Q It Up: What have you learned lately?

Q-It-Up-Logo-sep95Q It Up: To be good in this business, you have to constantly be learning. What was the last thing you learned about doing your job? Did you finally learn how to really tweak that new plug you bought six months ago? Did you have a situation with a client that taught you a good lesson? Have you learned some new imaging techniques, or copywriting skills? Perhaps it’s something about working with the people around you, in sales, promotions or management. Or maybe it was a simple yet powerful lesson about perspective and how changing yours to some degree has improved your overall performance. What have you learned lately?

David Bannerman [David.Bannerman [at]nscc.ca] Nova Scotia Community College, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada: About 5 years ago, I was very fortunate to sit down on a bench in one of the local malls with the late Willard Bishop. Willard and his father Avard built the Annapolis Valley’s first radio station, EBC (the Evangeline Broadcasting Company) in Windsor, Nova Scotia in 1945. Soon after, they expanded, eventually owning a 5 station network that spanned the entire valley.

I teach Radio at the Nova Scotia Community College and have done so since 1995. It’s a position I love. One benefit of radio academia is being able to and being encouraged to conduct research by mining the vast radio resources that, yes, do exist both in print and online, if one has the time to search. Most PDs can’t find the time to conduct aircheck sessions, let alone find a few hours each week to read about cutting edge trends or new technology. I should know because I used to be one of them. But I digress... back to Willard.

That afternoon as we sat, I asked “What was it like programming radio in the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s? And what were some of the really cool things you did?” In the half hour that followed, I discovered again why I chose this industry and why I believe in it as much today as I did when I entered radio in ‘76. Willard spoke of many things: how exciting it was to comment on simply looking out the station’s street-view window, acknowledging not only the weather, but the model Ts chugging up the street, the passing horses and even the names of people walking by. He talked of how important it was to paint a picture for CFAB’s listeners, and that radio was the true VISUAL medium. In 40 minutes, he talked of many things, far too numerous for this column, but all of them confirmed what too often we forget: that being radio’s immediacy, it’s mobility, it’s ability to focus on local unique markets, and above all to respond to the wants, needs and emotions of our listeners.

And when I asked him what was one of the most successful things he did, Willard said it probably was moving an entire studio each summer into the local Tourist Bureau and allowing every visitor to be a guest on the show…. LOL! How simple, yet how cool is that? It’s critical to never stop learning about what it is we do and why we love radio. In most cases, all we have to do is look to our past, to know what it is we can do in the future. As for technology, that’s the easy part. The latest evolution in radio’s Tech-Toys is simply removing the excuses to get back to doing what radio has always done better than anyone… entertaining and informing listeners and telling great stories.

CJ Wilson [EarwhackedRadio[at]aol .com]: Learning should be a reciprocal process. You learn your client’s needs and they learn about you. As a producer, I’ve learned to pull a rabbit of my hat for promos. Giving a client something they wouldn’t expect. Burning audio for actualities from award shows and sports events. You-Tube has tons of audio to grab as well. The sound bytes are great for using out of context as reactions to wrap around VO. Other producers have kept me on my toes by just hearing what’s produced and hearing different perspectives.

Steve Franzman [sfranzman[at]zrgmail .com], Zimmer Radio Group, Joplin, Missouri: Funny you should ask what I’ve learned lately. I am a radio enthusiast and have been most of my life. That is exactly what became so concerning to me when I had string of what I considered to be sub-par shows in the morning.

It was recommended to me that I listen to my show (aircheck) in the same fashion that the listener listens to my show. For example: Start listening... and then go take a shower while the show continues... resume listening while drying off, and getting dressed... oops, better answer the phone because it’s ringing....

In other words, the valuable lesson I learned was to let some of the smaller issues go. Many people are tuning in and out all morning long. The flow of the show and the forward-motion of the show is as important as the content.

I realized that there is a very fine line between thinking and planning ahead and being too controlling. (Let it go, man!)

Live radio can be magical if you let it. I don’t think it is any coincidence that I feel markedly more comfortable and am having much more fun since this realization.

Don Elliot [voiceovers[at]charter.net]: Today I’ve learned that people are basically the same in all businesses. Clients want to know that you have or WILL jump through hoops with them, especially when they are spending big bucks to advertise. Or so THEY think. Oddly enough, it is the smallest client who is the biggest pain in the butt and is often the one who thinks that THEY are the expert in YOUR field.

I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked to do a re-read of a performance I did that I KNEW was okay and already my best read.

So instead of re-doing it, I would WAIT A DAY and send them another copy of the same thing, MAYBE with either a radically different READ or a music change, and INVARIABLY the client would tell me, “Oh, that’s a MUCH better read... thank you.”

I never ONCE got caught on this, nor have I told anybody this secret.

Often, knowing of a propensity of this type of a few select clients, I would deliberately record two versions of the spot that I knew they would be ready to criticize AFTER they had already approved the copy (groan). So ONE version would deliberately have a wrong digit in their phone number at the end, or something similar, and THIS would be the version I would play for them. Of those who even CAUGHT the “mistake,” it shifted their “criticism” to this raging error instead of picking on my read or other aesthetics of the spot. So they would say, “Great spot... re-cut it and fix the phone number and it’s a go.” Of course, I already had the good version carted and had nothing else to worry about.

Works EVERY time!

People are people. Like stubbing your toe. You always want your mommy.

John Masecar [jmasecar[at]radio.astral .com], Astral Media Radio GP, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada: Good question, good timing! I’ve recently changed jobs. I went from Production Manager and Imaging Producer for Astral Media Radio Toronto (99.9 MIX FM/97.3 EZ Rock/Newstalk 1010 CFRB), to Imaging Director at Astral Media Radio Vancouver (95 CRAVE/650 CISL). This was, in large part, a lifestyle change. I’d been in Canadian Market #1 for 16+ years and it was time for some new scenery.

So to answer your question - the last thing I learned about doing my job is to HAVE FUN.

In what’s supposed to be a creative business, I think we all too often get caught up in the day-to-day pressures and politics, to the point that we forget why we do this. In the last couple of months, any time I’ve found myself getting uptight about things, I calmly remind myself that this is supposed to be fun. Once I’m back in that mindset, the sparks start sparking and the synapses start synapsing (or...whatever...) and the job becomes about creativity.

I know that too many readers are thinking they don’t have time to be creative, and I empathize, but if you can do just ONE thing every single day that’s fun for you, your day will be that much better.

Steve Stone [sstone[at]zrgmail.com], Zimmer Radio Group, Joplin, Missouri: One thing I have learned recently is that a person with a good vocabulary, calm nerves and no felony record can sometimes smooth talk their way into a job. BUT… without true hands-on-practical experience, training them is usually more work than it’s worth. The lesson learned: demand experience and check references! Another new learning experience for me is a few plugs I recently dropped a lot of $$ on. I splurged on some Waves plug-ins that came highly recommended (and are quite impressive), but I find with a few of them the learning curve is a bit more than I had imagined. Either that or I’m stupider than I thought. I also picked up iZotope’s OZONE 3. Incredible plug, but my first few times using it actually stunkified my mixes. But rest assured, I will learn them. I will find the sweet spots. I will make beautiful mixes. I will stand atop the highest mountain and yell to the world: “I CAN DO THIS!!!”

…because you can’t return software once it’s opened.

John Melley [john[at]johnmelley.com]: Great question. I think the most important thing I am in the “process of learning” is the importance of marketing myself as a Voice/Production talent. Learning “marketing” has become a course of study for me and something I’m teaching other voice-over folks. It’s also a great skill set to have when you’re working with salespeople - particularly new salespeople - and their potential clients. You become a valuable resource for them.

It’s important to position ourselves as knowledgeable professionals so that we’re paid what we’re worth. Promoting ourselves as having the lowest prices helps none of us. It lowers the value of the services we provide for all of us.

No matter how fun and creative voiceover and production is at times, it’s still a business and we need to market ourselves just as any other business has to, be it a hardware store, law office, barber shop, florist or insurance company. People respond to effective marketing no matter what the product/service a business offers.

I think the “self promotion” thing is difficult for people in our line of work, at least it is for me. But, it gets easier and it’s also a lot of fun - believe it or not - when your efforts start producing results!

Jay Rose [jay[at]dplay.com]: (Jay Rose offered up some insights in an article he wrote for DV Magazine. Hit this URL: http://jayrose.com/tutorial/archive/0712.pdf.)

Stephen Patrick [voice[at]haylanstudios .com]: I’m not what you would call a smart man. I struggled in school, I’ve never finished a crossword puzzle, and I’ll never be a Jeopardy champion. However, I have on occasion been jarred awake by what can only be described as a genius idea. It could be almost anything. A joke, an idea for a story, or a complicated thought dealing with a deep philosophical or theological quandary. My question is this, how can I have such complex thoughts while asleep when I’m not nearly intelligent enough to have them while awake? How do I know what I know? Do I even really know these things? Did my subconscious mind create these false ideas? How come I can’t fully remember these ideas the next morning, and how do they get the white fluff in Twinkies? I can’t decide what is worse, never knowing the answers to these questions, or not being smart enough to fully understand the questions I am asking.

For further proof of my lack of intelligence we need only look at the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed the new Rambo movie. For an hour and a half I was completely engrossed in what may have been the most gratuitously violent movie since Sonny Chiba tore a man’s testicles off 33 years ago. If the first half hour of saving Private Ryan made you uncomfortable, avoid this movie at all costs. Otherwise pony up your eight bucks and enjoy the most ridiculously entertaining movie I’ve seen in months.

So I guess I’ve learned to step out of the “box” and try new things -- even if that thing seems small, like going to a movie I didn’t want to see in the first place.

If only jeopardy had a Rambo category....

Ricky Correa [rickycorrea[at]gmail .com], WNUE-FM, Orlando, Florida: While having fun, you’re constantly studying and learning about your possible target audience’s behavior that will definitively help you to write and create the best and accurate imaging for your clients.

Go to parties, go to the movies, share events with your kids and wife or friends and always keep that recorder on to capture that behavior in your gray matter side during your daily routine life.

You’re in a constant learning process in this business. There’s no such thing as the last thing you had learned. I can tell you what my principal standards are. When I’m going to produce I keep it simple because it’s not the amount of sound fx you charge you production with, or the overload of plug-ins to process your productions that make you good at what you do.

The important thing really is The Message, then the rhythm. Ask yourself, can people understand what the promo said? Did you transport them with sound effects to re-create the theater of the mind? Did the promo have a rhythm so it’s comfortable to the audience’s ear to keep them listening?

I Work on Pro Tools with the Waves bundle, and I already have a decent setting (template) that I use according to my preferences starting from some presets.

From working with clients this past year, I can say you have to learn to be really patient with them and to educate their minds on what you do and how you can help them to get their goals fulfilled and be elated with the end product from my studio.

Creating Imaging is a process, not a blink of the eye. God took 6 days to create the world so take your time to sit tweak and write, be open minded and listen to your co-workers ideas, and then take the best out of it (everybody has a different view and perspective).

Have fun creating. Also I’d like to mention that part of your learning skills should involve: seminars, summits, networking, reading your local paper and of course these kinds of columns published on RAP Magazine that really help you immensely to get more and more involved on any kind of productions that you do everyday.

If you think you have learned everything in the business, think again. There are always new styles and techniques and you can always do better with new knowledge from your peers.

Drake Donovan [drake[at]drake donovan.com], CBS Radio, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: It’s not what I’ve learned recently, but recently realizing how much I’ve learned. I’ve now been in this business for over a decade, and for much of that time I worried that my employers would figure out that I didn’t know what I was doing and show me the door. Over time, that feeling faded with every new lesson I learned along the way. In last few months, I noticed how much I’ve been applying those early lessons on a daily basis. I’ve been recalling tricks I was taught at the very beginning of my career and using them alongside techniques that I picked up in the last year or two. But the biggest realization came when two young producers sought me out for my opinions on their work. They each asked me questions that I once asked my mentors (whose responses, I passed along, verbatim). It’s strange when the circle comes back around to you. Well, I guess you could say I did learn something recently... Today’s lesson: “Pay it forward.”

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