Q It Up: What was the last book you read on radio creative - how to write and/or produce creative radio spots and/or imaging? If not a book on “radio creative”, what was the last book you read that gave you some creative ideas you were able to use in the studio? Tell us about it.
Johnny George [jgeorge[at]indyradio .com], Susquehanna, Indianapolis, Indiana: I read a very detailed magazine every month that covers about everything a production person would want to know about the ins and outs of radio production, advertising, creative angles and more. In fact, I’ve read it each month, utilize concepts, borrow or steal ideas that inspire and listen devotedly to the audio examples that accompany this industry research tool. I’ve been reading it now for over 15 years.
It’s called Radio And Production magazine. I encourage everyone to read it.
Jay Rose [Jay[at]dplay.com] www. dplay.com: Two recently read books have inspired both my writing any my production, even though neither is about advertising or radio: Walter Murch’s “In the Blink of an Eye, 2nd Edition,” and Robert Jourdain’s “Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy.” Murch is one of Hollywood’s most respected editors (The Godfather trilogy, Apocalypse Now, Ghost, the English Patient, etc.) and sound designer/rerecording mixers (THX1138, The Conversation, and American Graffiti along with almost all of the films he’s edited. He writes about editing rhythms and why cuts have to happen in certain places. Jourdain is a science writer, and his book analyzes the chemical and neurological reasons why we like certain sounds and melodies. What I do is neither blockbusters nor brain surgery, but both books have given me new ways to think about my art.
Two recent releases are more directly related to my day job. Ray Welch’s “Copywriter: A Life Making Ads and Other Mistakes” is personal anecdotes and strategic analyses from one of New England’s most honored (and liked) agency writer/producers. Harlan Hogan is a busy Chicago freelance voice; his “Tales and Techniques of a Voice-Over Actor” covers both how to find work and how to survive once you’re in the session. I know enough about these topics to verify what these folks have written... and still learned a lot from their books.
The classic on how advertising sound influences our behavior is Tony Schwartz’ “The Responsive Chord,” now out of print but available used and in libraries. A lot of the book is based on things from three or four decades ago - Schwartz created the famous ‘Daisy’ spot for Lyndon Johnson, as well as other classics - but it’s still got a lot to teach us about writing and interpreting copy.
If I’m going to plug other people’s titles, I should also mention my “Audio Postproduction” book. It’s aimed at sound for film and video, but close to 300 pages of it also apply to radio. Even though it’s only two years old, it’s used in some major college courses and has been released in Russian and German translations. Look for sections on directing and editing voice-overs, choosing and editing music, and working with sound effects (the best ways to edit these three different kinds of sounds are different). You’ll also find a hundred pages on processing and special effects, and chapters on acoustics and audio electronics for the non-scientist.
Details and links to discount sales for all these books, plus critical comments and downloadable samples for mine, are at www.dplay.com/dv/books.html.
Blaine Parker [blaine.parker[at]salemla .com]: Limiting this to one book is impossible. I read obsessively. And be warned, as a Creative Director, my reading also leans more towards advertising than production. So this may not even be an appropriate answer to the question. (Hmm. Imagine that. A creative who doesn’t follow orders.)
Presumably, everybody’s read the Wizard of Ads books. If not, do it now. At least the first one. It’s a quick read, fun, and worthy.
I’m currently halfway through the re-issue of the 1964 “curmudgeonly copywriting classic,” Copywriter, by John E. Matthews. It’s a wry analysis of how the hell you do the job. Sure, it’s about working in ad agencies, but so far, it seems adaptable to a radio environment. And as something of a curmudgeon myself, I always appreciate reading another.
Just finished The War Of Art, by Steven Pressfield. If you consider your work to have any level of artistry, this slim volume is a kick in the ass. Some readers will find it a little squishy or cerebral. So be it. You can check out the first few pages at Amazon.
The Book of Gossage is a hefty retrospective of an ad guy who died before his time. The man who forced Stan Freberg to create radio commercials, Howard Gossage’s legacy includes the International Paper Airplane Contest, the Arrow shirtkerchief, the nation of Anguilla, Irish whiskey, Land-Rover, Fina’s pink air for your tires, the Qantas live kangaroo giveaway, Beethoven sweatshirts, a hatred of billboards, and Marshall McLuhan. A proponent of “interactive advertising” before there was such a thing, he was a master of engaging the audience. Gossage would’ve been an interesting fit for the dot-com age. The book is currently available in limited quantities, and will be re-issued in January with an interactive disc through The Copy Workshop. Matthews’ Copywriter is also available there, www.copyworkshop.com.
The Responsive Chord, by sound philosopher Tony Schwartz, is a gem that Jay Rose turned me on to during the last millennium. (I don’t want to say how many years it’s been. Let’s just call it three or four pants sizes ago.) I’ve recently dug up a copy for myself. How do people listen and react in the over-communicated world? Read Tony.
And speaking of the over-communicated world, Dan O’Day’s Radio Creative & Production Summit recordings of Nick Michaels are a must. Especially for anybody you know who’s too much in love with the sound of their own work. Makes a great gift for anybody who needs to Get Out Of The Way.
And for that matter, get anything about copywriting written by Dan O’Day. Especially good for those folks you know who still haven’t gotten past entertaining themselves to actually selling.
John Melley [jmelley[at]boston.cbs .com], WBMX/Mix 98-5, Boston, Massachusettes: I’m in the process of reading “How to Read Copy” by Adrian Cronauer (Portrayed by Robin Williams in the film “Good Morning Vietnam”.) The book has a lot of basic information on mic placement, etc. and it’s a little dated with regard to references about technology, but there are a few gems in there on getting a natural sound. It talks about finding your natural volume and pitch and getting rid of the “announcer” which is an easy thing to slip into. I tried a few of the exercises and was surprised at some of the habits I’ve developed.
I’m also perusing Roy William’s “Wizard of Ads” since I’ve seen it mentioned so many times in RAP.
Pete Jensen [petej[at]kxly.com] KXLY Broadcast Group, Spokane, Washington: Not a book, exactly, but the articles at http://digido.com are great! Lots of detailed technical info, and you can order the book for more.
Ian Fish [Ian.Fish[at]chrysalis.com] Heart FM, United Kingdom: Great book... “Writer’s Block” (ideas to jump start your imagination). It’s a book in the shape of a block (3 inches square… or is that cubed?), full of ideas and challenges to get you thinking. There are pictures, keywords, writing challenges and advice from successful writers on how to combat writers block. I think it’s aimed at authors rather than copywriters, but a lot of the content crosses over.
Craig Allen [craig.allen[at]citcomm .com] Citadel Broadcasting Co., Saginaw, Michigan: I haven’t actually read an entire book. On radio creative, that is. However, I do seem to be doing a Roy Williams/Dan O’Day 1-2 punch in bits and pieces. I subscribe to the “Monday Morning Memo” as well as review the “Wizard Of Ads” audio series from time to time. I’ve also read “O’Day On Radio Advertising,” I’m currently listening to “The 9th Annual International Radio Creative & Production Summit” audio, and I’m taking the RAB’s Certified Professional Commercial Copywriter course. I’ve got Richard Bayan’s “Words That Sell” ordered, but it’s not here yet. So I’m getting information and education (I think), just not in convenient book form.
Alex Behar [alex[at]beharcreative.com], Radiovisa, INC: Believe it or not, the book of a comedian. “When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops” by George Carlin. Carlin is well known for his criticism to everything and anything. He can be rude and very harsh, but when he points all the mistakes and errors of the society we live in, he gives me the tools to discover the annoyances of our clients. These problems are generic (as he referees to society), so most of them fall in the mistakes as described in the book. Then I try to convince the client of converting that in an advantage against their competitors instead and put it down for a nice spot.
Other than that, as a suggestion to all copywriters, it is not as important how much you read but how much you write. Write everything — ideas, words, sentences — it doesn’t matter in what context, you can always go back to your notes and realize that that great idea was written months ago but you just didn’t know.