By Dave Foxx
I guess that since I started writing this column, I’ve been averaging about 12 to 15 emails a week from producers worldwide. Most are full of praise for a column (read: ass-kissing), some contain constructive criticism (always welcome), a few have taken issue with what I’ve said (sometimes good points) and a handful have questioned my immediate heritage. (I can assure you that I am not illegitimate. I knew both my parents.)
One question I’ve been asked a lot is how much “pre-produced” material finds its way into my production from services like Chase Cuts™ and Frostbytes Online™. The answer is some… sometimes. Another place I find a real wealth of material is on the imaging site that Jim Cook runs that is a ‘clearing house’ of production for the benefit of Clear Channel producers. It really all depends on what I find when I go mining for little nuggets on those services. But the question is what I find even more interesting. Increasingly, I’m hearing production people pooh-pooh the use of such services for anything other than workparts. Basically, the belief seems to be that it is somehow cheating to use a shell of a promo and that the producer isn’t being ‘creative’ enough to come up with his/her own material. What a silly notion.
Let’s think for a minute about the mission of an imaging producer. Our real job is to first ‘enhance’ the image of the radio station. Most of the time we do this by making the promo funny, or at least fun, or even just exciting to listen to. In my book of rules, this means we try to engage the listener’s emotions so they feel a certain kinship with the brand. Depending on what the purpose of the promo is, our next job is to ‘explain.’ For example, if the station is running a contest giving away free gasoline, we have to explain how the listener can win. If we’re doing a promo pushing ‘variety’ as a keyword for the station, we have to explain how the station lives up to that ideal, usually with a simple demonstration. Finally, our last job is to make the sale. We have to convince the listener that the frequency they’re tuned to is the only place they’ll find the kind of funny, fun or exciting things going on in the promo, all the time.
Nowhere, in my little list of things we do, does it say we have to bear the complete burden of being creative. If Eric Chase comes up with a slam-bam way to promote a football game tailgate party, and a station is sponsoring a football game tailgate party, how obtuse would someone have to be to not use Eric’s work? If the station is doing a Gwen Stefani/Black Eyed Peas concert promotion and John Frost drops a perfect shell of a promo on his site, you’d have to be a complete doofus not to use it.
Sometimes, in fact most times for me, the material I find on these sites is almost what I need. Sometimes, I’ll end up using part of what Eric posted to fill in the blank spots. A few times I’ve used both John and Eric’s stuff. My creativity came into play when I heard what they did and realized that it dovetails nicely into what I want to do.
For my track on this month’s CD, I found what I needed in TWO promos that Steve Sykes (one of the truly great minds in imaging today) did for Q102 in Philadelphia. I found them both on Jim Cook’s Clear Channel Imaging site. His two promos precede mine on the CD, so you can hear what I heard when I first got the idea for my promo. I think you’ll agree that his promos were very inventive and did everything they needed to do for Q102’s promotion. I ‘borrowed’ the ideas and bent them to my own needs, coming up with a promo that sounded awesome on Z100.
If, after reading this, you still feel a bit cheeky ‘borrowing’ from other producers, do yourself a favor and sign up for Robert Dudzic’s Trynity HD/FX. (No… Robert hasn’t paid me to say this.) Robert doesn’t do promo shells; he just does effects… thousands of effects that you can use to create your own sound from the ground up. From music beds to amazing ‘atmospheres’ and drones, from slamming hits to electronic effects you won’t find anywhere else, Robert has what I consider to be the best all purpose production library in the world. In just about every piece of production I do, whether it includes work from Frost, Chase or Cook’s website, my work will include some Trynity HD/FX workparts buried somewhere deep in there.
Both Eric and John are incredibly talented producers who do what they do so you can ‘borrow’ their ideas to incorporate into your work. What Jim Cook presents is the work of producers from all over the Clear Channel group, done for exactly the same reason and of course, to give the CC producer ideas.
So, lighten up a bit, will you? Your audience will never know that you ‘borrowed’ an idea, and neither will your boss. They’ll all just think you’re brilliant. And they’ll be absolutely right.