By Michael R. Lee, Ph.D.
Motivation is a curious thing. One person’s goal is another person’s anathema. Money, fame and power have long been considered the trifecta of motivation. Dream vacations on sun drenched winter-time Caribbean islands and beautiful women responding to your every whim are not bad back-up motivators. For Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and countless other star athletes, they don’t need any more of the above. They say that championships are all that matter.
If you image a radio station anywhere on this planet, you can pretty much cross out all of the above. Even your bosses are unlikely to accrue any of the trifecta. Islands and beautiful women are images you create for others to salivate about. And championships are not something for which you are likely to get much, if any, credit.
How many times do you read an interview with a Program Director or general manager who says, “We couldn’t have pulled this off if Jim Jackson hadn’t worked his ass off every night doing the best sweepers and promos I’ve ever heard”? More than a few general managers don’t even know who their Jim Jackson is. Here’s a reality check. Call a radio station in your market, maybe even yours, and try to get connected to the Imaging Producer. It’s an effort to get to the receptionist. If you’re lucky, you might find out who does the production, which invariably means the person who produces the commercials. You will be astounded by how many commercial producers don’t know who images their own station. They will tell you to contact the Program Director. On and on the circus goes.
There really is no delicate way to put this. Imaging Producers are disrespected in this business. It is insulting that the same people who create the aura of a radio station, who generally work the longest days and who possess the greatest computer and audio skills are virtually anonymous. You won’t find their names and pictures on station websites. You won’t find the rewards on the paycheck or the parking space or the year-end bonus.
What you will find are Program Directors who demand never ending turnover of the imaging, long before much of the audience has even heard it once or twice. What you will find are Imaging Producers who have to write, produce and sometimes voice myriad pieces for a cluster of stations every day. Convoluted contests, prima donna air talents, endless schemes to work in advertiser mentions, and equipment and software that are often inferior to what Imaging Producers have at home are just a bonus.
Considering all of the above, the quality of work turned out by Imaging Producers is astounding. The quantity is ridiculous. The question of how is answered by extra hours, considerable cunning and the willingness to take shortcuts when it all gets overwhelming.
The question of why is much more intriguing. For some it is the mortgage and the family. For others it is the lack of viable alternatives at Goldman Sachs. The motivation of the audience can’t be discounted. But there is one bloodline that has identified Imaging Producers for decades. It is the intangible that can’t be found on a paycheck or a Caribbean island. It is the reason to sift thru hundreds of drops and sound effects and pieces of music every day. It is why people try six different EQ settings on the voice and three different limiters on the mix. It is why the Imaging Producer is so often at the station or at home working on tweaking and experimenting when the rest of the station personnel are partying or sleeping.
It is PRIDE. You do it because you know it represents your creative soul. It is the expression of your talent and your tenacity. If the audience enjoys it, that’s a bonus. If your bosses recognize it, that’s a big surprise. Some day the imaging will be tested just like the music and the slogans and the name of the station mascot. For now, it is just one person against the wall of silence. No money for nothing, no chicks for free.
And that’s what I love about RAP. The only people who can appreciate the creative mettle of an Imaging Producer are the others who do it. Here’s to sharing your triumphs and your most incredible creations. We thank you, Jerry, for the selfless devotion to making this possible. And without further ado, it’s time to go back to work.