By Dave Foxx
Well dear readers, after several issues with requests for material to critique in this space, we got a bunch all at once. I thought it was slow coming because people were afraid to have their work publicly reviewed, but it turns out that too few people actually read the fine print at the end of the column. Fair enough. I take back all the evil thoughts I was having about you.
I’m gonna take on two producers in this column: Ryan Cota, Production Weirdo at KRQQ in Tucson, Arizona and Garrick Whitehead, the Production Wonk at Channel 4 FM in the United Arab Emirates. Both have graciously told me that they’re not afraid to have their work “torn apart” in RAP, but there really isn’t much to tear apart in either. They both have some good chops worth listening to, which you CAN do on the RAP CD. (Don’t you wish you were a regular subscriber now?) Might I suggest that you wait to listen until after you read this, then score it yourself as you listen.
I’ll be scoring on several criteria: How well does the producer use all 5 tools? (Writing, Voice, Music, Effects and… Silence.) Then I’ll look to see how well they get the call to action (CTA) across and finally, listen for a “hip-ness” factor.
Piece 1 - See Table
Maybe I shouldn’t have scored the voice so high, but I do give good VO. The Hip-factor jumps by a quantum leap whenever you have the artist say something, but it would have been pretty cool even without Eminem himself. Any total score over 25 is an absolute winner, so the best I can do here is think of ways to jack it up one more notch. The one score that some might argue with is silence. Why do I think it’s so important? Ah, young grasshopper, it is a most powerful tool that you ignore at your own peril. Silence is a big fat exclamation point, right smack in the middle of things that will drive the CTA directly into the brain of your listener, without breaking a sweat. The call to action is, “Listen for the disgruntled Clear Channel employee to tell you to call.” This is CTA because it tells the listener what to listen for. Kill the music track right before that line with another effect. Then, once said, reprise the music under Polo as he reads his thing. Bingo. The clearest point of the promo is read over dead air. How much more powerful can you make it?
Piece 2 - See Table
When Garrick sent this promo, he said he thought it needed something. He wasn’t happy with the voice. I gathered that he felt he needed some kind of effect to make it jump. However… well, let me excerpt the email I sent back:
I think most producers might have felt like you and just not been happy with it for reasons that have little or nothing to do with the actual quality. (In this case, the voice is fine.) They would probably continue futzing with it until it was ruined.
I had an art teacher in High School who once said something I thought was very profound at the time. Now that I look back, it was brilliant. “The problem most aspiring artists have is they don’t know when a piece is done. Consequently, they keep trying to achieve perfection and end up ruining it.” The secret to being a great producer is knowing when to call a piece finished. When you’re feeling squirrelly about a promo, not knowing what else it needs, chances are, you’re done. Ask yourself a few key questions:
Does it get the message across? Is it fun for people to listen to it? Could I be just “over-thinking” this?
If you get a yes for all three, you are done. Stop working on it. If you have the time, close the session and do something else for a while. (If you can, leave it overnight.) Listen to it again with fresh ears and ask your questions again. If the answers are all yes, then you are finished.
Well, there it is. You might’ve scored them both differently…and that’s okay. I tend to score my own work a little higher than my boss does, so I’m kinda used to it.