R.A.P. Interview: J.R. Nelson

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J.R. Nelson, President, J.R. Nelson Productions, Medina, Ohio

by Jerry Vigil

This month we check in with another of our industry's great veterans, an outstanding producer and voice talent with a name synonymous with great radio. His distinguished career spans nearly thirty years, and success continues to be his partner even today. Join us for an inspiring and entertaining visit with J.R. Nelson.

R.A.P.: Let's start with a rundown of your background in the biz.
J.R.: I started in 1965. I was 15 or 16 years old and worked at a little station in Fostoria, Ohio, WFOB. I did everything the usual kid does, run the gospel tapes and all that kind of stuff. By the time I was a senior in high school, I was hired to do mornings at a station in Toledo.

After high school, I played in a lot of bands. One of the bands I played with was the opening act for Vanilla Fudge for about six months of their tour. We had the same management as Joe Walsh and Eric Carmen. It was kinda neat back then, and I was very lucky to be brought up in that era when nobody knew what the hell was going on. So, I got all that crap out of my system early.

I got sick of playing and went to college in Montreal. Then I worked at CKGM in Montreal, both stations, AM and FM. This was in 1970 and '71. The AM was Top Forty, and the FM was the first progressive station in Canada. I did the all nights on the AM, and weekends on the FM. This is where I got interested in production. The FM was totally free form radio, and back then, they believed in equipping the stations. There was a sixteen-track sitting in there, and there was a bunch of us who would just sit around in there, play radio, and discover what we could do. I was also doing a lot of session work at Andre Perry studios in Montreal. I did some keyboard work and learned a little bit about producing, real producing. I was also hanging around there while Frank Zappa was mixing down that live album he did.

Then I went to work for KAKC in Tulsa. This is where I started my production company. I did novelty songs for a car dealer, and these songs ended up being his advertising campaign. I did that same package for about ten car dealers across the country. I think the first station I ever did sweepers for was a little station in Clyde, Ohio -- one of those where the guy says, "Here's ten bucks. Read this."

After Tulsa, a guy named Chris Bailey and I set up KBEQ in Kansas City. Chris was the PD and I was the APD and Music Director and morning guy. Then, a year after that, Chris and I both moved back to Cleveland and set up WGCL. After that, I went to WGAR. From there, I pretty much stayed in Cleveland. I was at WHK/WMMS from '78 until '80 doing creative for both stations.

In '80, I wanted to program again, so I got involved with this PD at WBBG in Cleveland. Then I went back with Malrite and helped them set up KNEW in San Francisco, and by this time, I was your basic, full-fledged cocaine addict. Then I had a mild heart attack. My parents had a little winter home down in Tampa, Florida, so I went down there, dried out, and went to work for a little recording studio there.

After a while, I got a call from an old boss of mine, Gil Rosenwald, saying they were buying this station in Livingston, New Jersey. The studios were in Livingston, New Jersey, but the transmitter was in Newark, and they were going to move to the Empire State Building. He wanted to know if I wanted to go work for them. I said, "Who's your PD?" He said, "Scott Shannon." Well, I knew Scott from Tampa, and Scott and I were two people just alike -- two stubborn, bull-headed people. The station was Z100, and we had a lot of fun.

We were there for about three months before we actually signed the thing on, going through tapes, building the studios, etc.. I didn't want to be on the air. I was just going to do creative for them. Then, about a week before we were going to sign on Scott said, "Well, did you ever read news?" And I said, "I've never read news in my life!" and he said, "Well, you're going to start now." Oh, it was nice. It's your first time trying to be a news person, and where are you? In New York City. It's a humbling experience, but I only had to do news until we hired someone. Anyway, everybody did everything they had to do in the beginning. The production part to me was the most fun because we had a ball at that station. The industry was changing so much back then and so was the technology. After five years, my contract was up, and I said, "Hey, that's enough." I decided I needed a total change of lifestyle. So, I moved to San Diego and started raising horses.

R.A.P.: You got out of radio and your voice-over business to raise horses?
J.R.: Oh, no. I kept my side business. By this time, my side business was doing great. Actually, my ex-wife was running my business. In 1988 we had 250 active stations around the world. I've got two reps in Europe. We've been involved in Europe since 1978. I've got maybe 65 active stations now, but most of them are European. Back when I started doing the stuff, it was me, Driscoll, Bobby Ocean, and a few others. Now it's everybody and his brother, or sister, and because of that, the prices are down. The economy's bad here, but the economy is great in Europe. It's just like New Zealand. I'm trying to set up an office in New Zealand right now because they privatized the broadcast industry a few years ago, and that's just a wide open market. In fact, I would move to New Zealand in a second. It's beautiful, absolutely beautiful.

R.A.P.: What else are you doing besides voice work?
J.R.: I also do a lot of original music. In fact, I just finished my first jingle package that we're selling now which is a bizarre package. It's called Image Mix One. The radio stuff I'd say is fifty percent of the business right now, and I do a lot of music scores. I do music for everything -- a lot of commercials, stuff for Busch Gardens. I've done a lot of stuff for MTV -- stabs, a lot of weird effects, stuff like that. I just did a thing for GM Motors Cadillac dealers. We did a bunch of sound tracks for PBS specials on the Sonora Desert. I would love to score films because the type of music that I do is quite off the wall.

R.A.P.: Didn't you do a couple of production libraries?
J.R.: Yeah, I've had a couple. In fact, I'm just finishing up another one now. It's a television news themes package. It's called News Source. It's been out for about six months, and it's going real slow because the TV music market is pretty much locked up by three people. We've sold a few packages in Europe, but here in the States it's pretty slow.

There was also a forty cut promo bed I did a long time ago, Bubba's Big Time Beds. That was back in the '80s in New York. The whole time I was in New York, I also had a recording studio down in Florida. My partner, Mark Rose, was down there. I would go down there twice a month on the weekends, and I did that for three years. We also did a lot of industrial work.

I've also done a lot of syndication stuff. I was the producer for Rockin' America, the show Scott had on Westwood for a long time. The syndication stuff is really what I'm getting more into as far as the day to day business. I've still got a lot of stations on monthly retainers, and the new jingle package is doing pretty good, too. But what I really love to do is syndication. That's what we're trying to set up in Europe because services in Europe are just wide open, and they're crazy enough to buy anything.

R.A.P.: Do you have some shows in mind for syndication?
J.R.: I've got one done already. It's called The Weekend Radio Network. In fact, I know the people at K-Mart pretty well and I'm trying to pitch it to K-Mart to do it as a satellite service. But, money is so tight right now. It's totally related, in the long run, to the state of radio. I mean, everything has to be sponsored. Concerts have totally been sponsored for how many years? And now with radio being a basic bean counter business as opposed to a creative business which it was ten years ago, you have to go with the flow. A lot of it is just the basics of economics. It's a totally different business. To tell you the truth, I'm glad I'm not into it on a day-to-day basis anymore.

R.A.P.: How busy do you stay doing voice work for stations?
J.R.: Today, I got nine or ten faxes. I probably spend only five hours a week on it because I go through it pretty fast. I'm just dropping the voice track, and the stations are producing. If it needs to get produced by us, I send it down to St. Petersburg and have Mark do it in the studio down there. I'll do all the music and effects here. Then I'll send that down to Mark on DAT and send the voice tracks to him on another DAT.

R.A.P.: What made you decide to get into hauling jingle singers into the studio to create a jingle package?
J.R.: Well, two things. Number one, I found this guy who is probably the greatest jingle singer I've ever heard in my life, the most versatile. His name is Scott Campbell, a young kid, about 28. I was talking with one of my accounts, Capital Radio of London, about doing some weird stuff, and they were saying how they wanted some jingles that would just grab you by the balls and set you down. So, I thought about it for a while, and Mark came up with some wonderful ideas. Basically, we reinvented the jingle to the point where it's entertainment. WIP sports radio in Philadelphia is buying this package, and there's everything on this package from metal to a 48 voice track Prince-like thing. There are just some wonderful things in this package that are so bizarre you can't believe it. It's for radio stations that have got balls, so automatically you're only looking at twenty-five percent of the industry. Out of that twenty-five percent, maybe only half would consider it because it is a definite statement. And besides that, it's cheap.

R.A.P.: It seems like a lot of things are getting cheaper these days. How do you make money in an economy that forces you to lower the prices of your products while maintaining quality?
J.R.: Well, basically, you have to create the demand. Five years ago, I used to charge almost double what I'm charging now, but I can't charge that now. Ten years ago there were very few good Production Directors. There were very few who could take raw voice tracks and effects and mix them down with processing and really do a good job. Nowadays, there's quite a few, and that's what makes it easy for me. I just give them the voice tracks and beds and effects on DAT or reel and let them play with it. Consequently, it cuts my cost down enormously. Some of the other production companies don't look at what the stations' needs really are. In my case, I saw a need in sports radio. I have three of the biggest sports radio stations in the country just because nobody else was doing stuff for them. That requires making original beds, beds that will fit that kind of format or allude to that fact.

You really need to understand that you're not dealing with General Managers who have radio experience anymore. You're dealing with bean counters. I spent an hour with a certain banking company trying to explain to them what I did for a living, and they had no idea. "I'm sorry, Mr. Nelson. It's not in our charts." Well, how can you deal with them?

I haven't even counted on the U.S. market since '89. I've concentrated on Europe, and that's where I've made the money. Whatever happens in the U.S. is fine, but I don't really actively look for it. There's too much out there. I can get better dollar figures in Europe. I'd rather have a rep over there. I pay him a couple of shekels, and he's happy. And it's all cash in advance, so I'm happy. Plus, I really have more fun cutting the European stuff than I do the U.S. stuff because everything is so serious here in the States. I've got liners for some of the stations in Europe...well, Star FM in Athens, Greece, for example. We're doing liners for these guys that would make the stuff on the old Pirate stations seem mild. Mark and I did a package for a station in Holland that wanted the most bizarre things you could ever come up with. There are a lot of people out there being creative.

R.A.P.: In what other ways have you found the European market to be different than the U.S.?
J.R.: Well, I'll tell you one thing that I bet you haven't heard of. This started about six months ago in England. The British government, in a wonderful attempt to make more money, decided, "Okay, here's what we'll do. We'll give you a 25 kilowatt FM stereo transmitter which covers a city block or so. You're not going to get big coverage, but we'll give it to you for twenty-eight days for six thousand pounds. You can do whatever you want to with this radio station. There's no obscenity laws. There's no nothing. You do whatever you want to. You give us the six thousand pounds, and at the end of the twenty-eight days we take back your transmitter." You can get this thing twice a year, but no more than twice a year. It's true. So what's going on is all these trust fund kids over there are going, "Hey man, let's get a radio station and say 'fuck.'" So they're spending the six thousand pounds, getting these twenty-five watt transmitters from the government, and are having fun.

Well, I didn't even know about this until three months ago. Now, a lot of hospitals in England are buying these things to use as entertainment for their patients. Well, my rep calls me and goes, "Hey, I don't even know if you want to do this or not, but I got this guy who wants you to cut these liners for this hospital," and I said "What?" He faxed me this thing and I said, "Listen. Fine, I'll do it, but show him the rate card." So he showed him the rate card and the guy said, "Fine."

Here's the funny thing. We're now selling jingle packages to these stations. We're working on one now for Radio Waldo, a station these guys are going to run on these twenty-eight day transmitters, but the package is only going to be good for twenty-eight days!

R.A.P.: You're cutting a jingle package for some rich kid named Waldo?
J.R.: Yeah. His name is Waldo. I have no idea what his last name is, you know, but he and a bunch of his buddies got six thousand pounds and got themselves a station. Actually, they're spending more on production stuff than they are the damn license! I'm cutting drops, too, but they're buying a ten cut jingle package, and that's like eighteen hundred or something like that. In one of the jingles they want us to sing, "Fuck the Beeb" which is the BBC. I said, "Okay, fine. I don't give a shit." But it's little things like that which you never hear about, and I've turned that on to a couple of friends of mine. Hey, there's a market out there. Go for it. Have fun. Andy Capp, who writes for you people, is a friend of mine. I called him right away and said, "You've got some good beds and effects. Call this guy." He did, and he's selling stuff!

R.A.P.: Did you have a lot of formal musical education?
J.R.: Yes. I was one of these kids who was sitting at the piano at the age of four playing by ear. I had fifteen years of actual lessons. In fact, I was going to be a concert pianist. Now, because of technology, you can sit there and do your own beds. For somebody like me who has practiced and worked at it for years, it pisses you off at times, but you go, "Okay, I'll just make mine a little slicker." That's what has made it nice for the average person in the industry. With a Macintosh, you can drive anything.

This is the only thing that bothers me about radio now, as far as production is concerned, because the people who are going to come up and know how to run computer studios, are going to be going to the advertising agencies and recording studios after a couple of years because the agencies and studios can afford to pay them more money than the radio stations can. In fact, I've seen a couple of really good production assistants leave radio stations and go with studios just for that reason. It's a different animal now, and managers are going to look at that differently. Of course, it's going to take them a while to educate themselves, but after they lose about their third or fourth Production Director to a recording studio, they're going to go, "Oh yeah, maybe I should pay them more." I think that is what's going to happen, basically because of digital technology.

When I grew up, digital technology was huge, and you had to have a degree from MIT to even run a computer. Now it's so simple. Even Scott Shannon can run it! The thing is, there are no more excuses. I used to say, "Oh man, I can't do it. I've only got a 4-track," or, "I've only got an 8-track." Well, you don't have those excuses anymore. I've seen whole Macintosh systems going for $7,000. All you need is a board, and there you are. You don't have an excuse anymore.

R.A.P.: You're right. And the digital revolution also means we can't be as sloppy in the studio anymore.
J.R.: Hey, there used to be a lot of jocks who could get away with doing sloppy production because it sounded all right once it hit the air. But now, because of digital technology, it has to be very, very clean. You're going to notice every breath. You're going to notice every little mistake you make, which is good on one hand. On the other hand, you create a situation where people are going to expect that. Twenty years ago you wouldn't expect cleanliness as part of the package. Nowadays, people expect that clean sound. But that digital sound can also make you sound sterile, and I think it's important to know how to warm that digital sound up. When I do voice work, I EQ the hell out of all the processing just to get whatever warmth I want, especially in reverbs. I must have fifteen or twenty different reverb settings for the various types of attitude. On some of this stuff you'll never hear any high end. On others I'll run it with a delay. Even now, when I do original music scores, I've got an old 8-track hooked up that I forward all the drums to just because I want that good, fat, analog sound on the snare that you can't get on digital. What we're used to hearing, and what it really sounds like are two different things.

R.A.P.: You mention having various settings for voice processing. What's different about how you process your voice for a CHR format versus a news format, both on FM?
J.R.: Here's what I do for WIP in Philadelphia and CNN in Atlanta and stations like that. In the Eventide H3000, there's a chorus that I really EQ the hell out of to bring out more low end and mid range. I'll run that, say twenty-five percent of the mix with the voice track. Then I will run a warm hall reverb but EQ out all the low end and just have the high end present. What that does is give you a more bright, attentive sound as opposed to a relaxing sound.

Now, for CHR. On one CHR setting I've got an SPX90-II that I've got set on a chorus that I've EQ'd the hell out of. Then, out of that is a delay, a real quick delay from channel to channel. Then, on top of that I've got two flangers because for CHR I'll use two different mikes. I'll use one mike for news/talk and light rock and that kind of stuff, but for CHR and AOR I have two different mikes that I run simultaneously just to give a different edge to it. One is an old ribbon mike, a terribly old ribbon mike from back in the '50s. The other mike is one of those super two thousand dollar, fancy-smanshy, clean-as-a-bell things. Now, you don't compress the good mike a lot, but you compress the shit out of the bad mike. Then you add flangers and whatever else you like, and when you get to the finished product, you've got something that is standing out about two hundredths of a second between channels. It's coming out voice first, with the effects about two hundredths of a second later, so it's one of those bigger than life kinds of sounds.

There are a lot of tricks like that. It all depends on what you want it to sound like. I'll tell you a classic story. Scott Shannon came in one time and said, "Hey man, I want you to make this sound digital." I said, "Scott, look, there's analog or there's digital. It's like a kind of system, see? It isn't sound. Now, what the hell do you mean make it sound digital?" Scott and I are the best of friends, we really are. "Man, just make it sound digital." And what he wanted was a metal sound to his voice. It took me about a week, but I did it.

R.A.P.: What are some general thoughts on production in today's radio?
J.R.: Radio is boring. Nobody experiments anymore. When I was young, of course that was back in the dark ages, I would go into work on my day off and just run a voice track through every piece of processing I had just to see what it would do. Nobody does that anymore because there's no motivation from the top. You don't take the time to be creative because you're too concerned with covering your butt. Plus, there's nobody out there teaching. I can count on one hand how many programmers are out there that can actually teach a young talent how to be a personality. They're just not out there. The same thing with production people. I've been very lucky. I've had a lot of good assistants. And really, I would prefer someone right out of college so I could say, "Listen, here's what not to do. Do it this way. Go play. Go have fun." The industry lacks that.

You also have the LMAs and the duopolies where you've got a poor production guy sitting there all of a sudden doing two or three radio stations and trying to write copy and everything else. Well, the best advice I can give him in a situation like that is to keep it simple. I heard the greatest concert spot in the world about three or four months ago when I was driving down to Florida. Some tiny radio station in Tennessee had a concert spot for 38 Special, I believe, and all you heard was the very last sting of a song by the group recorded live. Then the crowd would come up, and then there would be a sting from another song and the crowd would come up again. And the tag line was, "If you want to hear the rest of it, be at the Wherever Civic Center." That, to me, was so simple, but it was the neatest spot. You've heard the music, so you knew that was 38 Special. It was so simple, and yet it was right to the point. That's the kind of production we need. We've lasered ourselves to death. I mean, I quit sampling years ago, and I've still got stations who want me to sample stuff. Please, get a life already. Realize that this is 1993. Sampling was invented in '76, you know?

R.A.P.: Well, what else is there in the '90s? Haven't we done all the processing that we can do to the voice? We've sampled, flanged, delayed, echoed, EQ'd and everything else. What's next?
J.R.: I think the whole secret is gonna be with production people who have some kind of musical knowledge, production people that can build the music tracks or the promo beds around the voice track. It's a tedious process, but it can be done. In other words, you cut your voice track first. Then, play and produce the music to fit that. It's an old trick. They used to do that years ago. I think it was one of the laundry detergent companies who would cut the voice track first and then bring in somebody to score music to the meter of the voice track. Of course, back then you had to bring in the twenty-one piece band, and it was a pain in the butt. But now, with the keyboard and with one finger, you can sit there and just do a melody line, add a couple of voices and transition things, and have a killer spot or promo because the music is going to follow the natural rhythm of the voice.

This reminds me of another good trick. Sometimes when I get a voice track cut, I'll have a bunch of really old drum samples -- I mean really old, raucous drum samples -- and I will sit there and play along with every word that I say. You know, "Capital Radio, London -- da-da-da, da-da-da, da-da," in the same meter as the voice. It's there, but it's so subtle you don't hear it. It's little things like that which make it simple but yet, in the long run, give it such wearability.

R.A.P.: What are some thoughts on producing promos for the '90s?
J.R.: It's all in the presentation. You have to remove the hype element, yet maintain the urgency, and a lot of that is nothing more than the copy. Instead of, "Hey, you can rip us off for a pair of tickets!" it's more like, "Let us share a pair of tickets with you." In other words, take the verbiage away from the hard, attacking angle and make it a more relatable type of a thing.

One of the greatest promos I ever heard in my life was by some guy at a little country station who obviously spent hours and hours doing it. He had every word read by a different announcer, and it was a short promo, twenty-seconds or so. But it was so neat the way the thing worked. It's the little things that make the big difference.

And now you've got the problem of money being tight, so you've got sponsorships that are going to rip the copy apart every five seconds. So keep it as simple as possible. Let the momentum of what you're actually doing carry it. Don't try to over-zap it, and don't throw in a cash register effect every time you mention money. Come on, they know what that is. A lot of it is insulting the intelligence of the listener, and I guess that's what always pissed me off about CHR radio. I worked in more CHR stations than in anything else, and there was always that mentality. It was like, "Well, we're gonna give away money now -- (cash register SFX)." Come on, they know that! Give them a break! That mentality in one hand made CHR very exciting to listen to back in the late sixties and early seventies when there was nothing else going on, but now when you take that approach, people are going, "Yeah...I've heard that crap before. Goodbye."

I think the most successful promos -- you're going to laugh at this one -- are live. Get a really good produced bed and let the jock read the damn promo live! I don't care what anyone says, I think it sounds great on CHR. On other stations it sounds like crap, but on CHR you've got that momentum -- especially dance stations. It actually gives the jocks something to do, and it makes for a more personable approach. That's what radio has been lacking. That's what made Z100. It was a family, a personable radio station. You knew everything about every person on that radio station just by listening to it. You don't have that anymore. You really don't.

A lot of it is letting your guard down and being able to laugh at yourself. I mean, if you're giving away a stupid prize, you're not going to have the 1812 Overture behind you. You've got to laugh at it -- "Your chance to win a six-pack of bagels is coming up" -- I mean, you have to be real. If nothing else, this X Generation is going to tell us one thing. They're going to say, "Okay, the hype's over with. Tell us what the straight shit is."

Programmers now have got to have two printouts to make a decision about anything. They don't rely on their gut. In fact, that's what this whole demo is about for my new jingle package. In the beginning I say, "Listen, if you've never flown by the seat of your pants, turn this thing off because you won't understand," and that's true. You've got to have emotion!

I was so lucky. I was able to meet Orson Welles when I was a young kid, and to me it was a big deal because he was the master of the old theater of the mind stuff. But more than that, he took it to a different level. Well, nobody does that anymore because it's all "play it safe, ten in a row, give away a car," and there's nothing there. You have to feel what's going on.

And people now are nothing more than numbers. You know, "What does the research say? Okay, fine." Programmers don't feel anymore. You get a few who do. A real good friend of mine, Brian Phillips/99X, is probably one of the few people I know who is an actual feeling programmer. I mean, he feels that whole radio station, and you can tell it's a Brian Phillips station just by listening.

R.A.P.: Maybe these programmers are just doing what their managers tell them to. Maybe this "feeling" of the station has to come down from management, from the top, as you said earlier.
J.R.: Well, it does. It reminds me of the NAB in New Orleans a few years ago. I was down there with a buddy of mine, and we had buttons made up that said, "Radio is for Broadcasters." We were passing them out, and the reason we did this was because there were no broadcasters there. They were all bean counters. I ran into a couple of broadcasters that I knew from years ago, but the general population of that NAB was all bean counters, and it was amazing. You sit back and realize that's why this industry is the way it is, because nobody allows you to be creative.

I'm a teacher of metaphysics and have been for ten years, and the first thing that anybody learns in metaphysics is that you create your own reality. Well, that's what we've done with this industry. We've over-leveraged ourselves. You're not going to find six figure production salaries any more. Ten years ago it was a different ball game. Now, the days of making the good money are gone. So, you have to make adjustments. But it's a cycle. I think the smaller companies are using their upper management to motivate their people by saying, "Listen, we're fortunately in a business where we can play and make a living, so let's do that. Let's have fun. Let's play radio." Why I say it's a cycle is because the bankers had to take over a lot of radio stations in the last five years, and they're going to have to spin those things off sooner or later. Well, they're going to have to get broadcasters to run them because what they are finding out is that the people they were putting in to run them can't run them because they know nothing about the business.

So, it's a situation that will correct itself, but in the process there may be a lot of good, young talent lost, and that's the thing that really pisses me off because there are a lot of good, talented kids out there. They just don't have anybody to smack them around and say, "Hey, come on! Do it this way," but it will happen.

That's one advantage of being an old fart like me. You can sit back and look at the old days in the '60s and especially the progressive radio. If you look back when progressive radio started back in the late '60s and the advent of AOR and classic rock and all that stuff, it was all cycles. I remember when WMMS first went on the air. They would play commercials at half volume because they didn't want to offend anyone, but they just talked all over the music. They always talked over the intros. Then you went through the period of time where the rule was, "You don't talk over the music, and you don't talk any louder than this," and all that kind of BS. Well, here again, it was a full cycle. Take the classic rock of today. It's nothing more than the beautiful music approach of the announcer to the music. If you look at what a jock does on a classic rock station and what an announcer does on a beautiful music station, it's the same thing, the identical same thing. The only difference is the music.

R.A.P.: You refer to management today as a bunch of bean counters. What other differences do you see between today's management and the managers of yesterday?
J.R.: Well, there might be a lot of bean counters today, but they're a lot more sophisticated. Back in the old days you could bullshit anybody. I know because I did it. I've gone to General Managers back in the '70s and said, "Honestly, man, we gotta have this," and we'd get it. Nowadays, you can't do that.

Back then, too, there was a major gap between programming and sales. You never talked to a salesperson. You just didn't do that. General Managers back in that era would often say, "Damn it, my wife hates that song, and I'm gonna have them quit playing it." And that's what happened. Now, at least you have research to say, "No you can't take that song off because your wife hates it."

You also have what I consider to be a very challenging environment for managers now because of LMAs and duopolies. Now they have to put on three hats. Of course, they have to put on the bean counter hat. But now you're talking two stations, and, generally speaking, if they are a country station and a rock station, or something like that where the formats are diverse, he has to be able to understand both of those formats and wear the country GM hat and the rock GM hat. By taking the time to try to understand both of those formats, he's done more than the average General Manager with just one station. So, there's a little bit of an education process as far as managers are concerned now. If they are bean counters, they are going to have to learn a little about the format to know the difference between station A and station B, and the needs of each.

R.A.P.: What advice can you give to Production Directors on how to do their job better in the '90s?
J.R.: Well, a lot of it has to do with attitude. You're going to laugh when I say this, but the best thing that a Production Director can do in 1993 is to listen to his clients. I've always been the kind of person who has specialized in the hard-to-please asshole accounts because I used to listen to them. Nobody listens to people. They may not be able to communicate to you what they want, but you have to realize now that you don't have another advertiser waiting to fill that one's shoes if you piss him off and he leaves. You've got to keep clients.

We're a service business, and the whole thing is to give them options. This is going to sound dumb, but I have done spec spots and sent them out on a cassette with the full produced spot first, and then I would just dub the voice track as the "second version." I would tell the salesman, "Okay, tell him there are two different ideas and see what they think." Now, to us, two different ideas means two different production ideas, but not to a client. To a client it just means two different approaches. So, they hear the full produced thing, then they hear the voice track itself and they go, "Yeah, okay. What I'd like to do is run that voice track, the second one, in afternoon drive, and I want to run the other one in morning drive." Now you and I know it doesn't make a bit of difference, but to that client, well, you've given him an active choice in his marketing. Now, that's something that a lot of places don't do, and I think that if they would, even if it's a smoke screen like I just described, you're still giving him a choice. And, when a client realizes, "Hey, you're taking time to help me! You're actually giving me a choice here," that guy's going to be back.

So I think a lot of it is forgetting the glitz of the business and getting down to basics and remembering that it's a service business we're in. We're here to serve people. Sometimes in this business we forget. We're more concentrated on making glitzy promos and sweepers which is fine, it's part of the fun job. But, the bulk of your job is to serve. And don't think that the salesman is against you because he's not. Everyone is on the same page. Just the simple thing of attitude is the best advice I can give because it will filter down to every little thing that you do.

R.A.P.: What about Program Directors and their relationships to the production people? Any thought there?
J.R.: With programmers, you have so many schools of thought, so I guess it's hard to generalize. The best thing I can tell you is to give them ideas. With PDs, you're talking egos just as much as with managers or anybody else. Show the PD that you want to help him. I had a PD once -- I won't say who it is -- who was a real asshole. It wasn't Scott. We were having a problem with a promotional campaign, and he didn't like anything I was doing. I went through five or six completely different renovations of the campaign. Nothing could please the guy. Then I called the guy up at home one night and said, "Listen, I've got an idea...," and it was just a very simple little idea. But just by making the call off hours and saying, "Listen, what do you think of this?" the guy totally changed. He realized finally that I was on his side!

Programmers nowadays, especially with the LMAs and duopolies, can be replaced in a second, and they know it. So, build a team. You've got to work together. Programmers are famous for changing their minds every five seconds. That's the nature of the beast, and that's what you've got to be able to accept. If you can't accept change, then you're in the wrong business. You do the promo, and you bring the PD in and say, "What do you think of this?" Let him make changes. That's what his job is. As far as how you handle the criticism, the best thing I can say is don't take it personally. You have to get down to basics, and the basics say check the egos and realize you're in a service business and just as much as you're going to serve the client, you're going to serve the PD.

R.A.P.: Any final thoughts for our readers?
J.R.: I think that what I've learned throughout the years -- and I've had a rocky road just like everybody else in this business -- I think a lot of it is believing in yourself. I mean, I've left radio stations where PDs have just battered me to death, and through it all you have to believe in your creativity. It's just like anything else -- if you don't believe in what you're doing, you shouldn't be doing it. I think a lot of it has to do with believing that you can do it. I don't give a damn what you want to do, if you believe you can do it, you can do it. It's that simple. 

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