Q It Up: You’ve probably heard the expression, “you’re only as good as your last promo or commercial.” What have you done in the past year or so to improve the output of your studio? Have you added some new equipment or software? Have you added some new production libraries or services? Have you attended some classes/seminars or read some helpful books? Have you taken that workstation to new levels? Explored some new plug-ins? What have you done to make yourself and your department more valuable to your station(s) or company? What advice would you give fellow Production/Creative Directors, writers, producers, and/or VO talents to do the same?
Glenn Nobel [glenn[at]nobelnoise.com], NobelNOISE Audio Imaging: While I love to look at the catalogs and dream about a new Focusrite processor or search E-bay for another Neumann mic as much as the next production guy, I’ve learned the equipment you have isn’t nearly as important as learning to use what you’ve already got. To that end, I spend a lot of time reading music and recording web forums. You can learn a lot of good production techniques from record producers... and from those trying to produce “studio quality” music at home. And, as time allows, I listen to every demo I can get my hands on, including the stuff on the RAP CD! Gear helps, but I’ve known guys who could produce incredible spots with just a couple of 20 year old Sparta cart machines and a 2-track reel-to-reel. It’s knowing what to do with what you’ve got that counts.
Sterling Tarrant [Tarransr[at]fotf.org] Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, CO: I attended Dan O’Day and Dick Orkin’s Production Summit last August, and I had myself and my whole team become Certified Professional Commercial Copywriters through the Radio Advertising Bureau. Plus after six years of being in management and directing others how to do things, I’ve purchased my own ProTools system and have started doing hands on freelance production again. Plus, I lost thirty pounds last year to have more stamina to do all this stuff - however since my vacation and the holidays, I’ve gained most of it back, but that’s another story.
I also read a few chapters from Roy Williams most days, and I’m always on the lookout for great marketing books. Right now I’m reading “Purple Cow” by Seth Godin - it’s about being truly remarkable with your products.
Tim McKee [Tim.McKee[at]cox.com], KISS-FM & KSMG-FM, San Antonio, Texas: Never being satisfied with your work is great motivation to continue to grow. Let me explain. Yes, I write and produce spots that work for our clients. I like what I have done in the past. However, I feel I can always be better. This was very evident this past summer when I attended the Dan O’Day / Dick Orkin Radio Creative Summit in Los Angeles. Every minute I was there (Radio Summit) was worth years to my career. It’s great to know your on the right track with your writing and production skills, but it’s even better when you get new ideas and can take them back home and begin to create from a refreshed or new mind set. You should never stop wanting to learn new and different ways to make your job, your creativeness, and your career better.
As for the technology of our industry, staying up with the latest toys is a must. Be ready! Your chief engineer has to justify his/her job and you never know what piece of equipment will end up in the rack next. For us it was the “Mini-Disc.” Not sure why we were so lucky as to have these installed, but we have made the best use of them. Our two stations recently removed all cart machines from the studios. Mini-Disc fits those holes just fine. And it’s really nice not having to worry about a cart wearing out or having to clean the heads on all of those decks.
Finally, when copywriting, a book that I found very helpful is “Words That Sell” by Richard Bayan, published by Contemporary Books. This is a great tool when you’re stuck for a phrase or a way to start or end the spot. I would also recommend that you attend this years “Radio and Creative Summit” in Los Angeles. To find out more about the Summit, log onto www.danoday.com. Listen to the RAP CD every month. Great ideas come from that as well as television commercials. But nothing beats real life situations. Those are the most believable and usually are the most successful commercials for your clients.
Rob Garcia [rob[at]jrscreative.com], JRS Creative Productions: I recently added a second monitor to my DAW. I don’t know how I ever got along with out it. I run Adobe Audition; with its dockable windows I no longer have the hassle of multiple mixer/EQ/effects windows cluttering my work area. I now slide all those windows to the second monitor and that frees up my main monitor so I can pay more attention to my editing and multi-tracking. If your DAW supports dual monitors, definitely take advantage of it!!
Ian Fish [Ian.Fish[at]chrysalis.com], 100.7 Heart FM: After the years of having no opportunity (budget) for change we changed just about everything in the last few months. I was forced onto Windows Pro-Tools — having heard horror stories of crashes and poor reliability. So I managed to kick up enough fuss to ensure I got a top flight TDM HD 3 system and have since discovered the fantastic plug ins. Windows Pro Tools does crash a lot though (on my system). Following the change to a new DAW the variety of plug ins have allowed me to create some interesting sounds and effects on the station production. This has prompted me to play around with the station voice and try to create a new sound for the station — without actually really changing anything!
In addition to changing editing tools, we’ve also signed up for TM Century’s Imagio production library, which has given us the opportunity to feel a lot more up tempo in the production — again, without actually making major changes to the station.
In August I flew to LA to take part in a Dan O’Day production summit. That turned out to be mainly focusing on commercial writing rather than station production/imaging, but I met some people and have had the opportunity to get my work critiqued by my peers, which is just about the best thing I’ve had the chance to do. When you can talk to a fellow producer about your work (and you don’t have to stop every few minutes to explain what a flange is or the difference between reverb and echo), I found I was getting some great feedback.
And of course, in the last few months I talked my boss into paying for a subscription to RAP Magazine. The inspiration I derive from reading and listening to the CD can’t be measured in money terms. Every month I’m inspired, and my faith in the quality of radio around the world is renewed!