By Dave Foxx
I get email from all over the world these days, from people who are seeking validation in the production/writing/voicing of their work. My most recent came from Durban, South Africa, where I am pleased to say commercial radio is off to a roaring start after just a very few years. I regularly hear from Australia, The Middle East, Europe – Eastern and Western, South America, India, Japan and every once in a while, here in the good old U.S. of A. It gives me a really interesting perspective on the state of our business, even though I know that certainly the work people send is their “Sunday Best.” I’m really impressed right now with the state of radio. I can only hope that it is with the help of blogs and columns like this that you have brought us to this point of superiority. I’m hearing a lot and I like what I hear. You’re really killing it and you should be proud.
If you’re waiting for the “but,” keep waiting. There really isn’t one. Oh sure, there’s always room for improvement; I know that by just listening to my own work. Honestly, it’s getting more and more difficult to be “critical” of someone else’s work. I most often find myself being reduced to pointing out extremely small inconsistencies or microscopic changes I might make if I were producing the same piece. Even when I listen as I travel, I keep being struck by how good the quality of work is in even the smallest markets.
So, now that we’ve had our Kumbaya moment, on with the column.
When I was in High School in Fort Worth, Texas, I noticed something about some of the popular girls. I’m talking about the really pretty ones who consistently had guys hanging around at their locker, lunchroom table and just about anywhere they would stop for a minute. Come Homecoming time, many would end up sitting at home instead of being the Belle of the Ball. I asked one of them once why that was and she said, “Because nobody asked me.” Everyone always assumed that because she was so popular, she probably had a dozen or so people ask her to go. You might recall that as a young man (or woman), rejection was always difficult to endure, so because everyone thought she already had a date, nobody bothered to ask and she ended up sitting at home the night of the dance.
A few years later, while attending college, I was working at the TV station as a cameraman, with a rather flamboyant guy named Rocky. We happened to have a class together one day and were walking between buildings when he spotted a really cute girl ahead of us, walking the same direction. He told me to hold up a sec and then raced up, put his arm around her like they were on a date and as they walked along, he introduced himself. She introduced herself rather shyly and he followed up by asking her out for dinner and a movie the next night. She thought for a few seconds and said, “Sure.”
After she walked on I asked Rocky if he knew her and he said, “No man. I thought she was cute, so I asked her out.”
Now, Rocky wasn’t exactly ugly, but he wasn’t an Adonis either. I made a comment about him being so brave, asking her out like that. He laughed and said something I’ve since come to regard as profound: “What’s the worst thing she can say? No? Ooh, that’s so scary! A thousand times I might get a ‘no’ when I ask, but how will she ever say ‘yes’ if I don’t ask?”
Over the next week, I actually tried it a few times and do you know what? It worked! I had one girl say no, but 3 others said yes. When the one said no, I said, “That’s too bad, but it was nice meeting you anyway.” She smiled. (To this day, I’m convinced she might have changed her mind if I had continued talking with her.)
No… I am not changing the purpose of this column to a dating advice column, though you can take from it what you will. The point here is two-fold:
1. Never assume something you want is unobtainable.
2. If you don’t ask, you won’t get.
Workstation: I cannot tell you how many people have told me that they had wanted to switch to Pro Tools™ for a long, long time, but had always assumed that it was too expensive. Read this carefully: it is no more expensive than Audition™ by Adobe. Sure, you can spend upwards of $15k if you want all the full tilt boogie outboard gear, plus another $8k if you want a PT console, but I run the latest version on my laptop with no external gear whatsoever. The cost is almost negligible. Seriously, before you assume you can’t, find out what it really costs. If you’re designing on some really old software like SADIE or SAW32 or even an old copy of Cool Edit Pro, step into the 21st century. Find out for sure what it would cost to upgrade to Vegas™, Audition™, or Pro Tools™. Don’t miss out on a hot date with that sexy new software because you think it’s too expensive for your budget.
Effects Library: Most of the big ones can only be acquired through barter. Unless your station is constantly sold out 24 hours a day, your station’s bottom line can afford to run a few spots per week so that you can have the best effects and production music to make the image the best it can possibly be. Your GM might not feel so at first, but a little work on your part can bring him or her around, if not this year, then next. Believe me, he or she will hear the difference immediately and see the difference with the next couple of ratings periods. There’s no sense at all of going to the prom with a plain Jane service when you can get high octane for so little.
Station Voice: I can assure you that most VO artists are not as expensive as you might think. I just picked up a new domestic station a few months ago whose primary contact is the Program Director. It’s not a very big market so the fee isn’t steep at all, but the PD raves just about every other week that I have single-handedly boosted his station into the stratosphere. I keep explaining that the verbiage has as much to do with that as my voice, but he’s insistent. I know a LOT of VO people who go through the same thing all the time. Don’t assume that because a particular VO artist is really good or even famous, his or her rates are astronomical. The nice thing for you is, it doesn’t cost a dime to ask and find out for sure.
Continuing Education: For those who are reading a “free” copy of this issue, seriously consider grabbing a subscription. Every month you will find advice and insight into radio and production, some really good examples/inspiration on the monthly CD, and if you’re really good at this voodoo that we do, you might even be asked to contribute to the growth of our industry with some sage advice/inspiration of your own. Down the road a little, when a major market PD is casting about, looking for a new producer, it could be that your name will come up before there is even an ad announcing the position.
I am certain that it has crossed many of your minds that this is a shameless plug for my services or this magazine, and to a certain extent I’ll say it is, but my motives are at least a little more pure than that. The whole reason I write this column each month is a sincere desire to improve the state of this business. As I said at the top of this column, I honestly don’t know whether production has improved over the last few years because of or in spite of this column and magazine, but it most definitely has improved. Someone, somewhere is doing something right and I’m just enough of an optimist to think we’re doing something positive here.
For my sound this month, I offer a promo for the Z100 Pays Your Bills promotion. Some of the workparts come from Production Vault™ and some from Trynity HD/FX™ but the design is all mine. I hope you’ll find some inspiration from it.