By Andy Capp
The first indication of trouble was the open book. It hadn’t even been off the shelf when he had left. Now it sat open on the desk. This was enough to warn him that his private sanctuary had been violated. But when he noticed the page that it was turned to, the anger rose higher than the pile in his in-basket. Whoever it was that had invaded his personal space was also looking for the power! It was his, damn it! He’d slaved long and hard to get this far. The prize was his and his alone! Like a sales rep ready to ignore the daily deadline, he stormed toward the door, prepared to show the thief that even stolen items come with a price tag.
Any similarity between the above mentioned “victim” and the average creative-type is purely intentional. The debate over whether the ability to be creative is a gift or a skill with a steep learning curve is not important to the fact that Creativeshoard whatever they possess like the top biller in the sales dept. hoards their account list. What is important is that Creatives do like to keep their secrets… and that it’s just plain wrong!
Let’s pull the camera back a bit on the scenario we opened with. Now we see the “thief,” a part-time kid at the radio station who dropped in that afternoon because there was no school. And he could think of no better way to spend his free time than by learning some more about the business from the people that he not only works for, but idolizes. “Idolizes” is not too strong a word. If he could, he would spend every morning running to get the morning team coffee, just so he could laugh in the same studio they were laughing at their own jokes in. He would alphabetize an entire music library if he could shake hands with the Music Director that met Celine Dion backstage at a concert 3 years ago. And then there is the Production Director! The person with the coolest toys, the wackiest voices, and the uncanny knack to dream up these amazing pieces of audio art that some fools might only think of as “spots.” The kid has stars in his eyes, and while some might debate that he should really get a life, to him this is heaven on earth! That’s why, when the Prod God was out getting a sub sandwich and the Program Director asked the part-timer if he knew where the music was for THAT commercial, the one that needed updating, he didn’t hesitate for a moment! “Sure, it’s right in his logbook! He showed me last week…,” and off the poor unsuspecting criminal went, quick as a sales rep out the door at 5, to find the music for a spot that the Prod guy should’ve fixed the day before but never got to. He had just pulled the CD and was on his way to the production studio to give it to the boss when he met our volcanically angry production person in the hallway.
Why do Creatives worry about showing their hand? Do they really believe that someone will steal their ideas? Of course, the potential for that is always there, but is that really the reason? It seems that the real problem is paranoia, a firm belief that knowledge is power and that they will somehow lose any upper hand they might have in the building (real or imagined) by sharing what they know. Like the sales rep who isn’t sure when their power lunch with a mysterious client will be over, the Creative would like to cloak all of their talents in smoke and mirrors, trying to show the world how important and metaphysically intricate their job is. What a load of bull! And they’re not only selling it to the world, they’re selling it to themselves.
The truth of it all is that the best Creative ideas come from experience, and without human interaction, that experience just doesn’t exist. Our fuming production genius has just as much to gain from that “lowly” Part-timer as the kid can learn from him. Every new generation has its own vocabulary, spoken and unspoken, and what better way for a nearly 40-something person to learn what’s fresh than by hanging out with some junior in high school? Maybe the conversation could ignite an entire series of new concepts. It’s really staggering how even the slightest bit of contact with someone new can change ones whole perspective. Like the sales rep who drives the streets looking for new retail outlets to open up, the Creative needs to mine every situation. Even more important, teaching the newbie a few things might find our hero with some questions he may need to answer about why he does things the way he does. Maybe there is a better way to achieve a creative goal; it sometimes just takes an untrained person asking “why” to make us realize it.
I’ve preached about sharing the wealth in this column before, but I think it goes deeper than that. Creatives in radio today have so many more pressures that reaching out may be the key to surviving it all. If it’s really alien to your nature to network with the people you face everyday, get out on the Internet and make some friends in the business, throw them some ideas, ask their opinions. If you’re stumped for an idea, see if they have one. There is no truer cliché than, “There are no new ideas.” Everything that is created is built on the work of those before it, and that from the work before it, and on and on. Instead of being afraid to give away our secrets, we should be excited about what another person might achieve with them, and in turn what we might learn to make our own work better. Like a sales rep who walks in the door with a big annual, there’s nothing like the feeling of being part of some fresh creative, directly or indirectly.
A final note: that Production Director, before biting off any heads, realized just what was going on, and thanked the kid for helping out, even started letting him do dubs and a spot tag once in awhile. That was several years ago, before that part-timer went to broadcasting school, worked hard and moved up the ranks quickly to the position of Program Director at a major market station, a station where he just hired his old friend and idol as Production Director…