JV: What production libraries do you find useful for imaging Star?
Drake: I have been using all Avdeli stuff — Mars, Paradise Lost, Cold War — for all of my ‘80s imaging. I’m in the process of getting some new stuff. I got turned on to Ian Sturgeon’s Big Fish Productions. He’s got a cool deal going where you buy his CD with 99 cuts on it, and then you get a password; and for like 15-20 bucks a month you get a downloadable library that he updates every month. It’s pretty low priced, and a lot of these Internet delivered libraries are going to cost barter. This is the first one I found for just a monthly subscription fee.
I’m also looking into trying to get some more of Joe Kelly’s AVdeli stuff before they turn out the lights on the joint. And if anybody out there has a demo of some good production libraries, I’m looking for buyout stuff.
JV: You just recently started to spread your wings and enter the freelance market. What’s your plan?
Drake: I started doing free-lance in the summer of 2003. I always felt like an island unto myself here in Pittsburgh. I’ve been fortunate enough not to work more than 150 miles outside my hometown, but it’s been a blessing and a curse in that I haven’t worked in a lot of different places. I haven’t been exposed to a lot of different markets, a lot of different formats, and a lot of different people. So I don’t think a lot of people know who I am, and the freelance stuff was kind of a way to get my name and my voice and my work out there for people to hear, and a way to pad my income a little bit. I’m going to be getting married in the summer. My fiancé is a medical student, and I’ve been supporting her while she goes through school. So I’m down to one income, and I’ve got to make ends meet.
There’s a lot of stuff that I do for Star that might work for other stations. There’s a lot of stuff I’d like to try that won’t work for Star or Y108 — stuff that would work for a rock station or an oldies station or an alternative station. So it’s a way for me to kind of spread my creative wings and do some stuff for some other people that won’t fly here. I always wondered why Mick Jagger always liked to work on solo projects away from the Rolling Stones. It’s just a matter of working with other writers, with other producers and getting other people’s perspective on production. And you take from that and bring it back home, and it changes what you do for your home stations.
JV: So you’re offering writing, production and voiceover services, is that correct?
Drake: Yeah. I’m kind of selling myself as that utility infielder, somebody that you would go to when you’re production department is backed up. In most production departments today, the people doing spots are also handling the imaging. There are times when you just don’t have time to sit down and take a breath, let alone think about producing promos or updating the sweepers for this week. So basically the way I’m marketing myself is, “good help is hard to find.” Let me help you in those times of stress and high volume production. Let your in-house people do your spots so your clients are happy, and let me keep your station fresh.
JV: You got into radio right about the time of all the consolidation as you mentioned, so your experience in radio has been mostly during the dust settling time. How has the job changed from your perspective since you’ve been in the business?
Drake: I think it’s gotten better, from what I’ve witnessed here. We were a two-station combo before all the consolidation. It was just WBZZ and WZPT. And then as the consolidation started to happen a lot of the jocks voices started to cross over between stations. It used to be that B94 jocks only voiced B94 commercials and Point jocks only voiced Point commercials. Then as the consolidation started to happen everybody crossed over. So this way the Production Director only had to do one spot instead of two spots. It would run on each station. Now that we have three stations, three FMs, they produce one spot that airs on all three stations, and that’s made it a lot easier.
The imaging I think has gotten a lot better because you have a lot of networks between production people where they can exchange ideas and exchange even production and elements back and forth between stations. It gives a guy like me out here all by myself in Pittsburgh an opportunity to call the guy in Detroit, send him an email and exchange ideas, or throw sound back and forth with the guy down in DC. I think that part of it is great, and synergy done well can benefit everybody.
JV: What is your production philosophy?
Drake: Great writing and a clear concise message. You want to make sure you write a great sweeper or a great promo, but obviously you don’t want the message to get lost. A lot of times I’ll write with my Assistant Program Director, and we’ll be on an idea and be so excited about it, and then we go back and look at it and say, “Gosh, our message is getting lost here. We’re getting too excited about this creative idea. We’re missing the point of the promo.” So you want to have some great writing, you want to have a clear concise message, and you want to have some good production value. You want to have good music. You want to have good effects. You want to have adequate processing and effects on your voice and your elements so they don’t sound flat and dry. There are times when I will hear a demo and I’ll be thinking, wow this is so cool, but what’s wrong with it? It just doesn’t feel right. There’s something missing. I think it might be the quality of microphone, or perhaps they’re not putting enough processing on it, or they’re not adding a little reverb or warmth to give you the sound quality that they are trying to create. For instance, a conversation in the kitchen — it doesn’t sound like a kitchen, it sounds like a very dead voice over booth. I think adding that little texture to it can also help a promo or commercial come to life. So in a nutshell, good writing, a clear message, good production value — in that order.