R.A.P. Interview: Ty Ford

JV: What else are you doing?
Ty: Well, I’m reviving my singer-songwriter career. Not that it was ever very big, but I had fun with folk music in coffee houses in the late ‘60s, and in July I have two dates. One to play instrumental music during a spiritual retreat day, and later in the month a three-set singer-songwriter solo event up in Pennsylvania in a nice little restaurant Friday night 6:00 to 9:00.

So I had to do the research. To make it quick, a friend plays there. I helped him load in and load out. I saw all the gear in his minivan and thought, “So I gotta load that out of the house into the car, out of the car into the club, out of the club into the car, and then back into the house.” It’s a couple of EONs and a mixer and all kinds of stuff, and I’m like, that’s painful. So I found a Fishman solo amp which is 35 pounds complete with stand with a bag with wheels that you can roll in the door. It has 220 watts of power and two inputs on it with lots of extra ins and outs and it sounds great. So I’ll be using that up there.

And as I kind of covered before, I started to get into shooting and editing. I’ve got lots of singer-songwriters, and they frequently need help. They want to get gigs. So they go to a venue and they say, “Book me.” And the owner goes, “I don’t know. What do you look like on stage? What do you sound like?”

Well, they can now send them to a link on YouTube or on Vimeo.com -- which is a slightly technically higher grade kind of YouTube place. They come into my recording studio, which I now have draped so that I can shoot video in, and I’ve got my lighting up. So it’s a pretty simple setup for a one- or two-person group to come in here and shoot and walk away with stuff that they can upload, or heck, I’ll upload it for them. I just did that this past week. Jerry Clark came in from Ireland and Neil Harp out of Annapolis. An old, dear friend of mine brought him in and they did two tunes, and they’re now sitting up on my YouTube site for people to look and listen to.

And this brings me to a point I want to make about radio stations: You’re no longer a radio station. You’re a media outlet, and unless you’re thinking about expanding your website for audio and video, I think you’re in trouble.

JV: Do you think the better radio stations and groups out there have figured that out by now? How to maximize and monetize video?
Ty: I haven’t been to all of their sites. You can tell how well they’re doing typically by how much advertising they have up on the page. I’m not a sales eagle. There are many more people who have much more business acumen than I do. But I don’t see a lot of video up on the sites. I don’t see as much as I think there could be.

And specifically to the production community and the readers of Radio and Production, my point is, get yourself some video editing software. Get a camera. You probably already have a camera. Start messing with it if you aren’t already, and be able to bring that to the table to enhance your position with the station you’re working at. Show them what you’ve got.

Probably what’s up there on the site now is music content from the artists that the station would normally play. What I’m saying is, “Commercials.” There are a lot of retailers in larger markets that cannot afford to buy television any more. They can’t even afford to buy radio schedules that make any sense for them. But if your rates are set up the right way on the website, you’ll be able to sell them.

There’s a guy here in Baltimore that’s just started one of those weekly flyers that comes to your house in the mail, selling those weekly specials for the whatever-county area. This guy’s got an e-version of it and I’m talking to him now. Right now all of the information is still shots and text, and I’m talking to him about video. I could go out and shoot a little something for him. I don’t want it to be a typical spot. I want it to be somebody’s face who is like a significant person within the company. We’ll figure out what we need them to say, but we just want to make the page move and make some noise a little bit. Make them say something. It would be more attractive.

JV: I think an important point to make is that you started out in radio production and worked a lot of different aspects of the radio business -- engineering, programming, on-air. But a lot of the skills that you’ve developed really kind of came from that initial set of production skills that you had. Would you agree?
Ty: Absolutely. As I look back, Murray Blum at WANN in Annapolis, who I had my very first meeting with before I ever got in radio, said, “Young man, you need to get your first phone.” And I said, “What the heck’s that?” That took 9 or 11 months of study to get. We don’t need it any more to be on the air, but I knew it gave me a backbone of technical knowledge. And I guess I actually have to go back a little bit before that. My mom bought me my first reel-to-reel tape recorder when I was nine years old. It was a little Japanese tape recorder that ran on batteries, and it was quarter-inch tape on inch-and-a-half reels. I recorded everything and anything I could think of, and that polarized me to this thing with sound.

I was a bit afraid to even get into the video stuff, but I said, “All right, I’ll get into it without fear by working with it in situations where I don’t have to answer to anybody.” I’ll figure it out first. And I continue to figure it out.

I know people who know Photoshop, and their fingers are a blur on the keyboard and things look amazing. There are people like that with Final Cut Pro, which is what I use. I’m not one of those people yet, but I can put it together. I can make it work. It’s just like that reverb box that everybody has; how many times have you been below the first or second level of parameters? You may have half-a-dozen pages with 500 tweaks, but normally you end up using somewhere around seven. So, the background helped me. My own personal curiosity helped me, and I think probably you’re not into audio production at a radio station unless you’ve got something like that going on.

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