"...And Make It Real Creative!": Dear Andy...

by Andy Capp

(Note: The following letters are not real, only a figment of the writer's imagination and are not intended to imply that the writer even gets mail or would have any intelligent response if he did.)

Dear Andy,

I love your column and look forward to reading it each month. You seem very talented and wise.

I have a problem with one of our salespeople. He insists on having all of his clients voice their own commercials, whether they have any talent or not. The problem is compounded three ways by the fact that he's our top salesperson. One, it's hard to criticize the "Top Dog." Two, I waste all kinds of time in the studio making all these clients sound somewhat acceptable. And three, while we haven't had complaint calls, it sounds like his clients are on every other spot, stinking up our airwaves. I mean, every time I turn on the station, there's one of these geeks! I have an uncontrollable urge to spin the dial. Imagine what it does to our listeners! How do I put an end to this without slaying the Sacred Cow?

Signed, Client Complex

Dear Client Complex,

It sounds like you have a problem with communication and education in your station. I would ask the Sales Manager if you can conduct one of their countless sales meetings. Bring along the Program Director and have him explain the importance of good, consistent, balanced air sound, especially in regard to ratings, a word that sales folk understand as something that's important to revenue. From there, explain what makes a good commercial that compliments what the Program Director is trying to do. Also explain the importance of a well balanced break, not only to the sound of the station, but to the "stand out" factor of a client's commercial. Of course, none of this will help unless you make sure your "Sacred Cow" is at the meeting...and is paying attention! A good way to catch his attention is by playing examples of "good" and "bad" commercials, making sure that his clients' spots represent bad's "Greatest Hits." The other way to get his attention is with an electric cattle prod....

Dear Andy,

You seem very talented and wise. I look forward to your column each month and love it.

My problem is the station intern I can't get rid of. He's supposed to be an intern for the entire station, but he keeps hanging around the production room bugging me with endless "What does this button do?" questions. I'm too busy to waste my time telling him why I used Reverb Program 17 on one spot and Delay Program 8 on another! How do I lose him without making him lose his enthusiasm?

Signed, The Loner

Dear Loner,

I don't think you appreciate what you have! Here is a kindred spirit, someone who really wants to learn the ins and outs of production, someone who's just as excited about your new DAT machine as you are and really wants you to babble on about vintage Neumanns and compression settings! Something else to chew on...yes, training is a time-consuming process, but a well-trained intern can take care of a bunch of the "pesky detail" workload, freeing you up for the really important production while still getting home to catch the end of Leno. Besides, it's a great way to spiritually pay back the first person who showed you how to create tape echo!

Dear Andy,

Column -- read it, love it! You -- talented, wise!

I keep reading about all the great equipment other producers have in their multiple production suites, but my boss is so cheap that we don't even have a CD player, much less a production library to play on one! How am I supposed to do anything creative with a couple of cart machines, reels and turntables?!

Signed, Toyless

Dear Toyless,

As incredible (and cheap) as all the toys are that we're reading about, it's easy to forget that many producers still go without and even easier to forget that we all did our production with a couple of carts, reels and turntables (or less) not so very long ago! Even though your tools might seem primitive compared to the high tech marvels you read about, remember that a tool is only as creative as the person using it. As one of my friends so tactfully puts it, "DAWs? Big deal! It's still shit in, shit out!" While bouncing tracks between machines, manual splicing, tape echo and flange and all the other "old tricks" that you can take advantage of may take longer and aren't as pretty as computer interfaces, they can be just as creatively effective when used with sharp ideas and good technique. As long as the machines are clean and not humming (keep friendly with the engineer for problems like that) and you keep thinking, you'll do great creative! In a way I envy you. I cut my production teeth on set-ups like yours, and listening back, I'm amazed how creative I got without all the bells and whistles. In fact, I think my writing was probably even better, as I was forced to work with what I had and still make everything sound fresh and new. Yes, I envy you. Of course, I'll still kill anyone who tries to take away my Session 8.

Dear Andy,

I confess I rarely read your column and haven't really liked what I have read. You seem like a wise guy in desperate need of talent. What makes you think you have anything to offer the radio producers of the world?!

Signed, Confused and Bemused

Dear Confused and Bemused,

I can understand why you would question the credentials and knowledge of some idiot from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The truth is, I have no special insight. I'm like any other production person, grinding out commercials and promos, looking for ways to work smarter and faster, walking that razor's edge between sales and programming day in and day out. What I do have going for me is a passion for Radio and a desire to share that passion. I also believe that, in the multi-media age, radio folk need to band together and share creative ideas, if we're going to survive as an industry. This is my way to share what little I know. I appreciate your letter and hope this answers your question, Tom. (My General Manager...like I wouldn't recognize the letterhead.)

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