R.A.P. Interview: Rick Allen

R.A.P. What's your basic plan of attack when producing a sweeper or ID?
Rick: First, I'll look at the line itself, the line of copy, and many times I'll get an idea of what I'm going to do sampling-wise just by looking at it. I try to visualize the copy and see what kind of audio would go with it. Then I look for impact words, words that need to be emphasized. With those, I'll filter them, repeat them, or add some type of digital effect to them to make them stand out.

R.A.P. What do you do with a voice track for an ID that doesn't need to be sampled. Do you process it in any special way before going to multi-track?
Rick: I'll still sample it. Most of the things that I do nowadays will go directly to the 2-track. I won't even do any multi-track work. That's what I use the MIDI for. It's much cleaner that way.

R.A.P. So the voice tracks and the synthesizer zaps and effects are all triggered by MIDI and dumped right to 2-track?
Rick: Right.

R.A.P. The fact that Emmis will build you a $350,000 studio says a lot about them. Tell us a bit more about the owners.
Rick: I'm blown away by Emmis. They're very programming and production oriented. They really want their stations to sound well produced. They know that a sweeper is going to be on the air just as much as a disc-jockey, so sweepers have to be good, fresh, and well produced.

They're willing to put the energy and the money into that. They're also good about keeping the production people involved with what's going on. We have marketing meetings about every Monday where we discuss the promotions and things like that. I don't know of many stations where the production guy is called in to those meetings to discuss promotions and the direction the station is headed in. I go out to dinner with the PD and the GM quite a bit, and we sit down and talk. They're definitely open to having as much input from as many people as they can. I'm real impressed with that, I really am.

R.A.P. Any advice for other prodo guys?
Rick: Don't forget the importance of the spots. A lot of guys will say, "well if I was doing promos only, I could get more excited...". I've heard some guys do some incredibly good production on spots, and a lot of the time, that is where their time is tied up. If they can be creative in that outlet, when they get to a position which is promos only, they're going to be that much better. There's a lot of time spent on a radio station airing spots, and if they can be good, and keep the people listening, that's pretty good programming justification to make sure you've got somebody good in that position. It can be a good way to be appreciated by management, by putting a lot of work into commercials, even though it may not be the type of thing you want to do right now. It'll pay off down the road.

Also, make yourself a part of the team. Make an effort to ask if you can be in on some of the meetings and that sort of thing. Generate some ideas, not just for production, but for all areas of the station.

And listen to everything you can get your hands on. I learned a lot of things from listening to old jingle demos. Even listen to TV commercials for ideas.

In the "don't" department, the one thing that kind of upsets me is the nonchalant attitude in production of, "well, here's a demo tape from a production company, nobody will mind if I take this little section out here and use it and not pay for it." I think that really cheapens the whole bunch of us.

The only other thing is to try and put out an overall positive attitude. I think it works because we all try to stay friends around here, and I don't think I've ever had a problem with the sales department that couldn't be solved by sitting down and talking about it. I've been in situations where people are shouting back and forth and nothing gets done, but I think if you just make sure they know you're not trying to steal money from their pockets, since they get paid on commissions, things can be worked out.

R.A.P. What's in the future for Rick Allen?
Rick: An interesting question, because I've always had the drive to get to the next rung. Free lance has satisfied a lot of my urge of this "what do I do next" thing. There isn't the next market, as far as size goes, and New York is a constant challenge. I haven't even come close to being bored in this market after 2 years.

I would enjoy working with a company like Emmis. I see them as progressive enough that they may take production to a centralized location for the chain, or they may want to start a production company, or I could see myself starting my own production company. I don't know, but right now, I feel really comfortable saying this is where I want to be for a while. The neat thing is, at most stations you have to move on to grow; I'm lucky to be with Emmis and with WQHT, a station and a company that give me every opportunity to try to keep up with them! I don't see getting tired of doing what I'm doing here for a while. Call me back in 5 years and see what I'm doing.

We'll call Rick back alright, and it'll probably be sooner than 5 years from now. We are also talking with him about the possibility of getting him to jot down a few notes on directing talent--a talent of Rick's he is well known for. Look for something in a future issue!

Suggestions for subjects of the R.A.P. Interview are welcome. Drop us a line, tell us who you have in mind, why you'd like us to interview this person, and how to get hold of him or her.

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