By Dave Foxx
I’ll bet that got your attention. Well, read on. It’s in there.
Since we last chatted, I had a terrific experience addressing a large room full of Program Directors and Operations Managers from all over the world at the Dan O’Day PD Grad School in Los Angeles. I don’t know if you’ve ever attended one of Dan’s sessions (he does several every year), but I have to say, it is certainly worth the price of admission, depending on why you’re going, of course. My task at this conference was two-fold; to help programmers get more from their creative people and to make the lives of their creative people better. That might seem like two ideas that don’t play well together, but actually the opposite is true, and that, dear reader, is what this issue of Production 212 is about.
I began my presentation talking about the importance of imaging. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but I think even you would be shocked to learn how important it really is. I’ve seen the stats, had them evaluated by statistics specialists and gotten the same results over and over again. Good imaging (versus bad or non-existent imaging) is worth 25% of your stations Average Quarter Hour share… on average. The only consistently more significant factor is your actual program content, for most of you, music. In a few cases, the morning drive show can be AS important, but that is more rare than most programmers would ever want to know. Yet, most radio stations treat their imaging people with, well… let’s not go down that road.
Instead, let me address just the producers reading this. For me, Nirvana is having a promo just fall together, almost effortlessly. The best ones usually do. Your imagination is sparked by some concept you see or hear, and you race into the studio and the ideas start leaping from your brain to your fingers and then your workstation. You can’t work fast enough to get it all out. Your brain starts buzzing, the hairs on your arm stand straight up and you’re almost dizzy with the exhilaration. Finally, breathlessly, you hit play and the magic fills the air. Gosh, that almost sounds like good sex, doesn’t it? Well, good sex doesn’t usually end where it starts now, does it? It usually starts on a dance floor or at a movie. It always starts in your brain. Excellent production is exactly the same. It doesn’t start in your workstation. It doesn’t even start with the written page. It starts in your head.
So, let me ask, do you look for production inspiration in your studio? Do you sit in front of an open, empty Word document waiting for the spark to hit? Here’s a quarter, buy a clue. If you want to romance someone, you don’t take that person into your bedroom and stare at him or her until inspiration hits, do you? (If that is your standard mode of operation, you really need to talk to a professional.) What you should do is take the object of your desire to dinner, have a couple of drinks, a few laughs, maybe a show. Somewhere along the line, I guarantee you, she or he will think, “Hmm. Maybe we should have sex,” or something along those lines, depending on the quality of your conduct. Sparking creative, imaginative production ideas needs almost exactly the same kind of romancing as romance.
I have written before about the importance of ‘filling your creative well,’ but I need to bring it up again, so you’ll understand where I was going with all the program directors in Los Angeles. My first point to them (my main point, actually) was they have to make you a part of their brain trust. Most programmers have a small cadre of people who make sure that everything that’s supposed to take place does. Usually, it includes the Music Director, a Promotions Director and an Assistant PD or OM. This is the brain trust. But you, dear producer are usually NOT in that august group. Given that you are actually the spokesperson for the radio station to the public and are quite possibly the most important factor in your station’s AQH, you absolutely should be. When your station gets the results from a perceptual study, you should be the FIRST person on the list. Most importantly, when the PD holds a planning meeting for promotions for the next quarter, you should be the first person invited. After you’ve soaked in what the station plans are for the next six months, as you go about the business of ‘filling the well,’ you will spark on ideas over and over again. When the day comes to actually produce something for one of those promotions, you’ll have a loaded gun, so to speak, and be ready to do some drop-dead work.
The other big point I tried to get across to the programmers in Los Angeles was to give you your groove time. Pick three or four hours of your day (the same ones every day) and close your door, shut off your phone and let the magic happen. If you don’t have any salespeople, deejays or programmers interrupting you, you will get 5 or 6 times the amount of quality work done. Then, after you answer your voicemail, catch up on your email and take care of the few odd requests that seem to come in every day… go home. Go fill your well doing the same stuff your audience is doing. Buy some groceries and pick up a copy of The Enquirer. Stop by your local pub and talk politics or Hollywood or whatever comes up. Take your significant other to a movie. Catch up on some Tivo. Two things will happen all by themselves: you’ll get a life worth living, and your well will be full to the brim, every time you walk into the station. You’ll be happy. Your boss will LOVE your work and your significant other will adore you… or at least tolerate you better.
So, I’ve done my part. Now it’s up to you to follow through. If your PD was not in LA for the conference, loan him or her your copy of RAP… minus the CD. You don’t want to put any ideas in their head. Then, do everything you can to get your groove time and work it!
No audio from me this month. Sorry gang, the CD is full to the outer edge with outstanding production from all over the world as the real fun gets started on the RAP Awards. You’re going to hear some great ideas on there, so take an hour or so, grab a cup of coffee (or other suitable beverage) and listen carefully. You’ll be hearing some real sparks. Load yourself up and get ready to blow your PD away.