By Dave Foxx
A fellow happens upon another in the woods, trying to cut down a tree with a saw. The fellow hacking away at the tree has obviously been at it for a long time. It’s a big tree, and while it’s more than halfway cut through, the sweat is simply pouring off the guy. Our friend opens a conversation, asking the fellow cutting away what he’s doing. Through the heavy panting and breathing, he gives the obvious answer. Our woods-walking friend reflects for a moment and suggests, “Why don’t you take a few minutes and sharpen the saw? It’ll probably make the job go much faster and easier.” After a few more laborious strokes with the saw, the fellow pants, “Can’t right now. I’m busy cutting down this tree.”
I had a rare opportunity the last couple of days. I had two of the best producers in the country come in to Z100 and consult with me. Anne DeWig and Dave Kampel, of DC101/Washington and Kiss-FM/Chicago respectively, spent some long hours with me, trying to figure out what’s next on the image production horizon. Those who are familiar with our varied styles can probably see how it could be valuable to each of us, because we all bring something different to the table. Annie is the lyrical producer, full of stories and scenarios, while Dave is the musical producer, making his work very much flow oriented. I’m an ear-candy guy, always searching out the new effect or phrase that’ll hammer my point home to the listener. We all borrow from each other’s genres all the time, but those are our individual strengths, which made the entire exercise enlightening for each of us.
The single biggest lesson the three of us learned was one I’ve been preaching from these pages for months: there is no “one” perfect approach. We each use different roads to get there, but we all do get there. Opening up to different styles and techniques adds to our individual arsenals. It helps us “sharpen the saw” we use to accomplish our stations imaging goals. Perhaps even more importantly, it keeps us out of the emergency mode by giving us the long-range plan that allows us to take things in stride and handle whatever lands on our console on a daily or weekly basis.
So, the $64-thousand dollar question: “What’s coming up on the image production horizon?” I’m not sure we came up with a definitive answer, but I can point you in the right direction. In a word, balance.
Right now, many of you are all wrapped up in beat mixing. Many of you love to make little cut-scenes to tell a story. And a lot of you are into book ending, rocking along with two or three styles of music and some clever copy with a sprinkling of relevant movie or TV drops. They’re all valid methods and should be used, but not exclusively. The key is spending more time on mapping out your overall station presentation. Clearly, you need the input of several people too. (This would be an excellent place to involve your Program Director. They’re funny about wanting to get in on this kind of stuff.) Oh, and don’t be afraid to solicit the advice of individuals you meet who have absolutely nothing to do with radio, particularly if they’re in your station’s target demo.
You also need to become conversant with every style you can. If you’re not a strong beat mixer, learn how it’s done. If you’re not a strong storyteller, bone up on your writing skills. Listen all the way through the RAP CD each month. This month is a natural, since it’s the best work of the last year, but it needs to be every month, because it’s always loaded with wonderful ideas.
Just think of it like this: your radio station is like a “theme” art exhibit. There are sculptures, oils and charcoal sketches. One area is devoted to watercolors, another to pen and ink, but they’re all telling a similar story. A truly inspirational exhibit has ALL of these things. Your imaging work needs to use every tool in the box.