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

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!

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