R.A.P. Interview: Brian Lee

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R.A.P.: You're now out of a radio station as a full-time employee. Do you miss it?
Brian: I miss some things about not working in a radio station. When I was with WMXB in Richmond, I had the most wonderful Creative Director that any Production Director could ask for. You did an article on her some time last year, Holly Buchanan. Like she said in the article, Holly and I were like a science experiment gone crazy. She's a fantastic writer. She would write it and I would bring it to life and we just had this fantastic relationship. I really, really miss working with Holly. I have to say something about her for two reasons: one, she's such a wonderful person and talented and creative and I miss her; and second, she'd probably kill me if I didn't.

R.A.P.: How much voice work are you doing, if any?
Brian: I do a lot of voice work. But I'm not the number one voice in the company. When I started Advantage and started doing sweepers, did I market me? No. No way. I marketed other much better people than me. But I'm doing some sweepers. I voice a couple of stations. I voice WSSX, which is 95-SX in Charleston, and I do KKDJ in Fresno. I have a handful of stations I do. I voice all different formats from rock to country, and I do commercial production as well. I voice seven stations in Tokyo. By the way, they pay a hundred dollars a line in Tokyo. They wire it right into your account, too. That's really neat. They flew in from Japan to meet me two years ago.

R.A.P.: Are you doing any commercial production?
Brian: I still get to do commercial production. I really missed doing the commercial production like I was doing at WMXB in Richmond. Free-lance production these days is now a part of my life which I really like. There are some stations out in the Sacramento, Modesto and Stockton area and in Salt Lake City who have me on retainer to produce commercials for them. You don't find that too often where stations will actually farm out for production, but this company, Citadel Broadcasting, has got this neat concept where they hire out to three or four different production houses, and that leaves the Production Director free to manage his department. So I jumped on line with a couple of those stations to produce a number of commercials per week. They fax the copy; I cut it and send it back. I'm on a retainer for like six hundred dollars a month for which I produce a few spots a week for them. It's great.

R.A.P.: What advice would you offer someone who wants to break out of the radio station and start their own production company?
Brian: Don't turn down any business. Don't be so proud. Never get a chip on your shoulder. Always realize there is work out there. Never be too big to do work for anybody. Cheerleading moms will call me--I'm in the phone book--and say, "Hey, I want to put together a cheerleading tape, a little composite of about a minute and a half for my daughter's cheerleading team. Is that possible? Can you do that?" You're never too big.

I've worked with talents with an attitude like, "...if you don't let me say the word 'environment' like I want to, I'm walking out of the studio, and you can just shove it up your ass!" There are voice-over people who are like that. Never cop an attitude.

The customer is always right. I believe in customer service. The radio industry is way too small to get a bad name for yourself. I don't care if someone calls you a dirt eating, dog licking jerk, don't lower yourself to someone else's level. Don't insult anybody. Just take it, hang up the phone, and then you can say whatever you want. "That asshole." You don't need enemies. It's a very small business. Keep your nose clean, always, because someone's going to tell someone, and someone else is going to tell someone, and the next thing you know, "Oh, I've heard about him." How many times have you heard that in the industry? "What kind of person is that guy? Oh, well, let me tell you!" So keep your nose clean. You're never too big.

And always keep this in mind: no matter what, always remember that you never arrive. The second you think you've made it, you'll go down the drain. You never arrive.

Here's something really important. Always surround yourself with good people. Always surround yourself with good voice talents. You can't be everything to everybody. Always be able to offer people a wide range, diversity. Be able to offer that because the more you have to offer, the further you'll go. There will be less pitfalls. If you surround yourself constantly with people who are smaller than you and less talented than you because you want to be number one, you'll end up with a company of dwarves. I think that has been said before. There's always going to be somebody out there who is better at some particular part of the business. Don't alienate them. Work with them.

This is a business that will never die. Advertising will never die. The need for sound will never die. And if you start your own company, plan it properly. Setting up radio stations on retainer fees is a great idea for building a business because it builds a mainstay of business. As long as stations pay their bills, you can count every month on a certain amount of money coming in, and that's a great way to build your business.

There are nine thousand radio stations in America, and there are only a handful of producers out there. There's maybe fifty, sixty, seventy recognizable guys out there doing this, so it's very easy to get the business. Offer a good product, good pricing, and you really can't go wrong. And I'm not greedy about the stations. I mean, I offer them a good deal, a really good deal. WNEW in New York was only paying a thousand dollars a month, and they're a number one station. For a New York City radio station, a thousand dollars a month is nothing, and you can go all the way down to about two hundred bucks a month. Getting someone who is imaging their entire radio station for them for a few hundred bucks a month is a real deal.

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