretty cool wedged between two songs, and it gets the job done. Sometimes, radio takes itself way too seriously! Radio should be fun to listen to. Besides, it never hurts to throw the listener off guard like that -- keeps 'em on their toes!

You'll be amazed at how many bizarre little vignettes and smatterings of conversation come into your head when you listen to sound effects. A maze of pictures careen through my mind! "Stream of Consciousness" production allows you to be carefree and silly. It sets your creative floodgates free, with very little effort. Sound effects and voice bring to life such wonderful little audio pictures.

2. MUSIC LIBRARY - Even with a lousy, crappy music library, you can create lots of fun little drops and sweeps. One thing I like to do is listen to a particular tune, create my own lyrics, and sing a silly song. Soundtracks can also give you tons of inspiration. (I particularly love horror movie soundtracks!) Once again, you have a situation where you can see things in your mind's eye through the music. Plus, it gives you a terrific opportunity to do lots of nutty voices, whether they're all done by you or by some of the air staff. Get those jocks in the production studio! Have some fun, dammit! It beats working!

3. YOUR INTERNS - Some of the wackiest stuff I've come up with has been with the help of interns. Have them sit in with you when you start playing around. An intern is like having a built in listener. They can give you opinions, make suggestions; even come up with ideas! The best part is, they're interns! They can learn something! Plus, if you don't like what they're suggesting... fine! Ask them to leave. After all, what do they know? (Just kidding, guys.)

The "Stream of Consciousness" method of production is pure, raw creativity. You go into your studio with no pre-conceived notions or ideas, and you emerge with a potpourri of wild inventive ideas. The system works for just about any production chore. It's perfect for quick, fun little sweeps and ID's, and it really kicks butt in commercials, especially the ones where you have a lot of creative free¬dom. People will think you're a genius! Trust me! The wildest thing about it all is, it allows you to put down on tape whatever comes into your mind at the moment and place it on the air where thousands upon thousands of people will be exposed to it. Best of all, the work is uniquely your own. The pieces all have a very individual quality about them. What I would think of on the spur of the moment is not what you would think of. If you're looking for an opportunity to create production that is yours and yours alone, this is the method to do it in.

The other night I was at home doing the evening dishes. I always have the radio blasting while I clean. In between two songs I heard one of my sweeps. I nearly dropped the dish in my hand; it sounded so cool! So different! So unlike anything else I'd ever heard. I had done so many of them one day, I forgot half of what I cut, so it took me by surprise! I loved it! (Patting my own back? Damn straight!)

Talk to your PD's. Tell them you've got a great new idea that will make the station sound fun. If they have any sense of daring, they'll take you up on your creative offer. If you have a hard time convincing them, have them listen to some of the pieces I've done in this vain on this month's Cassette. I guarantee you you'll get strange looks at the least and a chance to do some fun creative work at the most. Good luck!

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