R.A.P. Interview: Sandy Thomas

R.A.P.: What help do you have now that WXDJ is off the satellite?
Sandy: I've got the jocks, and I have a girl that comes in and writes, but she's only part-time. Still, she's a tremendous help. She writes a lot of the specs. I was doing all the writing, but now she writes and I edit. Anything that's substantial, that's definitely going on the air, I'll do completely; but as far as specs go, I'll get the copy back from her and go over it. If there's a problem, I'll edit it. Because of the ratings, the agency side of the business is at a low point, so we're doing a heavy blitz locally and, in turn, that means a lot of specs. We do about fifteen specs a week.

R.A.P.: That's a bunch!
Sandy: It's too much, but I think you've got to be humble about it. You can't be stomping your foot and going into the GM's office saying, "This is bullshit." I think in our job, there are a lot of things you've got to swallow. There are times when you're justified to stamp your hand, but you're the only guy that really understands most of the time. You have to work in production to understand it. So, it's difficult to go to the GM and tell him it isn't right for salespeople to come to me five minutes before air time with a tape or whatever, and expect the GM to understand. He doesn't really know what it feels like. Even though you're telling him, he'll never know unless he's a Production Director for five years. I can tell another Production Director, and he'll know, but it's the same with the Sales Manager -- All he knows is that he's dealing with a budget, and he doesn't want to hear what you've got to say, even though you might be right. There are a lot of things you have to swallow. Of course, there are times when you've got to put your foot down and say, "Hey, it's got to go this way, and this is the way it's gotta go," but there are going to be times when you're going to go home and have a couple of cocktails.

R.A.P.: What's the studio situation?
Sandy: There are two studios. One studio has an 8-track Otari, the MX-70. Then there's a 2-track, an MTR-10. We have a Yamaha graphic EQ, Yamaha reverberator, Yamaha SPX-90 and so on. That's the studio I work out of. The other one just has two 2-tracks. We use that one primarily for dubbing.

R.A.P.: Any keyboards or samplers?
Sandy: Not yet, but I'm purchasing a sampler for my company this week, now that you mention it. I'll be using it for the station's production, also.

R.A.P.: What have you got in the way of production libraries?
Sandy: We're using Sound Ideas sound effects and Production Gardens out of Texas. There's no doubt about it, Production Gardens has got to be the best buy-out library I've ever had. There are eight CD's, and I think it's a total of 350 bucks. One CD has all kinds of stingers and stagers and whatnot, and then there are 30 and 60 second music beds. It's definitely the best buy out I've ever had. That's not our primary library, though. We also use Vortex out of Nashville. This company primarily does jingles. It's the Patrick Creative Group in Nashville. They did the "Heartbeat of America" jingle.

R.A.P.: Do you see a trend in using several small libraries over one large one that you lease for several years?
Sandy: I think so. That's what we're doing. My preference is to go for more than one library. If the station is budgeted for it, I would go for having a couple of libraries.

R.A.P.: Any thoughts on stretching the life of a library?
Sandy: Sometimes, we think the listener is thinking like us, and they're not. I think I could probably use the same music bed on two commercials on the air, and the listener might not even notice. I would notice, and the PD would notice, but I think the listener wouldn't notice. Of course, we still want to do what sounds right, and we know that isn't right because you want to set each advertiser apart.

I think sometimes you can also use the same music for a long time. We'd get sick of it after a year, but your listeners wouldn't notice that. They wouldn't say, "God, they've been using that bed on that commercial now for about a year!" There's no way because they're not listening the same way. Take a record on your playlist, for example. You're playing that record every single day, and I remember when I was a jock I'd say, "Get this song out of here. I've heard this song every day!!!" Just when you're starting to get sick of it, the listener is just starting to hear it.

R.A.P: Do you have a studio at home?
Sandy: No, and I don't have any overhead either. I get the job done, though. I'm in a situation where I like the environment I'm in. I'm comfortable, I'm making decent money at the radio station, and I'm doing a lot of outside voice work. I could do it tomorrow, though. I could get the backing and have a studio in downtown Miami tomorrow, but I'm in a situation that's working. I have an agreement with the General Manager, and he lets me run the company as long as I get the job done. It would be different if he told me, "Listen, when you're at this radio station, it's this radio station and not Sandy Thomas Productions." Then I'd have no choice, but he makes it easy for me. He's great. His name is Tony Novia. He's 28 years old and he's got to be one of the youngest GM's in a major market ever.

Tony is a good example of never knowing where someone is going to turn up. You should try to get along with the people you work with. It's a real small industry, and you never know when someone is going to show up. This guy was a van driver at Y-100 about five years ago. Now think about it: You could have been a jock at this station at the same time he was the van driver in the promotions department. It could have been like, "Hey, you $#&@! idiot, get me the T-Shirts!" or whatever. All of a sudden, you're a disc-jockey at XDJ, and here comes your General Manager who used to be that van driver five years ago. You never know where guys will turn up. He progressed to Vice-President at Y-100 and then came over to XDJ.

Anyway, he gives me the freedom and latitude to work my company and the radio station. I can't do it during business hours, but I can do it as long as I get the job done (at WXDJ). So, I'm not really pressed to go out and get my own studio and leave the station.

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