By Dave Foxx
A lot of email was generated with last month’s column on creativity. Almost all of it good, but I can’t help but notice that every piece of email was different from all the others. I’m thinking that’s because you all are so creative. The one negative email was incredibly creative, which gave me even more pause.
This month, we get back to 5 simple things that will make your job simpler. To be honest, some of this stuff is SO basic, you’ll wonder why I’m writing about it, but you’d be very surprised to learn how many people DON’T think about these things. So just think about these tips as being gentle reminders. I know most of it is just common sense.
Have A One Person Listening Party - Part 1
If you’re anything like me, when you’re in a time-crunch, you tend to go right to music or drops you know that will get the job done. After a few time-crunch situations, you start to recycle. That’s not good. It makes your work predictable and, if it goes on too long, boring. That personal library in your head needs to expand from time to time, just to keep things fresh.
About once a month I take an afternoon where I lock the door, shut off the phone and listen to all the new material that has come in from my various services and sources. Like anything, some of it is great, some of it isn’t. Some of it makes you scratch your head in wonder. But, your brain will start logging the stuff you want to use and forgetting stuff you know you’ll never use. The next time you’re in a crunch, your brain will open up like a flower and deliver just the right piece for your timely project.
If you’re finding that you’re getting more dreck than the good stuff, it might be time to reconsider your sources. Even better, if your sources are open to suggestion, it never hurts to send an email outlining what you are finding useful and what you are not. Andy Jackson, the head of Reel World’s Production Vault/CHR in Manchester, England visited a few weeks ago. I had a chance to really sit and discuss what they do and what they could do, and I got some really positive results. He told me that he very much wanted to get out of certain areas because they’re such time-hogs with low usage and into some other areas that would be very useful to the average radio producer. Believe me when I tell you that people like Andy really listen to their subscribers. They truly want their service to be the best it can be for subscribers just like you.
Have A One Person Listening Party - Part 2
After years of editing music hooks for promos, and more recently for videos, I’ve learned that usually there are 3 distinct places in most songs where the hook is repeated. When a song like Happy by Pharrell Williams becomes a mega-hit for months on end, it’s a really good idea to know where all the hooks live in a song so I’m not constantly using the same hook over and over in promo after promo. (It’s bad enough that we’re playing the song over and over again.)
Even though it’s NOT my job to dub music into the main system any more, I still make it a point to have a mini-listening party as I dub every new song into MY system when it is first added. This accomplishes two things: first, I get to hear the song in its entirety and can become very familiar with where all the hooks are, and second, I have a clean copy on my hard drive that matches the version we’re actually using on the air. With all the INTRO, NO RAP, FADE END and REMIX versions that exist for most songs anymore, it’s generally a good thing to know that what you’re using in your promos and sweepers is the version the station is playing on a regular basis.
When I’m done and everything is buttoned up, I have a pretty decent map in my head for each song and can quickly cut to the meat of what I want for any given piece of production. I know if there are any instrumental portions and just where the hooks are, which makes my work quicker and my life much simpler.
Have A One Person Listening Party - Part 3
If you are one of those brave souls who, like me, want to do more beatmixing, as you load your music into your system, make a note of the BPM and incorporate it into the title. For example, on my drive, the current Demi Lovato song is labeled Neon Lights (126D)-Demi Lovato. When I’m gathering materials for a beatmix, I’ll pick songs that are within a 5 beat range (and still current, of course) and then get busy with elastic audio. I don’t have to guess. By the way, if you don’t know how to determine BPM, there is a really cool website that does the heavy lifting for you. The URL is audiokeychain.com and you can search any song and it’ll give you the beats per minute right away. You’re welcome.
You might be wondering what the “D” stands for with the BPM in my filename. That’s the key, which Audio Keychain also provides. When two songs are in the same key and nearly the same BPM, I know that a beatmix is just begging to be made with those two songs. If one song is in D and the other is in F that makes an easy transition. If they’re further apart, I know I’ll need to create a more elaborate transition.
Have A One Person Listening Party - Are you seeing a trend here?
A lot of folks have their natural sound effects library on CD. If your library comes with an index file that allows you to search (like Sound Ideas), it’s pretty easy to find the disc/track number for any given effect in the library. Do you know what’s even easier? Get a terabyte or two of external drive space and transfer the whole thing from CD to something your computer can search for directly. When you perform a search for concert applause, you can listen for one that works for your application and then rename it to something that makes sense to you. If you have the time, take a few minutes and find several cuts that might work and rename them, again to something that makes more sense than applause 47. The next time you do a search for concert applause, you can go directly to one of the cuts you previewed with no muss, no fuss.
When you rip the CD library into your system, you’ll want to make sure that your ripping software can look up the titles of each track. If the library is ASCAP or BMI, it will automatically label each track appropriately from the publisher’s database.
Have A One Person Listening Party - Hmm. This is a lot of listening.
This is more of a shameless plug for RAP Magazine’s monthly CD. If you’re not a subscriber and are reading someone else’s copy, I really recommend you become a subscriber because that’s the only way you’ll get the monthly CD. Each month, this CD is a treasure trove of ideas. Admittedly, a few of the cuts will be great examples of what not to do, but the vast majority of them will inspire new ideas of your own. I will freely admit that some of my best work was directly inspired by a submission to this CD. You’ll hear great content ideas, as well as amazing technical ideas.
Spend the 20-30 minutes it takes to listen all the way through. You’ll be amazed at one point or another; I can almost guarantee it. As to those few not-so-great cuts, don’t be too critical. I’ve often found that commercials or promos that I would cringe over often have a nugget of an idea that I find appealing. When I start to roll my eyes as I’m listening, I check myself and go back and start over to listen for that little nugget. Sure enough, it’s almost always there. Sometimes it’s not an idea I can use directly, but like I pointed out last month, ideas always spawn new ideas.
My own submission for this month’s CD came from a need to up the ante against a competitor. The folks at NOW-FM here in New York decided to take another run at Z100, by changing their name to AMP-FM and updating their imaging. Their approach included commercial free weekends for the summer. We really didn’t have to do much to counter, except point out how commercial free we are every day. I hope you like what I did.