R.A..P. Interview: Frank Eriksen

Frank Eriksen: President of Creative Radio Productions, Boulder, Colorado, "A Radio Only Advertising Agency"

by Jerry Vigil

A "radio only" advertising agency? You probably figure this is just another name for a production house that writes and produces radio spots, right? Wrong. This guy makes the buys and takes the 15% commissions, too. This guy is Frank Eriksen, sole proprietor of Creative Radio Productions in Boulder, Colorado. A mixture of creative talent, good business sense, and an entrepreneurial spirit appear to have Frank and his "radio only" ad agency off to a great start.

R.A.P.: When did you get into radio and how did you develop your production skills?
Frank: I got into the business in May of 1978 in Aspen, Colorado. I worked in Aspen for about ten years. While I could have gone to larger markets, playing the game of packing a suitcase every two years, I loved living in Aspen. I was working at a great radio station with super numbers and was having a lot of fun, so I stayed. Later on, they hired a Production Director, but he was more like a person who just shuffled paper between the sales department and the jocks who were assigned the production. All the air personalities, including myself, were expected to carry their load of the production. It wouldn't be uncommon to cut four or five spots in a day.

R.A.P.: So, you basically had about ten years of jocking and producing in Aspen when you decided to start your own business.
Frank: Right. The business itself actually started three years ago, on January 23rd of '87 to be exact. The opportunity to start my own company just came along, so I started doing it part time. I was doing the morning show, so the hours worked out perfectly. I'd be in at six and out of the station at ten. My agreement with the station at this time was to do my four hour morning gig without any production responsibilities whatsoever. The rest of the day, I operated my own company.

In the beginning it was OK. I wasn't really all that serious about it -- I mean I was and I wasn't. My first clients, naturally, were the different retailers and shop owners that I had already done spots for. When I started the business, they wanted me to continue to do their production. I told them what I was doing and that I would have to charge them a nominal fee, and nobody was opposed to it. I started the business that way. The money I was making from the radio station paid all my bills, and whatever I picked up on the side in my production business was kind of like fun money. Then about a year ago I decided I should do this full time if I'm ever going to turn it into a success -- you know, find out if it's going to fly or it's going to die. So I left the station and jumped into it full time on Thanksgiving Day of 1988.

R.A.P.: Was the idea of a "radio only" advertising agency something you had thought about, or was it just a realization of "Hey, this is what I've got here"?
Frank: More the latter. When I started out, I was going to do my own full service agency. I was doing print and TV commercials and an occasional video marketing tape for some clients, but starting out as a one man show, it was just too much to cover. I knew nothing about print. I knew nothing about layout and design, and the costs became a little too prohibitive, at least in a small town like Aspen.

Sometimes, when you start a business, it eventually has a little mind of its own, and it eventually will show you what it should be doing. That's sort of what happened with this. This little mind said to me, "You really know radio. You do 90% radio and 10% other things." I thought, "Why even mess around with that other stuff? Just do what you're good at, what you know best, and devote all your energies to that end." So I did.

R.A.P.: You recently moved to Boulder. How much would you say the business has grown in the past year since you left the station and moved to Boulder?
Frank: I don't know if it has grown all that much. It has been pretty much on an even keel, maybe because of the economy or because I've moved the business to Boulder. So, I wouldn't say the business has grown, but it has been steady over the past year. I didn't see any growth potential in Aspen. In fact, I saw just the opposite. I thought if I really want to make this thing fly, I've gotta go to a market where there's a lot of business going on. I figured I had to go where there was more opportunity. There's more competition too, but competition I can cope with. The move to Boulder was on December first of '89.

R.A.P.: What are you using for a studio?
Frank: I was using the station's studio to start out with, and in September of '88 I got all my own equipment. I got a really great deal. In Aspen each year, they have this event called the Aspen Music Festival which is a festival of classical music and jazz. Top musicians and music students from all over the country attend. At this festival, they record everything they play, henceforth, they have their own audio department and they get tons of equipment donated by manufacturers. In the end of August, at the end of the festival, the festival sells all that equipment, with literally two months of use on it, at dealer cost. I just stumbled across this. I went out and bought a Tascam Studio 8 mixer and 8-track recorder, a little compressor/limiter, a Tascam 2-track, a couple of JBL speakers, a Yamaha amp, and I think I paid six grand for all that stuff. It was basically brand new, out of the box.

R.A.P.: What do you think of the Studio 8 from Tascam?
Frank: I like it a lot. I've had it for a year and a half now, and I'm still getting used to the equalization on it, but it's a super recorder. The DBX that's built in to it really cleans up the sound. I don't think it can be beat. Obviously, you can go into bigger machines with ½-inch tape, but I don't notice the difference that much. If you're recording music, then maybe you'd want to step up to something bigger like the ½-inch machines, but for what I'm doing, which is production music, sound effects and voice, it's real adequate. It's a great board if you're just starting out and you don't want to drop ten grand on a console and another ten grand on an 8-track recorder.

You really need eight tracks. The little 4-track stuff just isn't going to work; four tracks just isn't enough. With the Studio 8 you can put your own little studio together, with a couple of outboard effects units, for between seven and ten grand.

R.A.P.: Do you have your business away from home?
Frank: No, my office is in my house. It wasn't so in Aspen. I had a separate office there. When I moved to Boulder, I was going to set up a separate office someplace, but I decided what I really wanted to do was find a place big enough and try working right out of the house. I found a place and set up the office and studio inside the house. Now, I don't have to get up in the morning and drive to the office. I'll have to do that as things grow and I start adding some people to the staff, which is one of my goals for the next year, but for the time being, it's great. Last Friday night, I went to bed and woke up at 2:30 in the morning. I was wide awake. I decided if I'm going to be awake anyhow, I might as well do something. So I came into the office, turned on the computer, and started writing up some proposals and kickin' around a few ideas. There's no way I would have left the house to go to an office in the middle of the night.