Q It Up: How would you rate the past year on a professional level?

q-it-up-logo2Q It Up: How would you rate this past year on a professional level, based either on personal experience or just observation of the industry as a whole; and what’s on your list of goals to improve things in the New Year? Are you going to upgrade that old computer? Finally get that new plug you’ve been wanting? Take some voice acting classes? Get your freelance business off the ground?

Todd Franklin [tfranklin11@sc.rr.com] T1 Productions, Cordova, South Carolina: 2008 was a prosperous year for me. I acquired several clients who solicited my services who I discovered were sent by word of mouth. Also, my studio and business acumen has increased by 25%. I look forward to enhancing my knowledge to take me through 2009 and beyond!! In 2009, I do plan to take some acting, business, and marketing classes so I can become more proficient with my production company. I also plan on upgrading some gear in the studio.

Andrew Frame [andrew@bafsoundworks.com] Brandi & Andrew Frame SoundWorks, P.O. Box 2051, Lehigh Acres, FL: 60% seems to be the magic number. All of my clients and many colleagues seem to be down 60% in revenue from 2007, which was down 60% from 2006. So, focus for 2009 is saving the mortgage (that’s not a metaphor) with a redoubling of efforts on building new business. We have reworked a very strong talent list, outstanding second-unit producers, and a timely-paying client base. So the entire focus on 2009 will be new business development to bring our net dollars back to pre-recession levels.

Blaine Parker [blaine.parker@salemla.com]: Man, one heck of a year. On the 10 scale, it’s pushing a 9—despite the state of the industry. 

Let’s start with the pain. Barometer of how things are out there: one rather good account rep recently said to me, “I really DO like Top Ramen noodles.”

I fear the new paradigm in desperation advertising: the many new clients who want to try “a one-day test” or “a one-week schedule,” and account reps and sales managers enabling it. Now, while I’ll never encourage a one-day or one-week schedule, there are ways to pull it off if you’re aggressive and intensely strategic. I’ve done it, and it’s a gas when it works. (Like one client with 5 spots a week who had to stop advertising because they couldn’t handle any more response.) Unfortunately, I see a lot of people with no chops for this kind of thing creating a long-term problem for us in the vein of “I tried radio and it didn’t work.”

But let’s not dwell on that. Radio will survive.

What’s good and where it’s going: Late last year, I convinced management to let me work 800 miles offsite. You should try it. My wife and I moved to Park City, Utah, and are currently residing in a house we built along a ridge at 8,000 feet. My production studio/office has a view of the Park City ski areas, the Olympic ski jumps, and occasional moose.

Interestingly, leaving Los Angeles seems only to have helped my voiceover career. I’m getting more VO than ever. Go figure.

In 2009, I resolve to spend a lot more time saying “The hell with it” and going skiing mid-week. For the new year, my wife and I are launching our own company. She has 20 years working the agency side as a copywriter with heavyweights like Grey, Deutsch, Ogilvy, McCann and J. Walter. We’ve decided that, especially in a time like this, smaller businesses need cost-effective help, and deserve better than they usually get. Despite not even having business cards yet—we already have three clients.

Gear-wise, it’s time to bring the new home studio together. I’ve just handed my old CPU back to the company and acquired my own blistering fast Dell workstation. Other New Year upgrades include incorporating a Telos digital telephone hybrid (they have a one-line unit for about 600 bucks); Avantone mix monitors (they only look like the fabled Auratone) and the Studio Projects C1 microphone. If you don’t know it, this is an alleged knockoff of the U87, manufactured in China. I won’t go so far as to say it really is a $300 U87, but it’s a surprisingly good sounding mic when used properly on the right voice. (I plan to always keep a TLM103 handy.) I hope to have all this together and dialed in by January 1.

Other resolutions for 2009 include getting more VO gigs, reaching for new heights as a copywriter, and perfecting my wood-fired Neapolitan pizza.

Oh, and I plan to broaden the reach of my weekly rants on advertising. Anybody who doesn’t yet get enough annoying junk mail from self-proclaimed experts, feel free to shoot a subscription request to shortfatads@aol.com.

Happy New Year to all.

Michael Pedersen [michael@redfm.ca], Red 93.1 FM (CKYE), Surrey, BC, Canada: The coming year will no doubt be interesting with a slowdown of the economy both North and South of the border. Sales will have to change focus and look for businesses that thrive in the current state of affairs. Now is the time to reward long term, loyal clients that have always supported your station. At our station, we plan on spending the first quarter filling empty commercial slots with contests and promotions involving some of these clients. This is the time when radio workers will have to roll up their sleeves and put in an honest day’s work, not just to help their stations, but to keep their own jobs. When business is down, there is no better time to create long term, positive relationships with clients and management. Keep the ball rolling and remain positive. We still have coffee!

Any Pro Tools user should be upgrading to v.8 the day it is released. An incredible release with more new toys than the small upgrade fee reflects. (Great for a struggling economy!)

Mitch Todd [MTodd@siriusradio.com]: I personally think radio imaging is on a “rebound” of sorts, perhaps fueled by hard times in general and in the industry. When times are tough, people begin looking at ways to improve their product. Not much we can do about the music in music formats, but there’s a LOT we can control with our own talent… on air & imaging. Radio has gotten horribly stagnant and predictable. I think this was a year of waking up and realization. Let’s hope the decision makers in 2009 empower their Programmers & Producers to try new ways and approaches. And don’t forget the great masters of yesteryears! Use old Bob & Ray, Dick Orkin, John Frost, etc. elements to reignite your own passion!

Johnny George [vo@johnnygeorge.com], www.johnnygeorge.com: Great question and I think I may have surpassed my list from last year. This past year was another growing year for the industry and us. We’ve been quite pleased with our client list and opportunities that presented themselves from our marketing plans that brought in additional revenue. This was year #3 of fulltime VO AD. (After Radio)

We upgraded the JGC DigiStudio to a Mac Pro - loaded! Then replaced my Pro Tools Digi 001 to a MBox 2. Didn’t like the quality of sound I got and the latency problem, so I upgraded later this past year to a rack Digi 003 and love it.

Upgraded the office Dell PC to a BEAST 2008, as we affectionately call it. Dual Core, 3.16 GHz w/ 5 GB RAM, 1.5 Terabyte drive for audio and all the other geeky fast stuff my IT guy put together for me, along with Windows Vista Professional Office, etc. etc. It screams. Additionally, finally added UPS for power protection.

On our plans for 2009 - Regular voice coaching lessons now in place with Nancy Wolfson, who is a wonderfully talented coach I had done a few tele-seminars with in 2008.  Plan to add a Sennheiser 416 to my equipment list since I’ve been so pleased with the sound I’ve heard from some of the other studios I record from when called in. Plus the rave reviews don’t hurt. ;-) Looking for a great deal - if you know of a preferred place, pass it on.

Marketing plans are scheduled to be reviewed in the first quarter and implemented since we dropped a couple of services in 2008 that were not bringing in any decent results.

I wish a very profitable and creative year for all and shall continue to network and work with my fellow VO professionals. Drop me a line anytime!

Harry Legg [HarryLegg@ClearChannel.com], www.harrylegg.com: 2008 was a year for readjusting strategies. Under the current economic difficulties, many radio stations have cut back their spending on Image Voice talent. Besides the US, I am fortunate to have a strong base of radio clients overseas. I focused much more on commercial and industrial voiceover work and it has paid off. The difficulty is that you can’t count on money from landing commercial gigs as you can with your guaranteed monthly retainer checks from client radio stations. You have to hustle and be inventive to constantly land work. It helps to have a well-rounded skill set. Many pure Voice Actors can’t produce - they only voice. That’s one of the areas where a radio pro has an advantage in the voiceover world. Radio people are frequently snubbed at the agency level because of the Mr. Microphone, pukey-delivery stereotype. If you’re a radio pro that wants to do voiceover, get some quality coaching - you need it whether you think so or not! That’s probably the best advice I could offer someone. I remember starting out in voiceover thinking, “I’ve been behind the mic for 20 years and have done a gazillion commercials - why do I need a voiceover coach or class?” Everyone needs it - remember, the best athletes all have coaches - it’s the same thing!

This past year I invested in a new mic preamp, the Manley Voxbox, and some more portable equipment so that I can better serve my clients and audition while I’m on the road. For the New Year, I may invest in a new Mac for my Pro Tools system, and I’ll take more personal voiceover coaching to make sure I stay on target!

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