R.A.P. Interview: Casey Van Allen

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R.A.P.: Not to mention the longevity of KMOX.
Casey: The people have always tuned into us and they always will. If a major event breaks in this town, there's only one station they tune to.

R.A.P.: What production libraries are you using?
Casey: I've got Network Music and Network Sound Effects, I've got the F/X sound effects library. I've got Associated Production Music. I've got some Century 21 holiday disks. I have TM and some FirstCom, and that's about it.

R.A.P.: What makes CHR production different from that in a news/talk format?
Casey: I think it's a feel. With any kind of production you have to know what is going to be playing around it. If what you're doing is going to be played after the latest Guns & Roses song, you've got to have the same production timber there. If what you're producing is going to be bumped up against somebody saying, "Good afternoon, you're on the air," then you adjust the timbre accordingly.

R.A.P.: You've been an owner, a PD, a jock. What made you plant your feet in the production room?
Casey: I've been on all sides of the fence in this business. I've been and still am on the ownership side. I now own another station, KBMX, which is at the Lake of the Ozarks. I've been on the Program Director's side. I've been on the talent side. I've been on the salesman's side and the Chief Engineer's side. I think that production is the finest job in the radio station. I think where the excitement level comes in is when you actually go out with a salesman on a call, develop a campaign for some sponsor, and then watch it work. I think that interaction keeps the interest alive for me in the business. But production is without a doubt the finest job in the radio station. It's kind of hard to keep the interest alive in any other position. In production, the creativity can always spur you on.

If there is one thing that is a drawback to production, it is when you're doing the same thing over and over again. One thing I would like to do more of is spend long periods of time on one particular project. Right now, we only do that once or twice a year when we produce Christmas plays that run during the holidays.

There's such a high volume of business that comes through this station. We do about thirty percent of all the advertising buys of the town. I just wish I had a little bit more time to spend on certain things. But what it has done is made me a whole lot more efficient in getting the job done as quickly as possible without making any compromises.

R.A.P.: How do you find time to do production for KMOX and own a station?
Casey: KBMX pretty much runs itself. I have a lady that takes care of it. The other station that is partnered with that, which is an AM station, is going to be going on the air shortly. I'm also the voice of channel 4, which is the TV station here in the building. I keep myself busy. When I get bored, I don't like myself much. So I figure if I just keep moving forward, I won't ever look back.

R.A.P.: So you've got yet another station coming on?
Casey: Yes. And I've got construction permits for two other ones. I don't know if they'll ever make it on the air though. The market is not lending itself to building radio stations right now.

R.A.P.: You said you have a lady taking care of KBMX. Is the station automated?
Casey: Oh no. It's a beautiful music station. I have a staff of about twelve people there. The lady, Janet Cox, takes care of all the administration. We have a General Manager there that actually runs the station. His name is Dan Leatherman, and he's doing an excellent job. I really don't have that much to do with it. I just go in and sign the checks.

R.A.P.: Is there money in this, Casey?
Casey: No! It's just a play toy and an investment for the future, I guess you could say. I don't think anybody really makes money in radio, not anymore. I think the '80s pretty much weeded out the bad operators, and I think the LMAs that are going on all over the country now are gonna change the face of radio. We had an unfortunate situation here in St. Louis where one of the competitors was just LMA'd with another station, a top 40 station. KHTK just bought WKBQ and they fired fifty people yesterday. That's unfortunate for the radio business because I like to see a lot of people in radio. I think the more people we have in it, the more creativity gets poured into it, and we need to pour as much creativity into this business as we can so it won't slip any further away from us than it has already. We need to put more creativity into all aspects of radio, and that goes for news/talk and music stations. We need to try and make radio just a little bit more listenable and exciting. It's gonna take some people with some new ideas, and if we keep lowering the volume of people that are in the business.... It worries me, and it seems like we're diluting the business.

R.A.P.: How would you compare production to the Program Director's chair?
Casey: Programming is fun, and it's nice to be able to direct the listenership of a radio station. But it's awfully paper intensive. I have a great respect for Program Directors because they have probably one of the loneliest jobs in the radio station. They're management, and they have to try and get everybody to work together and pull on the rope in the same direction with the same strength. And a Program Director has to be a real people person to accomplish that task. On the other hand, a production person has the ideas of what the radio station should sound like, and he just takes his creativity and molds the station into that sound. For the production person, it's more of a one on one, personal thing with the sound of the radio station.

R.A.P.: Everyone in this business has heard that sales is where the money is. Why didn't you pursue that end of radio more?
Casey: Because I don't take to rejection very well. That's one thing that is a hard lesson for production people to learn. We all pretty much sit in our gilded kingdoms and crank out these commercials that the salespeople put together; and when they don't get the copy right, and we have to re do it, we don't realize the animals that they have to fight off every day. If any production people want a real education as to what it's like to be a salesperson, just jump in the car with a salesman one day. Go on some calls and see what they do. Live on their side of the fence one day, and it'll make you a lot more tolerant for the last minute changes they bring into you. It doesn't do any good to get all upset because they're bringing in last minute changes because it just robs you of your energy. It's a job. You've got to just grin and bear it and get the job done. After all, the person who wins the race is the person who gets the job done the fastest and best.

We cannot let television, newspaper and the other media grab hold of us and make us give up the one and only real asset that radio has and that is immediacy. When a client can call up at nine o'clock and say they want something on the radio in the ten o'clock hour, and the salesman comes into the production studio and says, "Hey man, I got a buy on this. I've got to get it on at ten o'clock. Can we do it?" If you say, "No, I'm right in the middle of this major production here," the station loses the revenue and you've given up a vital asset of radio -- its immediacy. Pop that puppy on, man!

R.A.P.: Any parting words for some of our readers who are young in the business?
Casey: Stay with it and don't compromise. Don't produce something and say, "Well, that's good enough for government work" or "That's good enough for the AM station" or "that's good enough for UHF TV" or whatever it is. Don't make compromises because if you do, you'll find every time something plays on the air you're gonna say to yourself, "Gee, I wish I had gone and just taken the extra five minutes and put that extra little effect in there. It would have made that work so much better." It will gnaw at you until finally you start thinking less of your ability. Don't make compromises. Just do it to the best of your ability the first time. Make the time to do it right the first time. Then, over a period of time, you'll build up your talent.

I think that is the main testament, the reason I found the production studio so nice to rest in. As a disk jockey over a period of years, I found myself always rushing to the radio station knowing that I had to be sitting in that chair with that microphone on at exactly the top of the hour to say exactly what was written on that card; and for the next three hours I was going to be sitting in that room, was going to be having to say certain things throughout the time period, and if I made a mistake I could never call it back, because once it went out the transmitter, it was gone forever. The production studio allowed me the luxury of being able to do it over until I got it right. It allowed me the creativity to expand and do what I wanted to do, to take a piece of production and mold it into what I wanted.

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