Production 212: Dave Foxx Pop-Ups

Production-212-Logo-1By Dave Foxx

Just about every month, I start thinking that I’ve already written everything I can write for this column without total repeats. Then, a day or so later, something pops up that reminds me once again how dynamic this business is and how we producers really live on the engine of change. This time, THREE things have come up that merit time in my little corner of RAP.

Pop-Up Number One: The first pop-up this month is a video of me on YouTube. It was a video presentation I did for NAB/Europe three years ago. How it got to be on YouTube is still a mystery, and there are some compression issues with it making the sound lag further and further behind as you go, but this little video has generated some buzz amongst programmers all over the world. (I’ve been getting quite a bit of email about it. I guess this is my 15 minutes.)

You can check it out yourself by entering “Dave Foxx” in the search box at YouTube.com. Don’t be confused by the other Dave Foxx, who was a Native American wrestler before he passed on a couple years ago. For those who have no clue what I look like, it’s at least a little entertaining (much the same way a 5-car pileup is entertaining), and it has the essence of what I’ve been preaching about branding and image work ever since anyone cared to ask what I thought.

I’m not sure I need to elaborate much on what’s in the video except to say that Z100 has changed a LOT of what I talk about. We’re no longer producing Power Intros for example. It’s not that we didn’t like them or thought the audience didn’t like custom edits, they just didn’t fit into the overall plan anymore. We also took the “Number One” out of our station positioning statement several months ago, but those are both cosmetic changes. The substantive part of the video is really about the absolute nuts and bolts of what makes good imaging.

Pop-Up Number Two: OK…the second pop-up is the letter to the editor in the last issue of RAP. If you missed it, it was a 2-page, fairly scathing rant in response to a column in the previous month’s issue of RAP by Craig Jackman. Forrest Martin was clearly incensed by the column, taking Craig to task on a number of points. I felt the letter was a bit incendiary and given to hyperbole, but he a raised a couple of interesting points. Craig and I exchanged a couple of emails about the letter in the course of doing business (I’m the VO for his station), and I must say, I am really curious to see what he writes in this issue in response to that letter.

In one of those emails, Craig felt the need to address something I said in my column last month about Audition™ versus Pro Tools™. I always hesitate to even bring up the topic of one DAW being better, faster, cheaper, easier or any other superlative you care to imagine, mainly because everybody misses the point. Craig correctly said they both do the same thing, with certain variations (fill in a superlative here.) His analogy was carpentry tools, which is apt and suggested we’re both trying to build a nice coffee table. He is dead right.

Too many times, when you get into these arguments, that point is missed entirely. IS Pro Tools™ better than Audition™? For me the answer is yes. But that’s just MY answer. For Craig, it’s the other way around. Who’s right? We both are.

I laugh all the time at consumers because they attach so much importance to a brand name. Being in the business of encouraging that kind of brand loyalty, I know how artificial that reality is. When you see John Madden go on TV and shill for Campbell’s Chunky Soups, you and I know that while he might have tried them, he’s not there because he loves the soup. He’s there to collect a paycheck. It’s the same deal when you hear Donald Sutherland talk about how great Volvo is. I think Donald is a fantastic actor, but I didn’t run out and buy one because he said it was safe. I drive the car that I drive because I did my own research into gas mileage, resale value and overall cost of ownership. I use ProTools™ because I did my own research. I tested every DAW known to man before I settled on digidesign™, including Cool Edit Pro (the genesis of Audition.)

The LAST thing I want is to have some producer throw a temper tantrum in his/her GM’s office, saying they need to buy ProTools™ because I said so. I want everyone to do research of their own. Ask yourself a few important questions: 1. Does it do what I want my DAW to do? 2. How quickly can I learn to master it? 3. Will I be able to grow my skill set over time as the DAW ages? 4. Will I be able to do the really BIG projects on it? If you feel good about the answers you come up with, you’ve found the DAW that’s right for you. If you’re going to throw a temper tantrum in your GM’s office, make sure you know all the facts, or you’ll end up getting a time-out, perhaps a very long one.

One criterion that should NOT be a part of the equation is cost. However, it becomes all too real when you have radio execs slashing budgets faster than is responsible. (I won’t jump into this topic until next month when I publish an open letter to the industry.) The reality is, when a lot of people with the letters GM attached to their names get down to it, they’re definitely going to have a say about cost. But in an ideal world, you should get the DAW that is right for YOU. Your skills as a producer need to flourish so they don’t keep you from being as creative as you can be.

Just remember this: the magic is NOT in the machine! It’s IN YOUR HEAD. How you get it out of your head and onto the air is important, but not nearly as important as the process of coming up with the image first.

Pop-Up Number Three: OK…final chapter. My promo on this month’s RAP CD is a great example of problem solving on the back end and how the creative process is a lot more than just ‘creatively’ telling your story.

Several weeks ago, Z100 set up a deal to promote Ashley Tisdale (star of High School Musical) and her CD. It’s a mall appearance, which normally would turn off most major market stations. To up the ante, the label made the whole event a fashion show, in which our listeners are the models. Part of the festivities would include a performance from Ashley. It made a fun little package, worth devoting a weekend to, so we signed the deal.

Part of the deal was having Ashley do some custom video liners that we could use on our website. When it came time for the weekend promo and we wanted to use the audio for the promo, we had a problem. The studio where the videos were shot sounded like Ashley was standing in her high school locker room. How do you marry our local host of the show, Danielle Monaro (the morning show ‘Sleaze’ reporter) to Ashley’s audio and have it make sense? I simply put Danielle in the same space. I made her lines sound just as bad as Ashley’s and had her say that they were in Ashley’s dressing room, at the rehearsal for the fashion show.

I really had a hard time balancing the music with the VO in the beginning. In fact, I’m still not sure it’s as good as I could have made it. The ladies voices almost get lost a bit, but in the end, I was pretty happy with the promo’s overall impact. You be the judge. (You’ll never be as harsh a critic as I am, I’m sure.)

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