By Trent Rentsch
Right now there are at least 5 things on your air that are driving you crazy. In one spot, the music is too hot, in another it is WRONG! A third piece has one word that came out “funny,” and a fourth was voiced by, without a doubt, the wrong talent for the script. And the fifth, oh Lord, the fifth! Let me remind you that the client wrote and voiced it and leave it at that, shall we?
What to do, what to do! It gets you, every time you hear one of them. Sometimes two come up in the same break and you need an aspirin. God help you if you’re behind the wheel, nearing a crosswalk full of Nuns, children and cute fuzzy animals, and any combination of 3 offending spots comes up in the same break! And the worst part is, all 5 have contract runs longer than the last five morning teams have lasted at your station, and the copy hasn’t changed since long before the end of the LAST contract. Oh, the humanity!!
But wait. That certainly doesn’t happen at YOUR station. The music is all under-scored and knows its place, each word drips like honey from the mouth of the perfect voice-over artist, and all your clients trust your team to create the ultimate advertising images for their business. Right… let me move over here before lightning strikes.
Little things like this really cut into a Creative’s job satisfaction. Dealing with them is such a bore, old territory, been there, done that. What a waste of time, going back and fixing old crappy spots! Energy that could be directed at one’s next great creative achievement burned up on housecleaning! And imagine the political issues, explaining to sales why things are wrong, how you want to make them better… the G.M. would probably get into it, AND the client. Brrrrrrrrr! Nope, it’s just better all the way around to let sleeping dogs lie, or in this case, bark over and over and over and…
It’s a pity that being a Creative in radio also means that you are also a “Production Director” or “Creative Director” or some other title that means that you have responsibility of one sort or another over the audio content that happens between the music and air talent on your station. Unlike school, where your imagination ran wild and every goofy notion that came to you not only got on the school station but actually gained you the respect and admiration of your teachers and classmates, a real world commercial station has much stronger expectations. As Dan Aykroyd bemoans in Ghostbusters, “I’ve worked in the private sector. They expect results.”
That’s it! No more fun! No more crazy, exciting times in the production room! No more schizophrenic acts on the stage of the theatre of the mind! Just go in, crank out the work, and by God do it right the first time! The most creative thing you’d better try down here in the salt mines is finding time to eat your peanut butter and jelly, because you have precious little time for anything but work, Work, WORK!!!
None of the views expressed in the past few paragraphs are far from the thoughts I’ve heard from some Creatives. They really believe spending time on “the boring stuff” is beneath them, and that the radio world owes them a life of self-indulgent, often silly and meaningless, audio production. And then they wonder why the sales department keeps complaining to upper management about them.
The most eye-opening day of my college career, possibly my life, was day one of Theatre Arts Management class. That was the day that Dr. Johnson, whom I had always looked upon as an “art for art’s sake” type, slammed the classroom door and announced, “In this class, you’ll learn that theatre is a business. And like any other business, it needs to make a profit to survive.” WHAT?! My beloved theatre, just another money hungry, capitalistic machine? It couldn’t be! Sigh… yes, it was. It is. Just like software companies, gas stations, toilet paper mills… and radio. And if life is just a stage, each person must play many parts—sometimes Hamlet, sometimes the person that sweeps the stage after everyone else goes home.
I believe that most people keep a fine balance, and that’s saying something, especially considering the ever-increasing demands of the industry. Most understand that there are day-to-day details that need to be taken care of. They may not enjoy all of it, but they realize that it comes with the territory. They also know that if they are going to get through all of the “grunt work” and find time to actually do something creative, they had better get the commercials right the first time. They also know that if a commercial is playing wrong, the extra effort to make it right will pay-off in respect for their attention to detail and trust in their professionalism.
So, you have to be a grown-up to be a radio Creative, huh? Not necessarily, in fact I know that many of my favorite production pieces came from that kid that still plays around deep inside. I think it is important to remember that there is a huge difference between “child-like” and “childish.” The work can be wild and fun, but the job carries certain responsibilities that the adult in you needs to take seriously—and take care of. Like frosted mini-wheats, there is something for both sides of your psyche. So suck it up, be an adult and get to work on those pesky details. And who knows, the kid in you might have a field day finding a way to fix those five spots.
agreement only, no barter. They have a very helpful website at www.productiongarden.com which gives full details of all the music available in all their libraries (10 full libraries, remember), and you can download mp3 demos in a variety of playback formats. Or you can call for all the details toll free at 1-800-247-5317 (USA only. International calls go to 210-530-5200).