By Trent Rentsch
Let’s take a moment to ponder the potential danger of it all. Perhaps you opened your mouth at the wrong moment in front of the wrong person. Or that piece of paper you had scrawled some silly, satirical thoughts on was picked up by the wrong hands, read by the wrong pair of eyes. Perhaps this was your worst case scenario: your roommate’s ex-girlfriend’s sister saw you deliver that A+ in speech class, she met the wrong person at a bar last week, and you happened to be free from 12 to 6 Sunday morning. Who knows, maybe you were your own worst enemy, carelessly wishing and ending up with what was coming to you. Whatever your poison, it only took a sip and, “Whoomp!” Here you are now, with a radio career. And not just any radio career, a radio career on the CREATIVE end of things. If only that class on milking cobras hadn’t been filled…
How long has it been, 5 years of this sickness? 10 years of missed lunches? 15 years of ignored deadlines? 20 years of fitting in that phone number just one more time, even if the spot is already 37 seconds? 25 years of re-writes, re-cuts and re-heating dinner? Do you know rejection better than your kids’ birthdays, do you consider caffeine the foundation of your food pyramid, and does the word Neumann make you unconsciously salivate? If you are still mourning the loss of cut 5, disc 37 in the vinyl production library, and/or have described at least one salesperson in terms that would make Ozzy Osbourne blush, no one would deny that you’ve done your time in the Production trenches. You deserve a Purple Heart… or another drink on Promotions tab.
So what excuses kept you going? Producing Theatre of the Mind? Ha! There’s a good one! The spot that came closest to “Acting” was last fall: a two-voice laundry list of Halloween costumes, followed, of course, by 27 seconds of driving directions. Creating Better Radio than the Agencies. Sure, you could do that… if, instead of plowing through 75 production orders in an afternoon alone, you and your staff had 3 weeks to conceive one script, another week to produce it, and a budget that included custom music composition and James Earl Jones for the tag. Then there’s the inevitable, fatalistic It’s the Only Thing I’m Trained For. Yep, you are stuck. You’re so busy recording that client and talking him into buying a new jingle, re-wiring the output of the production board so it’s in phase, and explaining to the PD why the audio isn’t working on the web site and how the webmaster can fix it, that there’s no time in your day to learn new skills.
All of these things had been going through Tim’s mind the day that his journey down the endless road with ruts the size of his credit card debt came to an end. Most days, despite the occasional jarring bump, Tim didn’t mind the ride. Yeah, the hours were long and the only deadlines in the place seemed to be his, but since he didn’t do a shift anymore he didn’t work weekends (as much), and his paycheck covered his child support and a week at the beach once a year. On any other day he would’ve dismissed the offer as an unrealistic joke. This day started with the Morning Guy waking him up at 5:30, asking about the spot the overnight announcer was supposed to dub. Of course the spot hadn’t been emailed from the Agency, which the Sales Manager didn’t want to understand when he “dropped by” the Prod room later in the morning. By noon the missing commercial had escalated into an incident worthy of a meeting with the General Manager, the Sales Manager, the Program Director… and Tim. The result of the meeting wasn’t pleasant. Not only did Tim miss lunch (the management team had a 2 hour post-meeting luncheon), but it had been decided that he would no longer leave in the evening until every commercial was in the building, ready to air. When the Sales Rep strolled in with a CD of the offending ad that he had forgotten to leave with Tim the afternoon before… oh yes, he had also forgotten to mention that it WASN’T coming via email… Tim’s reaction was less than pleasant. So unpleasant that Tim was certain his job would end when the managers returned from their high-level feed.
Sometimes, the last thing you want to hear turns out to be the best thing that could happen. In Tim’s case, it was a call from a client. A client who was extremely picky, who was always changing things… sigh. The client he had been talking to about a new jingle. The client who now not only wanted Tim to assist him with the new jingle, but also wondered if he was interested in taking on all the marketing for his company. Yes, all the marketing. Yes, a full-time job, Marketing Director. So what would it take to steal him away from the radio station?
And he lived happily ever after? Well, sometimes the best thing that could happen, happens in a way you don’t expect. 2 weeks into the new job, Tim knew that he had made a mistake. Most of the work was dull as hell—juggling the ad budget and placing buys, writing extremely dry print material for the sales staff, deciding which color the booth should be for a convention he wouldn’t be going to. He jumped at the chance to join the owner at the radio station for a recording session. The overnight guy was filling in as Production Director until Tim’s replacement could be found. It was all Tim could do to keep from pushing him out of the chair and taking over the mixing board. Later that day, Tim made a phone call to the General Manager of the station. The following Monday he became his own replacement at the station.
Of all the dangers of being a Creative, the worst is to forget that it is a job. There are good days, there are bad days. But on the good days, what other position is as creatively satisfying? As Tim now says, “It beats having a boring, grown-up job!”