JV: And your imaging library, Category Five. Tell us what it is and how it came to be.
Brian: Let me start by saying this, a little advice maybe… And I don’t mean to sound doom and gloom, but I think in this day and age with everything changing the way that it is, particularly for rock radio, there really is no guarantee that any of us are going to have the same job we have now in five or ten years. So my best advice, because I’ve been doing this for years, is to save money and have a plan B. Be ready to do something else, and that doesn’t necessarily mean the same job you’re doing now, just in a different city. If you have the talent to do something out of your house, start making plans to do that. It’s never been more affordable to get the equipment and set up your own voiceover studio, or in my case basically a production facility. I’m always looking at other things that I could be doing. At first, when I put the equipment in at home, I thought, I’m going be able to cut radio production in here. Then you look ahead and you go, maybe people aren’t going to want to pay for that. Then I started thinking about doing sounds. So the studio in my home and producing sounds is really in case I lose my job. If that happens, I want to have something else to fall back on.
Regarding the library itself, as a guy who’s been trying to buy sounds for years and has been disappointed probably for about the last five or six years, I decided to just create my own library. It’s mostly geared toward rock, and I produced it as if I were the customer as well. I patterned it after the Brown Bag libraries back when they were a cash library that you could lease for a couple of years at a time. I just love being able to get one disk, maybe even two disks, and just know that everything on here is going to work. I’ve been buying so many disks of late that just don’t satisfy. They don’t have nearly the amount of cuts, or they have way too many cuts that are bad, and I have to search through to find a couple of good cuts, which to me is annoying. Nobody wants to get an eight-disk library and then immediately have to go through it and almost either write little notes or dump them into Pro Tools and save them in a folder. To me that’s just too much work. I want to be able to grab a disk and know that I can use it. Every cut is usable, and you can get a lot of use out of it for a fair amount of time. I don’t want to do a zillion different libraries for every conceivable format. I’d rather do one quality library per year.
And as far as my business model, I’ve taken the best things from some other services. When AV Deli came out with buying these things and owning them forever, when Joe first launched that, that was awesome. Because as an alternative to Brown Bag, it costs about the same amount of money, maybe a couple of hundred dollars less, and you owned it forever; that’s a great deal. Of course, over the years that’s morphed into not paying anything, just bartering for it. But then you have to trade spots on it, which in the “less is more” world, people are really re-examining. In certain markets, you could be paying $20,000-30,000 for an imaging library in bartered spots. Here in Pittsburgh, they’d love it if I went upstairs and said, “You can have those 60s back. That one 60 a day, the seven a week that we’re running to keep this service, you can have those back.” They’d sell them, and we’d get all that money back.
So I wanted to offer up a library that was fairly priced. You buy it, you own it, it’s done. I’m hoping that once it gets going, it’ll be a nice safety net for me. It’s something that I can easily do on the side without taking up all of my time. I don’t need to have every producer in the world as a client. If I have 50 or 100 really great clients, that’s fine. I’m not looking to make all the money; I just want to put out a quality product. I’m hoping that within a couple of years – because I think that’s how long it’s going to take to really tell if it’s a success or a failure – I want people to think, “Category Five Sound… great sounds.”
JV: The first library is available now, right?
Brian: Yes. It’s a CD-ROM with over 400 cuts on it, and they’re WAV files busted out into folders that are broken up by category. They’ll import into any digital workstation that you have – very easy to use. I don’t have 1,000 people beating on my door for it just yet, but the few people that have purchased it have given me nothing but glowing reviews.
JV: Any parting thoughts for our readers looking for tips to imaging ‘DVE style?
Brian: I’d say just always re-examine everything that you do. Kind of study it and break it down. Most things we do, we’ve done for a long time, but we are constantly improving upon them. We really don’t change things unless it’s going to benefit us and it makes sense to do so. For instance, comedy cuts – we need to keep doing those, but you can’t just run comedy. You have to constantly finesse that, look at the library and make sure we’re running the right ones. And after the comedy cut, we have a quick element that says, “Jim Krenn, Randy Baumann, mornings 6:00-10:00 on ‘DVE,” reminding the listener where they can get more. Just re-examine how you do things, and make sure you’re always doing them the best way that you possibly can.