R.A.P. Interview: Tom Sandman

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R.A.P.: Do you have an assistant?
Tom: No, I don't. I have voice help, and I get help on some dubs and tags, but it's probably about two or three percent of the workload.

R.A.P.: Are you writing and producing all the commercials, promos, IDs and such?
Tom: Yep.

R.A.P.: You must stay pretty busy.
Tom: Well, it comes with the business. It's certainly not any busier than we were in Boston. WARM 98 has a manageable commercial load, ten commercials max, and that's only in morning drive. I think nine commercials is the norm. And most of our clients are repeat clients. That really frenetic production schedule that you might expect at a rock station, where you're dealing with five, six and seven different kinds of companies at a time, doesn't exist as much at an adult contemporary station. During the summer we get a lot of work for the local Shed Riverbend Music Center, and that keeps us real busy for the summer. But that's the only extremely man-hour intensive client that we have.

And it's nice to be able to work with what I consider to be a pretty cooperative and professional sales department. It's nice to actually sit down and write, create, and conceptualize a radio campaign for a local client and have the time to do that. I'm not saying that last-minute things never happen, but it's nice to be able to sit down and have a relationship with a client and actually do things a week or two before it goes on the air. It's almost like we're acting as that client's agency, and, in fact, we are. Granted, we're not doing television or print or outdoor or direct marketing; we're just doing the radio. But we're doing everything an ad agency would do for that radio account. We conceptualize it. We write it. We voice it, produce it, and put it on the air.

By the way, I was lucky enough to win an Addy award, the broadcasting award from the Advertising Club of Cincinnati. This year there were twenty-three Addies awarded to the local ad community for all the various media -- radio, television, print. We got one of them, and we got the only Addy awarded in radio. It was for a commercial for the Sure Good Biscuit Company and their Frookie cookies.

R.A.P.: Would you say your best talents lie in producing commercials, promos, or both?
Tom: I would say both. I like the promos because when you do promos you're basically your own account, and there are usually less people that you have to get approval from. Promos can be done with whatever idea I decide to come up with, for whatever product, service, or event we're trying to promote. The Program Director, the General Manager, the Promotions Director, they give me that kind of trust, and it's nice. But just to keep myself honest, I'll regularly go to them with a script, whether I'm sure of it or not, and say, "What do you think? Do I have everything covered here? Are all my 'i's dotted and my 't's crossed? Am I missing any details? Do I have everything right? Will you proof this for me?" I do this because I hate to produce something and then have to reproduce it again a day later. I know it's part of the business, but it's the worst part of this job. It's enough to make me do like a postal worker and start shooting up the office, get out an Ouzi and start taking it out on the poor receptionist! It really is a frustrating part of the job. So, whatever I can do to minimize that, I do. If it's a commercial, I'll let everyone and his brother read the damn thing before it gets produced, if I have enough time.

R.A.P.: You said your sales department was "cooperative and professional." What's the secret?
Tom: I don't know what the secret is. I think part of the secret is that the station and the format have been around for a while, and there are three or four salespeople who have been there for some years. One of them has been there for ten years. The Sales Manager has been there for eleven. We just lost our Regional Sales Manager, and she was there for nine years. You don't get that kind of stability without having good organizational skills, and these people have good organizational skills. It's not that they don't have last-minute problems. It's that most of the time I get things on time, and that's kind of a new experience for me because with AOR nothing is ever on time. I mean never. Maybe the organizational skills aren't there, or the salespeople are under more last-minute deadlines. Maybe there's just more concerts and stuff like that. But, for some reason, clients like grocers and cookie companies and exterminating companies don't have those kinds of deadline pressures that, let's say, motorcycle shops, or concert promoters, or clubs do.

Oh God, clubs. The nightclub stuff would drive me crazy. At 'EBN, we'd have to crank out between nine and twelve club spots over a weekend. And for each club spot we had to find music from the local band who was performing there. And since 'BCN had the biggest local music library in the country, they usually had it, so we had to go digging for it. It was a nightmare, but we got it on the air.

Every station has different needs, but I'm very impressed and happy with the sales department here. They cooperate and they get things in on time most of the time.

R.A.P.: Are there deadlines, or do they just pretty much know how much time you need for various spots?
Tom: They know that for a spec spot I've gotta have a week. They know for a commercial, like a straight read, I've gotta have two days. And they know for something I write, I need about three days, and I need it to be approved by the client before it's produced. Now that doesn't always happen, but more often than not, it does.

R.A.P.: How many production studios are there?
Tom: We have two. One is a very small one that's not really worth talking about, and mine is a decent one except for the tape decks. The tape decks are pretty old. I've got Sony MCI decks, two 2-tracks and one 8-track. Fortunately, I've got dbx on the 8-track. That helps.

We're still in the analog world, but our parent company, Susquehanna, is now testing a digital workstation at our San Francisco shop, I believe. If they like it there, then it's gonna start spreading. I think they're working with the Sonic Solutions workstation. I've played with some AKG equipment, and I hear good things about the Roland. I don't know what they're going to decide on, but whatever it is, I think they're going to go chain wide with it. And it could be as early as this year. It will be exciting. The company has made a commitment not to buy any more big analog decks. I'm working on Ford administration era equipment. That's not a joke. When these decks were made, Gerry Ford was President! It might have been Nixon, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and say Ford. Everything else is pretty good, though. I've got a nice Pacific Recorders ABX board and Tomcat cart machines. I've got the Ultra-Harmonizer. I've got a Lexicon digital reverb, Shure SM5B mics, and a couple of EV RE-20s floating around. It's good stuff, and I love the Pacific Recorder's board. They're just the best.

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