Q It Up: One of our readers, who does both imaging and commercial work in a one-man department, recently cranked out 55 fully produced spots and 17 promos during one week. What's a typical week like in your production department? About how many fully produced spots and promos would you say your department produces in an average week? How many stations in your cluster? How much help, if any, do you have? How does your work load affect the quality of the work, if at all? Please add any other comments you may have on the subject!
Michael Pedersen, 106.7 RED FM, Calgary, AB: We currently have 2 stations in 2 cities with 3 f/t producers (2&1). Most of the ads are produced in our own markets, however we share a lot of our voices. Depending on the time of year, we have had days where we've produced 7-8 ads in 8 hours. (Pretty hard to do anything special!) On average, we produce about 4 ads/day and some of them are revisions. Ads always come first but when time permits, one of our producers is assigned the "fluffy" station IDs, one is assigned station specific promotional IDs and one producer does all of the jingle related work. When a producer makes an ID, it is expected that they make the same one for both stations (different details), and no IDs are played unless the other producers approve it to ensure quality. With that said, we produce about one usable ID in each category per week. Our production team meets once per month to listen and critique each other and to assign imaging duties for the coming month.
Gord Williams: As a rule of thumb, I try not to crank out too many spots, but there isn't an exact number really. Depends… the voice is a muscle and I try not to strain.
When I was in radio I vowed never to try to do 10 spots an hour, and go hoarse doing so. I felt I owed it to the clients. Some days I am stronger and more productive than others.
There is a balance to strike between working all night on one 30 second spot or promo and whipping off many. Generally I manage to do quality cold tracks within 15-30 minutes. I try to give more than one take which can be edited together and cherry picked phrase by phrase if desired. Full productions is highly variable.
I look at promos as different than spots because the end user is different. I try to find out 'who' either end user is. There is no sense doing a rock and roll spot for a country station, everyone knows that, but for both a spot and a promo - what is the nuance? There is such a thing as 'rockin' country' right? Nuance is huge and if it’s a first attempt at a different market slice there can be a growth or experimental phase where less gets done.
I am particular to make a difference, otherwise it will simply be done by someone else. I think clients are looking for someone that 'gets' their USP and I also believe they want some personality to shine through.
I believe that’s what the greats have done and there is no reason not to try to do the same.
Austin Michael, NRG Media, Lincoln, NE: It’s mostly me, five stations, ten AEs, and the exponential expansion of clients from there. One week is never like another and there isn’t a typical week, but if you want a guessing average… I’d say I produce about 30 to 40 spots per week. I don’t write that many, but I do the majority of the writing. Now, lest someone think of me as Hercules with a sound board, when things get overwhelming or I need to appropriate my time to special projects, I do have a group of four fine jocks I can lean on to do writing and producing. They’re not “official”, but I did hand pick them and hit them up sparingly. I say sparingly because they have other duties that I try not to infringe upon. But, when I’m stuck, I can call them in and count on them.
Andy Berkowitz, Forever Media, Altoona, PA: We're a cluster of four FMs and two AMs that knows how to keep busy. We average 50 to 100 spots per week (counting promos and revisions), leaning toward the higher end around major holidays. I write about 85% of our copy, clients write about 10%, and I have two morning jocks available to assist me between 10 and noon who write around 5%. Counting myself, we have 10 people who are available for production in house... but the catch is that 7 of them are only available for about an hour and a half, and they're gone by noon. Of the remaining three, only two are around after 2.
To stay on top of things, we try to work ahead as much as possible to prevent bottlenecks. Many of our jocks can produce basic "voice over music" straight read spots, but aren't able to produce major productions with multiple voices, SFX, and music editing, so I tend to handle those myself, and delegate the simpler spots. On the plus side, all of our jocks are pretty strong voice talents, so even if they can't produce a spot, I can still get them to provide voice and characters for it.
Our workload definitely affects our quality. While we have basic standards for production quality that we won't compromise, if we get overloaded with too many last-minute orders, we have no choice but to crank out simpler straight reads to make our deadlines. That allows us to spread the production to more people, and get it all done, but in my opinion, leads to a weaker product. That's why we work very hard to stay ahead of the game, so that we have the time and people to deliver the best possible work for our clients.
Earl Pilkington, Coast FM, Western Australia: Let me first of all introduce readers to the concept of a sausage factory. Because that is exactly what type of radio I sometimes feel we are being forced to produce these days. Management and sales are not looking for the next award winning commercial, the one that ‘really stands out’. They just want the money to roll on in.
So, with that in mind: At this station (one of Australia’s last truly independently owned stations), we have had weeks where we have written 120 spots; produced 100 commercials; and approx. 60 promos and around 20 sweeps/IDs (this is usual for our really busy summer period with a massive station promotion and sales component happening).
In a previous station where I worked, which was a hub for 6 stations around the state, we had 5 producers working with 4 copywriters and around 30 sales staff. At our busiest, we produced a massive 500 scripts and spots in one week, and around 100 promos, including station imaging. But I have to stress that both of these were in extraordinary circumstances with station sales promotion tie-ins occurring.
In an average week now, I know I can write about 40 to 100 commercial scripts (at least), and our producer can pump out those commercial spots and also produce around 20 promos. It really is a mindset that you need to adopt when you are not looking for ‘quality’ but quantity when working in a sausage factory.
Having said all of that though, we do take the time to try to produce the best we can within the time constraints we are forced to work in. And there is the occasional time where you get to be creative and really produce a spot that stands out on air. Plus, when you get feedback that those spots work – it makes the job worth-while.
Andrew Frame, BAFSoundWorks, Lehigh Acres, FL: In the '90s, four dozen spots, a dozen promos plus some sweepers, and copy for everything would have been a normal week.
These days, guess-math puts around 40 spots produced and dry voiceovers sweetened per week - not including revisions and recuts. And maybe 5 to 10 pieces of copy written. I don't do imaging or promos.
I don't have any producer help, but I do have a wonderful voice group that I can request tracks from, and by the next morning, I can get to assembling spots.
The only time quality will show cracks is when it's a same-day turnaround, and everything has to be dropped and rearranged to accommodate. That, unfortunately, happens a couple times a week.
DJ Carter, Cameron Broadcasting, Kingman, AZ: I don’t believe quantity is a factoring point in what makes a production department flourish or give it bragging rights. You can cut 7 ads for one client – air them – and confuse your listeners by the 3rd day airing them if the final product (the ad or promo) does not fit the client and listeners needs. You can repeat this tragedy over and over again no matter how many ads are cut for a specified client if you do not have unity throughout your studios. The final product is a team effort of not only production, but the script writer, the VO talent, the sales team, and the client.
The client needs to be able to provide input, yet also needs to understand who is more equipped to build the final product. The sales team (consultant) needs to present and sell the proper marketing plan that fits the client’s needs. The script writer has to write an ad that represents the client in their individual capacity (no cookie cutters) and fill it with the intended emotions that will pull the trigger points of the listeners (targeted demographics). The Talent (VO) has to prepare him/herself with an open mind and an open imagination, working closely with the script writer in order to accomplish the directives laid out in the production notes ( become the character). Then production has to incorporate sound effects to build the “WALLA” (i.e. shape an audible realization that reaches out to the listeners’ senses) and then fold everything into a perfectly timed piece of art.
We have 7 stations in our cluster, and though we have grown, we have not perfected this gift. I don’t know of a station yet that has been able to perfect this gift with their intended crew. But each day has to be the beginning, the next step to reaching that goal. Each day where egos are left at home. Each day where the only desire is the willingness to work in unison to reach a little bit higher than the day before.
Heikki Wichmann, NRJ, Helsinki, Finland: On my cluster I take care of 4 channels, 2 FM/Web, 2 Web-only, so it makes 4 streams total. On yearly basis I produce around 1000-1100 elements, from 1 second sweepers to 2-hour music mixes. So, if I calculate correctly, it makes around 24 elements on a working week. Unfortunately, it does not mean that work pressure is evenly shared to every week. Sometimes when I renew "base production" elements on some of the channels, it means the amount of produced elements is much higher on a week.
JJ Thomas, Cumulus Broadcasting, Dallas, TX: Dallas is a BUSY market! I myself, produce over 200 spots in a month, not counting promos, barter dubs, imaging and other dubs. Thankfully, we have a very talented Production Department that can handle high count inventory, with over 20 sales people, and STILL make individual spots shine! 60’s, 30’s... would you like 5’s with that? Kickin’ more ass than McDonalds!
Gary Michaels, WASK Radio, Lafayette, IN: My record is 57 voiced in two days around Thanksgiving several years ago, but then that's definitely NOT average.
I do only commercial production for our five-station clusters and some for our other corporate properties, and I really don't keep track of numbers. Each station has their own imaging person so I rarely do promos. Our stations do the lion's share of from-scratch production for our market, so I can safely say I average roughly 30 spots per week -- less in January/February but much more in May/June and towards the end of the year. My assistant here in the copy department churns out another 20-30 per week, so we're doing a lot of locally produced spots.
Colin McGinness, UKRD, Bristol, United Kingdom: For imaging and S&P with two producers taking care of 18 stations, the average is 150 pieces of production. That's everything from sweepers, promos and client tag updates. For the Commercial department with three producers, it's 125 commercials.
Corey Dissin, Propulsion Media Labs: Here at Propulsion Media Labs, we have 8 in-house full time producers. We fulfill an average of 350-400 orders per month for clients in markets all over the United States. Each order may contain anywhere from 1 to 10 radio or TV spots, so that translates to several hundred unique pieces of audio each month.
CJ Goodearl, Orlando FL: Just ran a Viero report from 1/1/15 to 12/31/15... 10,245 spots produced, divided by 52 is 197 per week average. Probably a little less than a third goes to jocks, so about 132 spots only per week. Promos are tough to gauge, a lot around our big Earthday Birthday concert... we just crank 'em out as they come in from the PDs.
Dave Cockram, Indie88, Toronto, ON: When I was in Vancouver as an “Imaging only” Producer, a busy week was roughly 115 pieces a week. Here in Toronto, I have clocked over 250. Madness. Total Madness. I am also the only producer here.
Russell More, Island Radio/Jim Pattison Broadcast Group, Nanaimo, BC: We have a very busy outfit, by many standards I'm sure. Our Creative and Production department is a hub for 6 stations across Vancouver Island, BC.
Every year I tally up the total spots and promos produced, and every year the number steadily rises. Last year we averaged 92 spots per week and about 10 promos per week, of course not including national dubs, imaging for each station, and features and imaging for our 3 ongoing hockey broadcasts that our stations require.
We have 1 full time production manager, being myself, and every day we are fortunate to have 2 half time producers working. One of them works alongside me, the other works out of one of our busier satellite stations. We all work very closely together to make sure everything is sounding great, and everything that needs to go to air, does go to air.
I try very hard, knowing that we deal with such a high volume, to make things as easy as possible for everyone to manage. I have a standard commercial session template that makes it easy to drop in plug-in presets for any voice that we use regularly in our group, and folders upon folders of organized previous sessions, sound effects, beds, drops, you name it! All of this makes it easy for the bulk of our workload to be dealt with swiftly and efficiently, maintaining a high standard that I hold all of our producers, including myself to.
Technology is great, right?!
Steve Wein, Captain VoiceOver, KTRS, St. Louis, MO: Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away, radio stations had full staffs of talent, engineers, production and imaging personnel. Somehow we managed to support that full crew on the revenue derived from eight minutes of spots an hour. Then came deregulation, eighteen minute an hour spot loads, voice tracking, clusters of stations under one roof, and cutbacks to essential personnel barely able to handle the increased flow of production and imaging that was necessary to fill spot breaks that contained more than twice the amount of spots each hour.
It is especially difficult here at a standalone News/Talk station that doesn’t subscribe to Neilson Audio. No ratings means we get few Agency dubs. That means I have to write, voice, and produce almost everything that airs. And with the imaging guy sent packing and his work dumped on the already overloaded Creative Services guy (me!), the volume of work becomes like the conveyor belt in the candy episode of “I Love Lucy”. Get it done and move on to the next project. And since it’s a News/Talk station, air talent does not do production, which means the one man band Creative Services guy (me again!) has to be a chameleon with his or her voice styles, as well as somehow manage to coach non-talented office staff, while using their voices to insure a variety of voices on the air during the lengthy breaks.
Here at KTRS, I’m that one man band, but somehow I was able to fully produce 1,947 spots in 2015, usually with my voice on them. I also wrote 678 scripts, produced 555 promos, and 418 dubs last year. My highest monthly totals were 277 fully produced spots in March, 113 scripts written in December, and 69 promos produced in April. I do have another guy for a couple of hours a day who does do dubs not included in my total. I’m not sure how these statistics compare to others, but somehow, despite the volume of work, I usually become a finalist in the RAP Awards.
How do I keep track? I’m organized and fluent in creative shortcuts. I have a file containing copy and every possible good idea I’ve used in the past in other markets. I also use every possible short cut in ProTools I have developed over the 10 years I have used that program.
To paraphrase Judy Collins: I’ve seen our business from both sides now. I experienced the biz before deregulation, and after. Radio was once primarily an entertainment medium where talent and creativity were nurtured… and, oh yes, it was a business too. Since deregulation, radio became a business to make stock holders happy, and oh yes, we need some people inside to do the work, so let’s hire the fewest we can get away with, and pay them as little as we can! Quality? We don’t need no stinkin’ quality!
The result has been the cheapening of our product. Entertainment value has disappeared, giving listeners less of a reason to stick around instead of streaming their music, etc. Even Agency copy is written poorly, lacking verbs, just words thrown on a page with no entertainment value. One has to look no further than the list of finalists in the RAP Awards each year to see the results of this trend. Through the ‘90s into the early part of the 21st century, the US dominated the nominations, with a few from Canada, the UK, and so forth sprinkled here and there. Now, other nations have passed the US in quality to the point that last year, I think I recall that Canada dominated the RAP Awards, and the US had only 5 finalists listed.
There are a lot of creative people in this biz stymied by shortsighted management because they’re not given the tools to do a proper job of creating the product that makes the revenue for the station, product that has to work for both the station and the client. There is a reason it’s called talent. Not everyone has it!!
I’ve had the privilege to be in a business that loves creativity since I started in 1969. I’ve lived through the two major revolutions in this business, having started out in the days when AM Top 40 ruled the airwaves. Then came the FM revolution in the early to mid ‘70s, and the shakeup of our industry that deregulation caused in the early to mid ‘90s.
My hope is that management will wake up to the fact that radio is bleeding numbers because nowadays music content is everywhere. The only way for radio to compete is to have a product on the air you cannot get anywhere else, and the key to that? Talent, and having enough creatively talented individuals in the radio station to do the job right.
Von Coffman, Bonneville Radio Group, Salt Lake City, UT: The work load here (103.5 the Arrow, FM 100 KSFI and KSL News Radio) can vary greatly. There are many weeks where we fully produce 40 to 60 spots a week, including specs, and 10-15 promos a week for the two music stations (most of the News/Talk imaging is outsourced) and dubs average 110 to 160. There are many weeks when it’s half that or less.
We have yours truly at the Creative Helm… and the very talented imaging producer Blair Carter focusing on promos. When the promo duty is done, he then pitches in on Commercial Production. I have an evening guy handle all the duplication for barter make goods which in itself can be quite daunting when you have a news talker in the mix.
And then there are weeks like this one where we “REST”. The January Lulls.
Edgar Gomez, Univision Radio, San Francisco, CA: Right now we are cooking about 120 Productions per week. This includes spots, promos, billboards, traffic reports, drops and sometimes live pre-recorded mentions too. This count does not include uploads. We are doing this for 3 radio stations, 2 Spanish 1 English. We are a crew of 2 hombres, myself and my assistant.
Teri Michelle, Sinclair Communications, Norfolk, VA: It is FRIDAY, and as always "crunch time". I am the primary producer of 98% of the spots on the 3 FMs. Didn't really want to count the amount of spots but so far this week, about 39. (see picture) Lee Foster handles Imaging for all 5 stations (superb talent). Denis Reidy produces for the AMs and some FM commercial as well (Great Booming Kinda Voice).
Thanks to all who responded. Your input is valuable and appreciated. If you have a question you’d like to see posed to the RAP Q It Up panel, email it to