Welcome to the R.A.P. Forum, an open-format section of R.A.P. where everyone is invited to write about whatever their heart desires. This month, we hear from Randy Rhodes, Production Director at Dothan, Alabama's 96.9FM, WDJR.
Can you remember what your first Production Director gig was like? Remember finding the fun and turning around to see the huge responsibility and the challenge? Remember when everyone was too busy to teach you how to use the production studio? Remember realizing that there was a lot more to great production than you thought? Here are some of Randy's thoughts on being a Production Director for the first time in the country's 169th ranked market.
by Randy Rhodes
I am currently Production/Promotions Director at a classic rock/AOR station, 96.9 WDJR. In addition, I also do afternoon drive. This is my first gig as a Production Director, and I see it as a major challenge. It's also very interesting to see how the emphasis on production has changed in my six years in radio. I guess the thing about radio that I enjoy the most is the constant challenge of doing the hippest and most creative work you can do.
WDJR is located in Dothan, Alabama, but our signal covers the entire Florida panhandle. I'm talking from Pensacola/Ft. Walton Beach/Panama City Beach to Tallahassee. Not to mention that we cover southeast Georgia, plus our signal goes up to Montgomery as well. When I first thought about this situation, I thought, "WOW! Just think of all those jocks or GM's that travel throughout our vast coverage area!" You never know who's listening (of course this rule applies to all stations). So the pressure is on to do good production. Many people believe that major market means big town, and big salary. Sure, to a certain extent, but major market production can be done in any market, and good production stays in memory longer than the song that was played going into the stopset.
I started out in Nashville for KIX 104 (CHR) which changed to Classic Rock WGFX, and the entire time I worked there I constantly consumed knowledge. I worked with people who knew what they were doing, but no one ever really took me in the production room and showed me how to do production. As a part-timer at first, I would go to the station just to hang out and see the pros do what I wanted to do someday. (I know there are a lot of jocks who can see where I am coming from.) There is so much work to do that full-timers rarely have the time or the patience to take the part-timer in the prod room and give him some lessons on the basics, so I had to learn a lot of things on my own.
I believe a lot of people take production for granted and they believe that anyone can do it after messing up a few spots. In my opinion, production is like being a police officer. (I know you're anxious to hear this analogy.) Production is not the kind of work to learn while on the job.
Now that I'm at the stage I am, a lot of things have changed. Now I realize that there's a lot more to production. Those dudes with the brass balls who produce those concert and wrestling spots are the guys who make the big bucks. Let's face the facts, anyone can handle a four hour shift in afternoon drive but to be able to do good production is something else. A whole different perspective must be taken -- mechanics, rhythm, knowing when to give emphasis to what words.... It's really a lot like golf -- concentrating on all those things you were taught in order to play up to par.
Since we are a little shorthanded on staff, I find myself doing quite a bit of the production that is aired. It doesn't bother me to do it, but sometimes it's hard to stay away from making it sound like Randy Radio during the stopsets. This is where creativity comes to play as well as being unpredictable. One day while traveling home to the beach (which is a hour and a half drive), I heard my voice on three of the four spots in a stopset. This didn't fare well with me nor my PD, so I started getting more creative.
Since we're in a market with so many nightclubs, most of what I write and produce is for the clubs. One day I wrote a spot with a preacher as the spokesman. You know, I included words like brethren, and talked about how people who have strayed from the flock and are in need of fun should cast down their plans and go to this certain club. After seeing the copy, other jocks wanted to do their preacher voice for the spot. The club owner was thrilled with the outcome, and my PD wants me to save the spot for possible Addy material. The jocks got involved, the PD wants to enter it for an award, and the client loved the spot; and all because I decided to go with a different flow. Now it's a challenge to see just how off the wall I can get without sounding goofy.
I am very fortunate to have a PD who is a true whiz at production. I am inspired by his work and do pay close attention when he shows me his tricks. (One way I get people to teach me production is to just say, "Hey, I heard that killer spot. Could you show me how you put it together?") It helps to learn from others, but you have to develop your own style. I honestly believe that each jock has to find himself and build a production sound that fits him. You shouldn't strive to sound like someone else you may feel cuts good production, but strive to get your full potential exposed through your own style of production.
I probably spend more time in the prod room than I do in the on-air studio during my afternoon drive shift, and the thing that is so unusual is that I'm having fun doing it. Maybe that's the key to good prod work as well as good air work -- ya gotta have fun.