R.A.P. Interview: Rich Boerner, Ronn Lipkin, Rob Frazier

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JV: You are all very creative and talented individuals. What’s it like to have each other to brainstorm with every day? Do you each have special areas of expertise the others draw from, regular creative meetings or brainstorming sessions where all three of you are involved? The combination of all your talents in one building is a powerful creative force. Give us an idea of what it’s like to have that creative force around every day.
Rob: The key word here is individuals. We are three creative individuals who can brainstorm together or just as easily come up with stuff on our own. We have our formal creative meetings with clients and sales once or twice a week where we will all kick around ideas in an open setting. Rich’s office is right across the hall from my studio, so I can always pop in there if I’m stuck. It really is nice to have these guys available to bounce ideas off of. I like your use of the phrase “creative force” because that is what we are. We have such a strong track record with sales that we are viewed as an indispensable resource. We make them money. The clients come to us believing we are the experts and that we will deliver for them. Most of the time we do. But it all starts with “creative and talented individuals.”

Rich: I use and abuse those guys…bleed them dry creatively. Then tell the world “I work alone.” Seriously, they make me look like a freaking genius every day. My creativity came from childhood head trauma. They’re just messed up. It’s a very cool mix of mania.

Ronn: Thank you for the kind words. Rich and Rob are always up to something. Rob played me his newest Acid creation “San Francisco” the other day, in which he reanimated Jack Kerouac, which was inspiring on many levels. As for Rich, well, he’s always encouraging me to think outside the box, then throw the box away and use something else, like a trapezoid. And then make fun of the trapezoid, and so on.

JV: Do you go outside of your own team for creative input and feedback, brainstorming with other individuals for example? What are some other outside sources you use for ideas, such as websites or books or other services.
Rich: I use everything I see, hear, feel, think. Then use Rob and Ronn as creative soundboards. We also have a very helpful Friday ritual at a restaurant-pub called The Brass Monkey in which we find many creative ideas tucked away in juicy pastrami sandwiches and longneck bottles of fermented barley and hops.

Rob: Yes, the Brass Monkey has been an excellent source of inspiration for the creative team. And never underestimate the power of beer. Karaoke starts at 4:00 on Friday! Seriously though, as far as outside influences go, having a life outside of the radio station is paramount. Real life experiences are the fertile soil from which much creativity springs. Professionally, I visit a lot of industry sites, both radio and advertising, and subscribe to several newsletters from people like Roy Williams, Dan O’Day, Mark Ramsey and so on. And I read books both about and not about radio advertising.

Ronn: I try to listen to my kids, and the way that they are totally uninhibited creatively, and then try to let go of my own set ideas. If that doesn’t work, I drink beer and listen to Wagner opera. Wagner rocks, dude.

JV: Few stations can afford to staff their creative team as well as KLSX has. Do you have any ideas for the 2 guys handling 4 stations in a typical medium market cluster, ideas to help them expand their creativity? What can they do in lieu of having a couple of you in the building?
Rob: Produce for yourself. Obviously, everything you produce can’t be a masterpiece, but they don’t have to be steaming piles of crap either. Set yourself a standard and then do your best to meet or exceed that standard. Most of the time you will be the only one who takes any pride in what you’ve done, so don’t let yourself down. Pick where you think you can shine and then shine! Shine brightly! And be sure to let other people know how brightly you shine! Take a page from sales; if you produced a spot that closed a big account, have the AE send an email to your PD, GSM and GM about how your great work benefited sales and the station. Make sure that the station knows what a valuable resource you and your department are to the station’s bottom line. Once you change management’s perception of your department from something that costs them money to something that makes them money, you’ll start getting more of what you want or need. Seminars, music libraries, and new gear are now investments that enhance the bottom line.

Rich: Pray… drink… utilize RAP magazine for ideas. Explore the Dan O’Day and Roy Williams creative seminars. Get out into the public as much as possible, then use real life for ideas. You experience the same things listeners do outside the studio.

Ronn: That’s a tough question. I think it’s important to set reasonable deadlines with the salespeople and to make sure you have all the tools you need, like a good music library, sound effects and such. Then, don’t take the job home with you. It’ll keep you fresh. 

JV: Clients probably want to run the commercials you create on other stations, even outside the Infinity chain. What will the average spot cost the client for air on other stations?
Rich: We created a very thorough and nicely bound 13-page “KLSX Advertising and Production Handbook” that outlines who we are, what we do, how we do it, and how salespeople can get spots done effectively. And it also includes a rate sheet for spots that leave the station. The minimum cost of any spot to leave the station is $300. It goes up from there with multiple voices, needle drops fees, etc.

JV: Rich, I know you had a CD of comedy stuff you sold at record stores back in the ’90s. What are each of you doing, if anything, outside of the KLSX gig? Do you have a voice-over biz going? Freelance production or writing?
Rich: LA’s been great to me. My freelance company RBCreative.com has really benefited from the move. I’ve continued to do voice and image for stations. However, in ’03 I became an on-call image consultant for a number of Canadian stations in the Corus Entertainment chain. I’ve put on successful Creative Imaging and morning show seminars for a bunch of them. On the VO front I’ve been able to secure an agent and have done a few national radio spots and some promo work for Fox TV and UPN.

Rob: I have a growing voiceover business and am in the process of hiring an agent. I have several regular freelance clients and I’m looking to expand in the Haunted Attraction arena this year. I also like to dabble with electronic music as my alter ego Robnokshus. By the way, you can hear a wide variety of my stuff at www.robfraziercreative.com.

Ronn: I’ve got some voice and editing projects going, like for Boston Medical Group, Maximum Testosterole, Soleil Resorts, mostly things that run on KLSX that I’ve been lucky enough to have expand to other markets.

JV: Do you all have studios at home? What’s the setup?
Rob: I have a small setup at home with Vegas, Acid and Sound Forge, running on a 2.5 gig AMD Athlon machine. I have an AKG 2000B mic running through a Symetrix 528E, through an old NuMark DJ board into my sound card. The AKG is a nice, warm condenser mic for under $300. I mostly do Acid stuff at home.

Rich: No studio for me. As a single dad with two kids, my home time belongs to me… and my kids.

Ronn: I mostly use my home computer to research my kids’ homework and juggle my fantasy baseball rosters.

JV: What’s the studio setup at KLSX?
Ronn; Our new studios are great: digital SAS Rubicon consoles, all new Pro Tools and Sony software, fast computers. I’m still amazed, on a daily basis, at the tools Infinity has given us.

JV: Any parting thoughts for our readers?
Rob: It’s nice that the industry is paying attention to the commercials that we put on the air. Whether it’s concern over commercial load, commercial length or commercial quality, what we do is currently in the spotlight. Capitalize on it. Learn to promote yourself and what you do for the station’s bottom line.

Ronn: I think there’ll always be a need for creative production, even more so in the age of Podcasting and satellite radio. There are more opportunities than ever to have fun with audio and make a living at it.

Rich: Challenge yourself every day. And if you’re not having fun… find another job. 

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