Production 212: On–The–Job Therapy

Production-212-Logo-1By Dave Foxx

I believe that I am the luckiest person I know. Even after 23 years at the flamethrower in the number one market, I very often wake up and pinch myself, wondering how in the world I ever pulled this off. Every month, as I sit down to write this column, I’m amazed that I have the chance to rant about something I love so much to thousands of other broadcast professionals. Every time a call pops up inviting me to speak to a group somewhere about radio production, I always have to check myself to keep from exclaiming, “You want me? To do what?” Whenever someone wants me to be involved in the creative process for a product or service, I get giddy. The absolute magic of doing this has never worn off. I really hope it’s the same for you.

TherapyAs much as we love the job, there are some irritants we deal with too. On the commercial side you have clients and Account Executives. Need I say more? Well… all right, I’m planning to later in this article. On the imaging side, you only have one client, but for many it’s almost as bad with a PD who simply doesn’t get it, or a GM who’s so tight-fisted he cries when he gives you money, or throws a temper tantrum when you make a budget request. Let’s start by helping you deal with a situation just about everyone I know has come up a lot: a boss with a tight budget, especially when it comes to your plug-ins.

I have a really good radio friend who recently switched markets, definitely moving up in the world, but he was bummed that he had to give up his WAVES Diamond Bundle™ at the new place. Laughingly, I asked him “What are they, barbarians?” He asked right away, “What are you on, Mercury, the $20k bundle?”

As it happens, I have the Platinum Bundle™, which is just 30 plug-ins overall. The Mercury Bundle™ contains 250 component plug-ins and 100 processing algorithms. At $20k, this package should include dinner for 50 at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant here in New York! If I were producing music full time, it would no doubt be essential. As it is, the package I have is probably a little bit of overkill, considering I only use a handful of the plug-ins on a regular basis. I use the Ultramaximizer™ and True-Verb™ plug-ins in just about every session I make. Occasionally Enigma™, Metaflanger™ and/or the Q10 Equalizer™ come into play. Most of the time, I also use some of the native plug-ins, which are free.

If you’ve been following along the last few months, you know that I’ve been really preaching clarity of thought in your message. Adding a lot of effects to the voice will very often muddy the waters beyond seeing, or, in this case, hearing. Adding a lot of effects to the music, especially when it’s a known song, is just not right, plus, you run the risk of alienating the music fans in your audience. Other than editing around vocals, I play the music exactly as it comes on the CD. Now, if you’re sound shaping to make the song sound like it’s being performed live at a concert, that’s fine. Just don’t go nuts. Your effects should be very subtle. Otherwise, leave it alone.

So… I say, having a nice big fat plug-ins bundle is fun, sometimes very helpful, but honestly, it’s just not necessary. It doesn’t have to be a WAVES package either -- there are other plug-in designers out there who have everything you really need on a day-to-day basis. So, cut your boss some slack. Almost every software designer is willing to sell your station individual plug-ins, which can often be a very thrifty alternative, making your GM happy and keeping you covered.

Whether you’ve dealt with that or not, I know everyone has come across the “10 pounds of crap in a 5 pound bag” client who is insistent that you cover all of their points in every commercial or even promo. Usually, it’s a local client who fancies him or herself as the new expert on radio advertising and publicity. With those, you just have to grin and bear it, knowing full well that they are doing more to hurt their business and yours than they could ever imagine. The bottom line is always the bottom line and eventually, they’ll go away, convinced that you did something wrong, or they got bad placement and that radio advertising just doesn’t work.

Of course, we know better. With the right words and excellent production value, radio advertising is the most cost-effective and productive kind of advertising there is… period. But, what do you do when an outside promoter comes in and offers a contest so cool that your PD simply has to do it, and then you have to deal with way too much copy to cover all the promoter’s commitments?

Case in point: Pop 2 LIFE™. They just put together one of the coolest flyaway packages I’ve ever seen. Winners fly to Los Angeles, attend a movie premier with Kristen Bell, then a concert with Katy Perry at her old High School in Santa Barbara, followed by a beach party. It’s a prize trifecta for the CHR world, but the required copy points read like War And Peace!

Some of you no doubt ran with this promotion and your demand was worse than what I had to deal with because it was, by design, a national text-in contest, so you’re going to wonder what happened to all the “keywords” and “texting” information. I know it’s not fair, but having the size audience we do, we were able to opt out of the texting business from the get-go, securing a set number of winners, which allowed us to do what we did. (You’ll hear it on the CD, of course.) But the copy burden was still tremendous.

The key, in this instance, was to cover everything that was required with fewer words. This meant I had to creatively come up with a much more succinct bit of copy. Had I taken the exact words they requested, the promo would have gone more than half-again longer than we ever air on a promo. Instead of 50 seconds long, I got it done in 30.

Just so everyone knows the complete back-story, here are the original copy points I had to deal with:

Every weekday this week, listen for today’s Z payoff song during the 100 minutes of commercial free music at 4:30p.

When you hear it, caller 100 wins a trip to Hollywood for the premiere of “You Again” starring Kristen Bell in theaters September 24th.

After… you’ll head to Santa Barbara for a private concert and party from Katy Perry at her old high school where you’ll be the first to see Katy perform songs from her new album “Teenage Dream”… available August 24th.

Trips and concert provided by Pop 2 LIFE.

To see a list of the daily Z Payoff Songs, go to Z100.com

(Must include the hook from “Teenage Dream.”)

Now, listen to the finished promo on the CD.

I have to tip my hat to Scott Morello (Kiis108/Boston) for the verbiage about the concert. (Yeah, they ran with it too.) But, with that help and a lot of thought, I not only covered all the bases, but had enough time to include a decent set-up line at the top and a Katy Perry ID near the end.

A headache? Well, maybe a little one. Here’s my real advice in this kind of situation. Don’t always assume the promoter or client wants the exact phrases he or she gives you verbatim. As long as you get everything said artfully, keeping in tune with what your station sounds like the other 23 hours – 59 minutes and 30 seconds of the day, everybody wins… especially your audience.

I’ve said it before in this very magazine many years ago. I have the best job in the world. I sit in a dark room, play with toys all day, and every two weeks they give me money. Oh sure, there is a lot of pressure too: deadlines, angry account execs, even angrier programmers, and the huge pressure of trying to constantly keep things fresh and exciting can sometimes put a damper on anyone’s enthusiasm. But in the end, it’s still an amazing thing we do.

I love this job!