by Dennis Daniel
Competition is fierce among Production companies in the Long Island/New York/Metropolitan area that most of my radio work is heard in. I receive calls all the time from friends I've made over the years who are practically begging me for some kind of connection to get some jingle or commercial production work. I feel badly for them but, at the same time, I feel like kissing the ground at WDRE; thankful that I have a job and a steady flow of work. This damned recession has made getting outside freelance work practically impossible. No one has any money to advertise! Many of my steady freelance clients have cut back tremendously.
Several times in my career I've been offered the chance to open up my own production company. The idea of an office or building with the words "Dennis Daniel Productions" hanging up on the outside is very tempting to an ego like mine. I had meetings galore with several potential investors (most of them happy clients of mine) who felt an investment in me was a sure fire thing. We talked about building 48-track studios, hiring salespeople, creating neat little bio packages that would be sent to every advertising agency in the area. You know, stuff like, "How would you like to have your commercial written and produced by a Clio Award winning guy who knows this market like the back of his hand?" Then, you'd see a cute photo of me winking as I show you the back of my hand. Ohhhhh, the ego doth fly into the stratosphere!
I never did it.
You see, to me there are several advantages to working at a radio station:
1. A STEADY PAYCHECK. No matter what the economic conditions may be. I always know what the dollar amount is going to be on that check every week.
2. LESS CLIENT HASSLES. Yes, that's right! Less client hassles! As we all know, clients receive their commercials as a free service. All they're paying for is their air time. That situation gives you a certain amount of power. You don't have to take it up the bunhole every time a client has some sort of complaint. (More on this in next month's column.)
3. AN IMMEDIATE AUDIENCE. Ideas go directly from your brain, to tape, to thousands of people. Think about it! My God, the power of that is staggering! Any idea I come up with can be brought to life and beamed out to the world with nary a hassle. Never lose sight of that. It's a beautiful gift.
4. FREEDOM. This is, perhaps, the most important advantage of all. You are your own master. As Production Director it is your job to conceive and create ideas on your own. No committees. Nobody looking over your shoulder. Nobody judging your every move. Oh sure, you can ask people their opinion; you can create spots with the help of others; you can even be blamed for the success or failure of a clients response! But, in the long run, the buck stops with you when it comes to creativity and execution of concepts and ideas.
I realized that none of these advantages would exist if I owned my own production company.
A steady paycheck? That would all depend on me! I'd have to go out there and hustle business. I know lots of people who enjoy schmoozing and hustling. Not me. At the radio station, the clients are handed to me. No stress, no strain. Let the salespeople do the hustling. Let me worry about being creative.
Less client hassles? Ha! How about bending over every five minutes! With your own production company, you have to charge big bucks! You have bills to pay. Heating, electric, rent, equipment, tape, phone calls, office supplies, staff, etc., etc.. The client is the one with all the power! He's paying big, so he can demand whatever he wants. You can come up with ten ideas for the guy and he can throw them all back in your face! At the radio station, I can say, "Hey, buddy. You think you're the only client I have to deal with?" If I have to try more than two ideas for a guy, it's a lot. He's getting me for free. Plus, I'm pretty damn good. Trust me, pal. You sell cars. I'll create commercials.
An immediate audience? Not until the client approves the spot. And then what? What stations will it run on? Will it even be something your proud of? Will you even care? The client may have whittled your idea down so much that it's not even your idea anymore. The thought of anyone hearing it may make you want to hork up a wad of lung cheese.
Freedom? Nah ah. Slavery.
(Let me stress something here. This is just my way of looking at things. For all I know, a person reading this column may not need all those advantages in order to succeed with their own production company. Also, I'm not talking about running your own in-house production company while your working a full time radio job. I'm talking about cashing in your chips and going out on your own, cold turkey!)
What all this boils down to can be defined with one word: Security.
Security is what being an artist is all about. I remember listening to an interview with John Lennon where he was talking about how much money the government in England was taking away from The Beatles in taxes (the situation was the inspiration for George Harrison's song "Taxman" on Revolver). Lennon said, "What the government doesn't understand is that they're taking away our sense of security. If an artist knows he has money in the bank, he can feel secure and he can work." Now, tell me, is there any one out there reading this that doesn't consider themselves an artist? A craftsman?
Mind you, I understand that many among you don't feel your making enough money. After eleven years behind the board, I'm just now starting to make a decent living, so I hear you. But surly, your making enough to survive and grow as an artist. The better you get at it, the more in demand you'll be. Remember, the airwaves are like a billboard for your work. If you're good, free-lance work is bound to come your way. The economic times are supposedly heading towards an upswing now. Besides, in the business world there is always a need to advertise. What we do and what we create is always in demand. You know that old saying: "To make money, you have to spend money."
Okay, enough of this lecturing.
I touched on the subject of production companies to make a point. I love working at a radio station and wouldn't trade it for any-thing! Next month, I'm going to tell you a story about something that recently happened to me that sort of proves my point about the security of a radio job.