Q It Up: How would you rate this past year on a professional level, based either on personal experience or just observation of the industry as a whole; and what’s on your list of goals to improve things in the New Year? Are you going to upgrade that studio? Finally get that mic you’ve been wanting? Take some creative copywriting classes? Get your freelance business off the ground? Re-organize your department a little?
Steve Stone [sstone[at]zrgmail.com]: In 2007 we saw a guy get fired for speaking his mind after being attacked by the same people who defend free speech, we watched (and continue to) the status of PPM, and that pesty doctrine that just won’t go away. I’d say the industry as a whole is facing eminent change, but hasn’t it always? There are those who fear radio’s demise is coming. I say poppycock. Bull beep. Radio will be around forever for three reasons. One, it’s free. Duh. Two, an increasingly lazy society wants it easy. Any chimp can turn on a radio. Three, it’s still one of the most integral components of the music industry itself. That being fact, advertising will continue to take advantage of radio’s selling power for generations to come.
On a personal level, 2007 was another year of learning and improvement. And awards! I plan to launch Jingle Giant in the first quarter of 2008, so naturally I’m very excited about that. My studio is nearing completion and the website will be up soon. Wish me luck!
Here at Zimmer I’m continually looking for ways to streamline processes for everyone involved in the production line. Efficiency is key.
My new years resolution? The same as yours. Make more money!
Vaughan Jones [Vaughanj[at]scoast radio.com.au]: I would rate the year as fast moving. It feels like the wheels of change are spinning faster then ever. I am doing a broader range of work, delivered to a broader range of platforms. It was also the busiest year ever for me personally. Our cluster of 2 stations became a network of 10. We are more active online and externally than ever. Our pre and post campaign reports have grown in both number and value, requiring more from production. It’s increasingly obvious to me that broadcasting is no longer all we do.
Next year I want to keep learning ways to win the attention of my audience with greater simplicity, and I want to have more fun doing it.
Stephen Patrick [voice[at]haylan studios.com], Haylan Studios, Hays, Kansas: Creepy Kings and Cop Outs by Andrew Frame (December Issue) -- you’re on the money man. It tears me apart inside seeing these lame-ass commercials on TV use our favorite songs that might mean something to us, and very little to the “me, me all me” ad agencies. My mood is instantly changed. I don’t even have a good analogy right now for describing my repugnance. Repugnant: the first word out of my son’s mouth — not mom, not dad, but repugnant — but that’s a different story.
Vienna: come for the view, stay for the tiny hot dogs.
I can’t ride a bike. I never learned to swim. I’m not a big sports fan. On long road trips I drive with a white knuckle fear of getting a flat because I can’t change a tire. Most men scratch, spit, high five and claim to be no nonsense. Me on the other hand, well I’m all nonsense. (I do occasionally scratch and spit). When I pick up a newspaper I go immediately to the funnies. I spend most of my income on CDs and survive on a steady diet of hot pockets and cold cereal. I absolutely love breakfast cereals. In my home, cereal disappears faster than a Chinese panda. I love all kinds, but the sugared cereals marketed towards children are the best. You know, the ones with silly rabbits, seven foot tall tigers, bears in blue mock turtlenecks, and of course clinically insane cockatoos. These were the heroes of my youth. Lone rangers willing to do whatever it took to score the next bowl of sweet fruity goodness. If pressed, I could sing you the jingle to any of the hundreds of cereal commercials I saw growing up. Anyone else remember Quisp? Now, I’m all for nonsense, but those commercials have heart. Or maybe I’m just attached to them from my youth. Easy telling.
Attention ne’er-do-wells of bad advertising. Here is a list of “great things” for inspiration, encouragement, and just a different idea than the tiresome one you’ve been recycling for years now, i.e. “pop song advertising”:
Old pictures of people who are gone, unnecessary plurals (i.e. “you need some help with them ass?”), Bukowski, draft beer, clean taps, my true friends, having a song move me to tears, pirates (real ones, not Disney ones, except for Keith), the root of all evil, Snickers, a Mike Mcready guitar solo (the longer the better), not drinking so damn much, drinking a lot after not drinking so damn much for a few days, a cool breeze on my chest while I sleep, the moment you realize you don’t have a headache any more, Paul Newman, Pan’s Labyrinth, Neil Young at Massey Hall 1971, women with long hair, women with short hair, secrets, being honest, The Bronx, the smell of your pillows after someone special slept over, sleeping for 18 hours after being up for 3 days straight, the smell of a brand new album (no iPod for me thanks), my ever growing CD collection, live music (the louder the better), taking back my sanity, Pearl Jam bootlegs, Wheat State Pizza and a Dr. Pepper, strong women, a comical mustache, being itchy (my most favorite emotion), Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson, Alexander Payne, David O’Russell, Judd Apatow, The Mighty Q.T., Johnny fucking Cash, voodoo, frogs’ thumbs, Autumn (or fall), NPR’s All Things Considered, that Tom Waits song on Orphans where he says “oh yeah!” about a hundred times, real boobs, ice cream, prescription drugs, Thin Lizzy, old love letters/text messages, ghosts, patience, Loudon Wainwright III, Dax Riggs, “Death Proof”/the Death Proof soundtrack, the word emoticon, the fact that you can always see Jenny Lewis’ underwear, Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Jonah Hill to Michael Cera, “I want to be the iron chef of pounding vag,” having enough courage to do the right thing. Favorite quotes: “The heart has reasons that reason doesn’t know.” – Shakespeare, sock monkeys.
Anyway… yeah, great segue. Burger King makes me sick, Subway makes me poop and McDonald’s… I’m not lovin’ it. Now not all these eateries I have listed use the “pop song” for their personal gain, I just want a normal bowel movement.
Sorry I never really got to this months “Q It Up” question about personal experience, changes in the studio, list of goals, etc.
I really want to build a stand-alone vocal booth instead of the open room I’m currently using. I’m always trying to tweak my sound for something better. I never want to stop learning. I never want to not subscribe to RAP, and finally I want more clients.
PS: You smash it -- I’ll build around it.
Craig Jackman [craigj[at]canada .com], Rogers Media, Ottawa ON, Canada: On the whole, this year’s been a bit of a wash. While I’ve done some really good audio work, the high points haven’t been quite as high as I’d like, or as frequent. On the other hand, work outside of the studio has gone very well, and voice work is really improving. For the industry, I think this may have been the beginning of the slippery slope. Radio is about to be overtaken by online advertising in terms of gross revenue; competition is higher while the pool of listeners seems to be shrinking. As for upgrades in the coming year, we’re finally getting around to replacing all the Production computers. What were once state-of-the-art monsters are now the slowest in the building. We’ll take the time since we’re starting from scratch to update to the latest version of Audition as well. I’ve got to revisit my Time Management courses, as I find I’m wasting a lot of time through the day... not to mention hitting the gym more consistently.
Drake Donovan [drake[at]drake donovan.com]: The state of radio in 2007... it’s been a mixed bag. You have Clear Channel laying off dozens of staffers as the year came to close. Then there’s the onslaught from the record industry about increased performance royalties that would cripple smaller broadcasters and drive streaming music right off the internet. On a positive side, you have someone like CBS’s Dan Mason, who has been performing a Scott Bakula and “leaping from market to market, striving to put right what once went wrong and hoping that with each leap, will be the leap to better ratings.”
For me personally, 2007 has been a great year. I’ve upgraded my home studio with a new mic chain and a new computer. I’ve added new voice-over clients as well as a couple new production clients. I’ve done some of the best work I’ve ever put on the air. I also won some local market awards for my work that really help out in the self-esteem department. I even learned a little bit about how to edit video for the web (a skill I plan to expand upon in ’08)! All in all, for me 2007 was a great year. Let’s hope the industry can make the right moves in 2008 so that we all can continue to do what we do for years to come.
Johnny George [vo[at]johnny george.com], Johnny George Communications Inc., www.johnnygeorge .com: Quite frankly, this being my first full year out on my own as an independent voice actor, it’s been a pretty good year. After leaving Susquehanna Indianapolis as CSD in May 2006 (with help from Cumulus), I faced the stark reality of moving on to another property or jumping into the VO field with both feet and no net. I chose the latter.
I really do not like where radio is heading presently. I got into broadcasting because I loved the idea of communication and the creativity of many to put on a show that many more could tune into and be entertained. The creative side is quickly disappearing when you hear, “Forget all the fancy stuff - just get it on the air by tomorrow morning.” Forget the “fancy” stuff? Uh, we call that “creative.” We want our listeners to come back. We want our listeners to be entertained. We want the same listeners there on the other side of the break, without tuning out, due to a bunch of fact filled, non-colorful, bland radio commercials, all voiced by the same one, over-worked, underpaid person trying to hold on to a paltry paycheck.
Yes, I have felt over this past year some tightening of the belt. But overall, as you build your foundation of clients, you try to build in enough of a base to supplement your income with a little from everyone as they rotate through you. Some will use you every other month, and the others will use you on those other months, in a perfect world. I also deal with quite a few international clients that may not be affected by what’s happening on our stateside. And I’m finding that when things get tough, there seems to be more creative angles that clients are using as they try to build their businesses. So the machine seems to continue to run. And yes, the usual slowdowns are still there, and I use that time to do marketing, upgrade, clean-up, back-up and vacation.
My plans for 2008 include expanding my company to the next level. I incorporated in 2007 and expanded my client base by fine-tuning some areas. Those have paid off and I’m upping the ante again. I met and exceeded my goal that my CPA poised to me after the incorporation. His next challenge will no doubt keep me very busy in 2008, and I welcome that challenge.
To all my old radio buddies - hold on tight to doing radio the way it should be. If the powers that be want to turn it into a bean-counters’ paradise, then jump ship and do it on your own terms. Eventually, the trend will turn back around and they will realize that it should be local - local - local! Be ready to grab the reigns again and take it where it belongs.
Here’s to everyone as they greet a new year. Much success to you and your family!
Michael Bratton [voiceguybratton[at] earthlink.net], Mike Bratton, Voice Guy, www.mikebrattonvoice.com: 2007 has probably been one of the greatest years so far in my career... and it started by my position being “eliminated” at 94.7 (formerly an Alternative/Rock/format of the month ) in Chicago. We flipped from Rock to (satellite delivered) Oldies back in ‘06, and as the Citadel/ABC Radio merger drum started banging louder and louder, I knew I was probably going to have to find a new gig soon. It took over a year for it to finally happen, but the end came in May of ‘07. It was a really clean break, and frankly, a welcome one. It was an ugly place to work... and I’ll leave it at that for now (want more, email me).
I was also, at the very same moment, changing my voiceover agent of 7 years! I used to be with Atlas Talent in New York. I loved those guys... still do. They were great, and really helped me get my voiceover career started. Hoss was always there for me and shepherded me through some tough times in my career, and my life as well. Hats off to a great guy. But, as with anything, a change was inevitable, and so, I moved over to work with Chris Gesue at Don Buchwald and Associates. And, as luck would have it, the moment I walked in the door, things just started to “happen.” Lots of bookings, mostly small at first... then BOOM, a TV affiliate signed on (in a top 10 market), then BANG, a new radio client signed on (KWOD in Sacramento), and then, at the beginning of October, I landed the biggest voiceover gig of my career so far, by becoming the voice of the newly launched Fox Business Network! So, to sum up, getting “laid-off” was the greatest thing that happened to my career.
I also have the good-fortune to continue doing my first love, radio imaging, with many radio clients — these are guys that are busting their asses in their respective markets, and thankfully I happen to be working with some real pros. THESE people get it, and their station¹s are successful. It’s also fun to read copy and add my own twist to it. Sometimes, it’s nice to just drop a funny line or a personal perspective on a promo or liner. If they use it, great, if not...whatever. But I like to laugh, and if something strikes me as funny, you bet yer bippy, if I’m thinkin’ it, I’m gonna say it.
Now, radio as a whole, is not all wine and roses...
Which brings me to some quick observations of the industry here in Chicago... namely, it’s in trouble. If given a choice, I would gladly go to work at the Apple Store to make ends meet if I ever have a lull in the voiceover world, than go back to working in radio. It was a career, and a job, that I loved for over 13 years. I’ve done some of the most creative things in my life when I was at the Buzz in Houston, and at the Edge in Phoenix, and even a little bit at Q101. But as the years went on, I started working for bigger companies, with smaller minded PDs who worked for even smaller minded GMs and even SMALLER minded “muckity-mucks,” that it just became a “job.” And as I said, if I’m going to just work a “job,” I’d rather sell a product I believe in (go Apple!), than a product that not even the demographic believes in anymore.
Ok, I’m off my soapbox... for now.
As for things I plan to do for ’08: GROW, GROW, and GROW some more... personally and professionally. I am never going to stop marketing myself, never going to stop trying to better myself as a voiceover talent and as a producer. The minute you think you can’t do any more to further your career, is the minute your career starts moving backwards. I plan to keep visiting my agent in New York as often as possible, and to go out and visit all my clients. I’ve yet to make it to certain markets, and I think this is the year to really get out there and say hi. It always helps to make it personal. I like to think of my clients as family. Dysfunctional at times? You bet, but that’s what family is. And I plan to get a much-delayed series of production SFX off the ground.
One more thing I need to do in ‘08 is figure out how to keep myself organized. MAN do I suck at that. And to keep my train of thought...
Wait, what was I saying?
CJ Goodearl [cj[at]wjrr.com], Clear Channel, Orlando, Florida: I would rate ’07 as a 7. (It works out nice that way, very symmetrical.) Personally, I was fortunate enough to have my freelance voiceover work pick up with regional spots, got to go to New York City in November and win a cool trophy (and some ca$h) for a spot I produced, (The E.A.R. Award for Best Commercial Produced by a Radio Station), hosted by non other than the hilarious Stephen Colbert! What a thrill! How lucky can one guy be?! Plus, I still have my day job, which is no small miracle in and of itself. Scratch the 7 rating and bump up my ’07 to a solid 8 ½. The French judge gave it a 6.5, but it’s a wash ‘cause the Ukraine line judge hit me with a 10. So, yeah... that rocked! In ’08 I will aggressively market myself for more VO work — keep em comin’! Radio production folks, please hit www.cjgoodearl.com for demos (ah-ah.. ah-PLUG!) I am very fast and smell good most of the time. I will be purchasing a shiny new mic and preamp that I will write off come April. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all my brothers and sisters in the production universe!
Ralph Mitchell [RalphMitchell[at] clearchannel.com]: 2007 has been an interesting year. As voiceover websites proliferate, and more “talent” enters the field, many voiceover seekers expect to pay less for what many of us have been doing for decades. Economists call it “supply and demand,” but I usually refer to it as undercutting. (Others may call it back-stabbing.) Personally, I’ve been able to find more v/o work this year and have made forays into new areas. It’s interesting to note that technology is cutting many announcers out of their radio gig’s due to the “bean-counters” love of voice-tracking, etc - but on the other side of the coin, technology has created a growing genre of v/o talent needs. Certainly the field of voice work is in flux with the advent of more-and-more gaming and web-related work. So the challenge as I see it, for the coming year, is to find a way to exploit those areas of growth while hanging on to your “J.O.B.” and its benefits as long as you can. If you’re already out on the street because of broadcasting company budget cuts, you’ve either already started your search for more freelance work, or you’ve gone to work driving a cab (as one of my contemporaries had to do) or working at Lowe’s (as I once had to do).
One thing’s for sure: change is in the air and we all need to be prepared for the unexpected by diversifying. (OK, now I sound like a financial planner...but then, I already tried that career path and decided that creative types shouldn’t sell anything but their own talent). Prayer helps too.
Have a happy new year!
Joel Moss [jmoss[at]webn.com]: An interesting question: how do you evaluate your personal work while the radio industry as we once knew it no longer exists, and what we know today will be most likely wrong tomorrow; or, at least someone might suggest a different paradigm. Market after market lose programming staff — budget cuts in light of shrinking revenues while terrestrial/satellite radio continues to reel from attempts to define and redefine its roll in the evolving digital landscape; and with listeners’ (consumers’) discretionary time more difficult to capture and retain (and the unknown realities of ‘wifi’ lurking), it is a challenge to simply remain focused. There are many distractions.
More often than not, I’m asked how is what I am doing directly related to generating revenue. More than a decade ago, after an equal number of years writing and producing commercials and promos as WEBN’s Production Director, my role was recast as “Creative Services Director” — no more spots, but a whole lot of input regarding everything from promos to marketing campaigns (billboards, TV spots, merchandising, CD projects, and directing/producing soundtracks for WEBN fireworks events). Pretty much anything with a ‘frog’, visually or sonically, was part of my realm. And now, with incredibly powerful and elegant video editing software (Sony Vegas 8), my work includes producing video content for webn.com. Content for my associated personal blog which is part of webn.com is another forum I feed stuff to. Will it ever earn its way into something tangible? Damned if I know; guess we’ll all find out together.
So, as to this month’s question: on a personal level, in terms of how I do my job, I continue to feel very fortunate to remain passionate about what it is we do. With new tools, there is the opportunity to develop skills and reinvent the job from the inside out. However, I’m very aware there are many in studios globally who don’t have the creative freedom I continue to enjoy — not to mention, a “job”.
I take none of it for granted; there are times when I think about friends, creative gifted friends, who are looking for a gig in a shrinking market. That is difficult to separate when evaluating my career as it relates to the industry as a whole at the close of 2007.
When I do think about the future, I anticipate a more powerful PC to produce audio and video projects, and it’s exciting. I really dig learning new software, combining with copy that works, and producing the piece. Whatever the platform, or whether or not it makes any money is secondary. My job is to create the content, and I guess my sense is that, while offering perspective and ideas, the actual task of ‘monetizing the content’ is attacked by another department.
In summary, I think the biggest challenge is to not be distracted, to continue to create material that remains vital and current, that you enjoy, while integrating the skills we’ve developed with new ways to put those skills to use. The goal is simple: everything I do is hopefully something that is entertaining and unique enough to compel a listener/consumer to attain some brand loyalty to our product.
One additional thing: for me, if I’m satisfied that what I’m doing today is better than something I did last week, in terms of writing, getting familiar with new software, anything positive as it relates to the creative process, then I continue to be energized. Awards and a “lifetime achievement award” are pretty meaningless when it comes to how your performance is evaluated; this is the reality I’ve observed.
The fact is, unlike years ago, RAP magazine is not being read by the chain of command; they have no idea whether I’ve won any awards, nor do they really care. If I were producing commercials that earned awards, that would be a different story.
At this point, it’s all about how the entire package will inevitably show an increase in revenue, which is cool; but the other truth is, “there is no line-item in the budget for writing… content development, etc”.
Talk to you next year?