Production 212: Ouija Boards and Palmistry

Production-212-Logo-1By Dave Foxx

Ever have an idea almost at exactly the same time as someone else? I’d imagine there’s a word for that; something like synchronicity or serendipity… weird might work too. Well, it happened to me this morning. I was actually typing a script for sweepers that would promote an upcoming appearance of an artist on Z100, when my APD waltzed in and said, “We need some sweepers that will promote an upcoming appearance of an artist on Z100.” Now, Sharon Dastur either thinks I’m psychic or realized that great minds think alike, because I showed her the mostly finished script that I was typing when she walked in. Personally, I believe she’s thinking more along the lines of crystal balls and Tarot cards. She’s been saying for years that I was psychotic, although I’m sure she means psychic. At least I think that’s what she means.

It turns out that the sweepers sound amazing on our air and I thought I’d share how I make them mostly out of stuff we have in-house. To DO that, I have to explain why we have this stuff in-house already, so you’re going to get THREE really cool ideas in one column. The second one is simply an extension of the first. The third is what I call an ‘Artist Billboard,’ the thing Sharon and I dreamed up at the same time and is the whole reason I started writing this particular issue of Production 212.

Just about every CHR, Country, Hot AC and Urban station I’ve ever heard, pre-promotes songs that they’re about to play. Sometimes they do it in the Top–Of–the–Hour, sometimes they do it as a simple quarter-hour maintenance thing going into a stopset. It IS the hallmark product the station is pumping out and it only makes sense to promote it ahead of time.

Z100 does it going into the last stopset of the hour, with a twist. The first thing you hear is a simple “Z100” stager with a static bed, over which the jock does a brief backsell or yaks for a moment about an upcoming contest or feature. Then the jock starts the “bumper-hook” kick, which says “In just a few minutes on Z100.” This is immediately followed by three “bumper-hooks,” all separate files that the jock has loaded into the computer, based on the next hour’s playlist, a few minutes prior to this time. Each “bumper-hook” is comprised of Kelly saying the artist’s name, followed by a 2 or 3 second hook of the song. After the last hook, a tag plays that says, “on the other side of this. Z100.” Then the stopset begins. To hear what this sounds like live, listen to the first part of my track on this month’s CD and then hit pause.

Everything is set up to run totally in “AUTO” mode so the jock only has to hit the initial stager and the kick. From that point on, it sounds like one solid piece of production. I even go so far as to put the trip tone on each piece a full 200ms before the actual end so that there is a slight overlap of audio. (“Tight makes right,” to quote a former PD.) In our system, there are actually three different kicks and four different tags, so the whole piece is basically ‘re-produced’ each time it’s aired, and there is a hook for every song we play, listed by title and artist so it’s easy for the jock to find. I put a second version on the CD so you can hear a variation on it. Again, hit play to listen and then hit pause.

A lot of work you say? Sure. But it sounds awesome, and it sounds fresh every time we play it.

OK. That’s the first idea. Number two is something I produce every day, but it’s so simple, it only takes me two minutes to do it, if that.

Z100’s evening jock, Romeo, does a nightly feature called the Interactive Nine At Nine. Like the Top 8 At 8 or the Super 7 At 7 that is done on most CHR stations, Romeo counts down the top nine requests of the day. During morning drive, we run a sweeper that gives the top three songs from the previous IA9@9 called The Interactive Nine At Nine Rewind. It’s a great way to ‘recycle’ the morning audience to nights.

I had Romeo record several versions of his tracks that say something like, “Good morning Elvis! (Elvis, the morning host always starts with ‘Here’s Romeo.’) Last night (or Friday night) we counted down the top 9 songs in New York. At number 3… (pause) at number two… (pause) AND at number one…. (pause) Join us again tonight as we do it again. Get your votes in all day at Z100 then, be here at nine for the Interactive Nine At Nine on Z100.” Using the same hooks that we use in our ‘bumper-hook’ segments, I then construct a full-blown 20 to 25 second piece that Elvis uses to start a song in the seven am hour. Because we know what the top 3 songs will be by 2pm each day, I produce the sweeper before I leave every afternoon. Part three on my track on this month’s CD is a prime example, with the intro for Beep by PCD under the back end. Hit pause after it’s done playing.

Now the third idea was an even further extension of the first two. I began by having Kelly record lines for each of the shows that will be doing interviews. All they are is “LIVE, with Elvis Duran and the Z-Morning Zoo,” or “LIVE, with Cubby.” Add to that “Coming up Monday (and all weekdays),” “Coming up tomorrow,” and “Coming up today,” and then I combined these with the ‘bumper-hooks’ and stock phrases I had her do when we first brought her on and I had everything I needed.

When we found out that Teddy Geiger was coming up to be on the Zoo a few weeks ago, I put together three sweepers for it in less than 5 minutes. Oh, and I should mention that the 5 minutes was enough time to do TWO more complete sets for Mariah Carey on the Zoo and Cascada on Cubby’s show. You can hear these three examples by pushing play again on your CD. You will notice as you listen that the back half of each sweeper is designed so it can play over the intro of whatever song we’re playing, as demonstrated on the last cut.

So there you have three ideas in one column. Impress your boss with all the new tricks you can do! Of course, if he or she is also a subscriber, you might just get started on one and then when the boss walks in and says, “I have an idea.” You can say, “So do I!” Your boss just might start to think you’re psychotic…or psychic…or something.

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